Monday, 29 March 2010

Pointing the Finger

Let’s face it, in this life, lots of things go wrong. Every day. You ladder your tights. You get to work to find out you’ve ran out of coffee. You get to the gym to learn that your yoga class has been cancelled. When these little incidents happen, quite often all you can do is shrug your shoulders and say, “shit happens”.
Even when it’s the small stuff, some people find it easier to point the finger of blame than admit that it just isn’t their day. This is particularly true of Londoners. How dare their yoga teacher get ill? Which bloody idiot put that hedge there? Why didn’t the supermarket wave the coffee in front of my eyes when I walked in? What, am I supposed to be psychic and remember what I need?
The blamers bitch and moan under their breath about the said offender. Okay, so no-one’s likely to lose their job or doubt their own worthiness on this planet over it. But what really bugs me is when people are blamed for the big things, the things that could end their careers . Even when there was nothing (or certainly very little) that they could have done about it.
I know this is a controversial subject, but bear with me. Since living in London I have worked in the social care sector and like to think I have an insiders’ view about the job that social workers and probation officers do. And I happen to think it is a bloody hard one. When I was younger and pondering what career path to take, both these professions attracted me. Then I found out more about them. Most social workers and probation officers I know have got caseloads so big they struggle to see the individuals under their care for more than about 15 minutes a week. Then there’s the paperwork. And meetings. A majority of social workers and probation officers would welcome an admin amnesty. It might actually give them the opportunity to do some real work with people rather than just write action plans, risk assessments and talking to other professionals about what should be done. Only problem is, no one has the time to do what should be done. They are too busy chasing their tails trying to reach stupid meaningless deadlines which might tick a few boxes but don’t actually do anything to help the individual, or the community, that is at risk.
Take Jon Venables for example. He has been recalled to prison. All of a sudden there is a public outcry. He should never have been let out. Okay, he was originally sent to prison for a horrific crime. He was found guilty. He was sentenced. He was granted parole with certain conditions. He broke those conditions and has been recalled to prison. Surely the media attention this case attracted should not stop him being treated the same as other criminals being managed by the criminal justice system for similar offences? If you don’t like it, I suggest you join a like-minded organisation and campaign to have the system overhauled.
What really gets my goat is the suggestion that the probation officer hasn’t been doing their job properly and should be fired. Why? Because they recalled someone to prison who breached their parole conditions? Because they weren’t able to brainwash someone and completely change their psyche? Because at some point in their career they decided to work with a particularly difficult client group? Jon Venables would have done the things he did no matter who his probation officer was. If you want to point the finger of blame, point it at him. Just leave the harassed professional alone. If they haven’t done their job properly, I’m sure it will be picked up on by their boss, not some journalist from a dodgy tabloid.
Of course this kind of finger pointing happens to those working in children’s services too. I saw a recent case on the news where a whole heap of professionals ranging from the police to social workers covering half the Midlands stood up to publicly apologise for a case of child abuse that was not dealt with as it should have been. Maybe harassed social workers missed the signs, people slipped through the net. I don’t know. But what the news programme I watched this story on failed to comment on was that these people, who no doubt went into their respective professions thinking they could change the world for the better before being hit by a wall of red tape and bureaucracy, did not commit any crime. They didn’t harm anyone. They certainly didn’t abuse anyone. Their crime is that they failed to read between the lines and put two and two together.
The same can be said about Baby Peter. What happened to that little boy was... well, words can’t describe what it was. Haringey Council were scrutinised mercilessly for years after for their failures in this case. Heads rolled. People were blamed for his death. Not because they had any intention for a child to die. But because they missed the signs. I have no doubt that any person who might have clicked that something so terrible was happening to that little boy would have taken action. But they didn’t see it. Any they will live with that for the rest of their lives.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s important that professionals learn from these cases, and the many others that go unreported by the media where maybe a situation could have been prevented. But please remember, before you point the finger of blame, that these people are not criminals. They are not abusers and murderers. They are people who wanted to help others, to make our society a better place. Their big mistake is to believe that they will be free to do their jobs properly without the scrutiny of government figures and the glaring light of the media, hungry and ready to pounce at their first stumble.
I’m just glad I didn’t make the same career choice that they did.

No comments:

Post a Comment