Thursday, November 20, 2014
Having spent my working days at every level of education from primary school to PhD supervision, as well as doing five years in intensive residential social work, and finally having spent the latter end of my toils doing research on nationally funded projects, I suppose I feel I have some kind of obligation to tell it how it is. The thesis is this, the higher you go up the career ladder, the easier the work is, whether in health, social work, policing or education. In fact, the better educated and more articulate you are, the more you can slip into senior positions, pick up the lie of the land and spout persuasively about what needs to be done, what lessons ‘need to be learned’ and what strategies should be followed. This applies to every level up to ministerial.
I am reacting to one of the darkest manifestations of human behavior; the rape of young girls and boys by men, whether in gangs drawn from specific social or religious backgrounds through to networks of the most powerful individuals in the country whether they be teachers, celebrities, politicians, senior police officers or army generals. Yet another report released this week, this time by Ofsted, criticizes the lack of cooperation between agencies to protect the young. (Ofsted itself has a deplorable record in uncovering child abuse over the last decade!) Similar reports in the last twenty years have located this lack of integrated work between all relevant agencies as a root cause of the lack of protection. But nothing has changed.
There are two main reasons for this. The first is that the career of individuals is a greater motivating force than the distress of the young. Careers are made in separate professional worlds, the territories of specific disciplines. They are mini-cultures with their own languages and ways of seeing and doing. In each, defenceless children are their units of currency and they don’t take kindly to passing this currency on to others for fear it might weaken their bargaining power. In effect, each profession builds its empire on the pain and suffering of its young ‘clients’.
The second reason for the complete inadequacy of professional bodies in understanding, empathising and finding ways of assuaging the terrible hurt of the young, thus giving them a chance to break with their troubled pasts and construct better futures, stems from the same source. Working with desperate individuals in the throes of extreme distress is as hard as it gets. To bring about change requires extraordinary skills and aptitudes plus an exceptional emotional stability. Within the career structures of agencies, such people are paid the least and the most is expected of them. The best among them are soon promoted and leave the raw nature of the field. As managers or supervisors they no longer face the vile expressions of inhuman acts every hour of the day. As they become senior managers even less. But the higher the tier, the higher the pay, and the more distant the involvement with on-the-ground staff. Over time they become utterly divorced from the rapidly changing cultures of deprivation and depravity. They have less and less understanding of what constitutes torture in the daily lives of those they are charged to keep from harm. Good current examples are internet-based paedophilia and bullying.
But they are, nevertheless, articulate middle class professionals, well rehearsed in admitting corporate guilt and suggesting what should be done.