Wednesday, August 14, 2013

If you think you hate social workers now, wait until you have to pay them

In response to an effort to make children pay for being 'in care', I recall some episodes from my mis-spent youth (a period I am still not completely certain has ended):

Throughout the whole of my conscious childhood, I knew social workers in one form or other. I'm glad I did. They're nowhere near as unpleasant as everyone says they are.
People find social workers annoying because of the necessarily paternalistic and bureaucratic aspects of what they do. They process dysfunctions in society with some limited resources and techniques, without being able to address the underlying causes. Sometimes they also bring a certain middle-class moral judgment to the role, something which, in my experience, becomes more prevalent the more senior the social work professional is.
From about the age of 14, I knew them as the hated authority – "staff" – when I was "in care" at an adolescent unit. This was not a disciplinary institution, although a list of my petty misdemeanours at that point would have resembled Cartman's confession ("and then this one time …"). It was just a place, underfunded and not very pleasant, where mostly damaged working-class children lived when there was nowhere else to put them.
And when I say "damaged", this is to give you no idea of the depravities involved. There was, for example, a quietly disturbed boy who insisted on repeatedly breaking into my bedroom while I was out, and leaving a shit under my mattress. But it wasn't all excitement. Most of the time, it was sheer boredom.