I feel lucky to have grown up in care during the 1970s and 1980s. I had been placed there as a baby, and had been labelled "unfosterable" by the time I was 10, so I spent most of my time in a small residential unit and, later, in a community home with 18 teenagers. In those days, being a social worker was more of a calling than a career. Social workers didn't move on and up as often as they do now. My social worker, Jenni Randall, started working with me when I was eight, and when she finally moved on she insisted we remain in touch.That doesn't sound much like today's social worker. And indeed, David notes this with regret:
The relationship would be frowned upon today; she would be accused of blurring the professional line. But it was this relationship that saved me.Ah, yes. Today's SS drone - in fact, all public sector workers - must be degree'd up, fluent in current theory, and able to spout impenetrable semi-scientese at the drop of a Burberry cap. And isn't the 'service' better for it?
When I was in borstal I decided to go on the straight and narrow, not for my own sake, but because it upset me to see Jenni travelling to the institution. On one visit I had been beaten up, and Jenni cried when she saw the state of my face. I didn't know that anyone cared about me, but she demonstrated that she did. She remembered my birthdays and helped me in practical ways, too, making sure that I kept hold of the flat I had been allocated so that I would have somewhere to go when I came out.I doubt anyone today would do that. There's no tick box for it, I expect...
…we must not lose sight of what happens to children once they are removed from their parents. If we are serious about caring for kids whose parents can't or won't do so, then we need to build relationships with them. It is a great shame that many local authorities no longer invest in residential care, which went out of fashion as a result of a string of child-abuse scandals.Another case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
So far, this government hasn't said anything about their intentions for looked-after children – and with all the talk of cuts this silence is worrying. We need investment in social work so that it can once again have a human face, and so that social workers can nurture and build relationships with these vulnerable children.And that's something money and resources can't buy.