Friday, 10 February 2012

Protecting Our Children

Episode 1: Damned If They Do, Damned If They Don't

This documentary was broadcast by the BBC on Monday 30 January 2012.  The short summary on the BBC website says:

Follows Bristol's child protection teams over the course of a year to see frontline work first-hand and explore how the crises of the last decade have had an impact on their ability to safeguard children.

Newly-qualified Susanne is working with a 'low risk' family. But even the most straightforward situations often develop into something more ominous.

Her first case is to help a family with their three-year-old son Toby, who has learning difficulties. His parents need support and advice about how to improve their parenting, as well as the conditions of their small flat. However, father Mike's hostility towards Susanne means she can't help the family in the way she would like.

It seems a fair commentary on the essential substance of the documentary.  But what is the real problem?  There are two polarised perspectives here.  Either one can see the parents as failing in their role as parents or one can see the social workers failing in their role.  It is clear that the social workers see the situation from the first perspective.  It is also clear that the impartial documentary is from their point of view too.  The devastating problem is the inherent prejudice.

At the beginning of the documentary Susanne claims that social work is the most hated profession in the country.  She's wrong.  There was  a survey done some years ago and Doctor's receptionists topped the bill.  Estate Agents came in a close second.  Susanne could be accused of over dramatisation and paranoia (She probably would be if the boot was on the other foot).  One problem with paranoia is that it leads to pre-emptive assault.  She is already laying down the foundation for a disastrous outcome by her own expectations.  And early on in the documentary Mike says "You're here to split the family up. Let's get it straight... You're out to do one thing Susanne and I know you're out to do one thing... and I'll repeat it now with the camera, you're out to wreck us."  Well history proved that he was right.  So we start the documentary with a social worker who has already been proved to be wrong and a father who is honest and clear in his communication and actually factually correct.

This documentary is clearly judgemental.  The parents are fat, stupid and dirty, and much as the well educated, well spoken, well trained, intelligent, responsible social workers try, they can't make the parents behave the way they think they should.  It is clear that there is a problem and that the child is not experiencing a level of well being that this society would like.  Most viewers of the program will feel that the child's circumstances could be dramatically improved.  Most viewers will do what most people do and imagine themselves in the position of the parents.  Most viewers, because this program was broadcast into houses with enough money to have a television, will imagine they would clean up the mess, they wouldn't let the dog shit on the carpet, they would tidy up the kitchen and they would generally do a better job than the fat stupid parents.  It is easy being prejudicial.  It is self serving and very satisfying.  But what is the consequence?  The child was put up for adoption and the parents' lives were devastated.  God only knows how the child will feel in years to come when he finds out what happened?  But the good bit is that he seemed clearly happier away from his parents.  So the viewer is left feeling that the social workers have an almost impossible job to do and the viewer would not like to have to do it but, tough though the decisions were, they did the right thing for the child.  So the viewer comes away with a heavy heart and wishing things weren't like this but glad that at least the Children Services are there to do the dirty work and help the dear children.  So, unbeknownst to the viewer, they are giving themselves an almost subconscious pat on the back for being so compassionate.  Smug, self satisfied, supercilious, sanctimonious hypocritical viewers.  Just what Aunty (the BBC) wants.

So consider these questions:  What did the social workers do to help the parents?  What did they do to help the child have a better relationship with his parents?  What did they do about addressing the underlying problems?  What did they do to give the parents support?  What did they do about the dignity and self respect of the parents?

Unfortunately the answer is not just "nothing" it is far worse;  They assaulted the parents with a sense of superiority.  They judged the parents negatively.  They patronised the parents and brought the full force of the institutionalised judgemental, oppressive and destructive powers of our culture down on them.  They stole the parents' child like any good child catcher would do.  They had no respect for the parents.  They had no compassion for their lives.  They had no concept of the bigger picture.  In fact they were remarkably un-Christian for a bunch of self satisfied jerks.  I only bring Christianity into this because the UK regards itself as a Christian society with Christian values and the actions of the social services must appear to be in line with the Christian moral paradigms.  You can hear them bleat "...but we were only trying to help.", "...we only want what is best for the child."

An aside: There is somewhere in the region of 50,000 social workers in England so maybe 80,000 in the UK.  This is not including support staff so it is at least of the right order.  The average salary is around the £25k mark.  Many receive less and a few receive significantly more but again it is in the right order.  So the pay handed out to social workers is in the region of £2,000,000,000 per annum.  That's a fashionable two billion pounds.  Unemployment in the UK stands at about 2.5 million.  So if all the social workers were put out of work and the money handed out to the unemployed (now including the 80,000 ex-social workers) that would amount to £775 each per year.  Not proving what I would have wanted it to prove.

What the self orientated social workers don't understand is that they have a job, they have a pension, they have a house and even a home to live in.  They are treated with respect on the high street as civilised 'citizens'.  They are afforded a sense of security and self respect in their 'conforming' life style.  They are fundamentally psychologically secure.  The people they 'visit' have probably had none of that all of their lives.  The people who are in most need of the services provided by the democratic government and funded by the tax payer are exactly the people who have been abused, ostracised, marginalised and even criminalised by the culture.  They are the least educated in our society.  They are the poorest in society.  The unconscious arrogance of the social services simply oozed out of the television set.

The summary of the program says "However, father Mike's hostility towards Susanne means she can't help the family in the way she would like."  Am I the only person who can see the cruel arrogance of that?  If the social services were seriously trying to help the disadvantaged people that sentence simply couldn't be said.  First of all the reference to Mike's hostility assumes it is ill-founded as if there is something 'wrong' with him.  It was not ill founded at all;  Susanne's attitude was superior and she clearly regarded these people as inferior.  Mike was actually extremely tolerant of her condescending and judgemental attitude, but he quite reasonably, and with a damn site more honesty than Susanne ever exhibited, stated that he didn't like her and couldn't work with her because she was simply out to take their child away.  His hostility was a very restrained and understandable response to the circumstances.  But the sentence goes on to say that [poor] Susanne couldn't help the family the way SHE wanted to.  Whatever happened to the idea of helping them they way THEY wanted to be helped?  So Susanne (representing 'us' the civilised viewers), poor thing, couldn't get what SHE wanted which was to be a really nice, kind, compassionate, helpful person (needing her father's approval to survive - you know that Freudian stuff).  That is what I mean by arrogance.  The parents clearly needed help and seemed perfectly willing and able to respond to serious help if it were available.  But the social services wanted to dictate how they should behave and frankly it was unreasonable in their state of poverty and with their lack of education and social skills.  Net result - justified child theft.  And the wonderful thing about that is that the social workers all get paid, the tax payer feels they are getting value for money, and the social services funding gets a boost for another child purloined.  Unfortunately the reality is that they are parasites getting fat (metaphorically) preying on the poor.

The Telegraph's review: Protecting Our Children: Damned If They Do, Damned If They Don’t, BBC Two, review is as naively arrogant as the BBC's documentary.  It claims "This first episode focuses on nervous trainee Susanne..."  immediately putting her in the 'sympathy' chair and a few sentences later says "He’s [the son] also extremely aggressive – but when we witness obstinate Mike arguing with Susanne and the rest of the team, it’s not difficult to see how he has acquired that particular trait." totally writing off Mike as an unreasonable and positively aggressive person.  But the child was angry and demonstrative (understandably) and Mike, the father, was not aggressive.  He never once threatened any of the social workers or television crew and only once mildly threatened his son but not even to the level of the euphemistic "appropriate discipline" (smacking) currently being debated in the UK and being supported by the more (arrogant, rich) right wing conservatives.  What the Telegraph is referring to is his audacity at daring to say what he thought and to state that the Social Services were out to wreck the family.  A fair observation and one he has a perfect right to express.  It is only a threat in so far as it threatens to expose the hidden agenda.  What the social workers are trying to achieve is an immoral objective; They do not want it questioned.  The writer for the Telegraph (Isabel Mohan) has obviously succumbed to the authoritarian control of her parents and schooling because she interprets Mike's statements as 'aggressive'.

This documentary, unfortunately, is prejudicial and does nothing to advance an understanding of the complexity of the problems in our society.  It only bolsters the sanctimonious justification for institutionalised child abuse to appease the middle class conscience.

More reading around this subject:
• 'Child protection' wreaks havoc on a loving family once again
• A judge attacks my 'one-sided' child protection stories - but it cuts both ways
• Children Services Abuse
• TV review: Protecting Our Children: Damned If They Do, Damned If They Don't
• 10,000 children taken into care: Numbers have doubled in the past four years
• Magistrate attacks care system saying it 'criminalises children' by prosecuting for trivial matters
• Thousands of British children are taken into care each year, isn't it time we invested in prevention rather than cure?


  1. You can't fix this world, get a boat or something.

    1. It may be true that I can't fix the world but I, sure as hell, can complain. And complaining makes me money - not a lot - but if I complain a lot who knows? I don't have enough money to have a house to live in or even enough food so there is not a lot more I can do. I would be very happy to have a boat and the wherewithal to live frugally but securely. I like boats. Please send money.

  2. If you don't have enough money for food you should drop your ISP so you have more money for food, that's what I would do. Eating is more important than getting on the internut all the time.

    As for not having a house to live in I don't know what to tell you, my place is free and clear, pretty good for a bum, yes?

    1. Ah - The "internut" is my only hope of making more money. Get rid of that and I'm dead.

  3. I'm interested in knowing how you make money on the internut.