I have worked in Children’s services now for nearly 10 years and over that time I don’t think I have ever understood the taboo like attitude that is given to the likes of Youth Offending and Child Mental Health Services. In my experience they are generally situated in appalling accommodation. The Youth Offending Team I used to work in was based in a rather large Portacabin which was situated in a part of the local authority that was difficult to find and people generally felt threatened if visiting after dark.
I have given this thought over the years and have come to the conclusion that commissioners and senior management all suffer with the same denial like thought processes as “we don’t have a problem with youth offending and something I heard very recently by a senior Police Officer “children don’t have mental health problems do they?” I have to say I very nearly choked on my own spittle when his words reached my ears. The reality is, no they shouldn’t have mental health problems but the sad fact is many do because of the unfortunate start in life many of our children appear cursed with.
It is this denial that has come to be the one biggest problem in child welfare and if this isn’t recognised at a senior level then who is going to rescue our generations to come. I have witnessed personally colleagues buckle in fear at being given another case and another deadline to meet most of which are impossible to make. In the years after Victoria Climbie and Baby Peter, stark warnings have been given to practitioners by safeguarding leads that they need to stand up for themselves against managers who deal out the work. The warnings are very clear; this is your career and only you can protect it. When these warnings are fed back to managers workers are met with comments such as “you’re living in a dream world”. I experienced this personally when working in the Youth Offending Team I mentioned earlier, and morale and working relationships suffer significant harm as a result. There becomes a culture of fear and watching ones back.
As a result of this pressure Social Workers and Youth Offending Team Officers are left unsupported and the people who suffer most are the children we are meant to be serving. The work ethic that was originally birthed to protect them is in fact colluding with their issues and neglecting to fulfil their most basic need which is acceptance and dare I say it; Love.
I pray that our social services system is supported and that there are managers placed in positions where they can protect their staff, I pray that there are more people who can stand against the minority who are forcing unsafe practice. I pray for integrity to flood the workplace for those doing the most important job in society today; Those who are protecting children.