Tonight, I feel as angry as any of you do, on hearing the news that the man convicted of killing Baby Peter Connolly has also been convicted of raping a two year old girl.
I am glad that I feel angry. It is a good sign, it means that I am finally recovering from the emotional numbness brought on by working on the ‘front line’ with similar families. I wasn’t a Social Worker, but I spent my working life amongst the same depravity that they face daily.
A part of me can rage at the TV, at the society that produces such animals, that employs such ‘useless’ social workers – but a part of me also feels sympathy for the social workers involved. I am not about to defend their actions, they were wrong, but I do not condemn the individuals concerned, I condemn utterly the conditions under which they operate.
When you spend your working day amongst people at the very bottom end of society, when you trail from one sickening household to another, from one amoral life story to another, from one interwoven, interbred, incestuous household to another, abused, assaulted, insulted, unsupported, you do, inevitably, become a ‘different’ person to the rest of society.
It happens to Police Officers, it happens to Child Protection experts, it happens to Community Mental Health workers. Frankly, if it didn’t, they would become in need of help themselves.
If you haven’t worked amongst families who exist on the fringes of society, it is difficult to conceive of the depth of depravity they can sink to, not for nothing are they known as sink estates.
I have worked with families where a man has raped his paralysed brother’s daughter in front of him, he was unable, incapable, of helping her, and the rest of his family joined in setting fire to the house where she and her Mother had fled to – because they had gone to the police. ‘Society’ in the form of the Criminal Injuries Board, had awarded her £12,000 in compensation, the maximum available at the time, money which had quickly been whittled down just providing the basic necessities of her new life. Had she fled to the home of someone known to have a conviction for sexual offences, would I have said anything?
I have to say, the answer is No.
First and foremost, because under the terms of my contract, I would have been prevented from telling anyone that I had discovered that – although the law is changing on that front. Secondly, I would have judged that the danger she and her daughter might have been in, in the future, were ‘possible’ dangers – and the danger she was in at that moment was very real and present, and one for which there were no funds available, no facilities with places empty, in short, nothing that could be offered to her.
It is all too easy to sit in front of your computer and rant that such men should be castrated, (I would agree with you – but the law does not allow for it), that the social worker involved should be pilloried, ( I would not agree with you), that someone should ‘pay’ for this – but the truth is that it is only society which is to blame.
Society which sat round its scrubbed pine tables, over a supper of lasagna and red wine, and decided that the old mental hospitals, where the inadequate as well as the insane could live out a controlled life in safety, were ‘inhumane’ and should be closed; who decided that the human rights act and data protection laws were what society should have; who decided that schools should no longer be allowed to instill discipline in pupils – in short who took away the entire framework which used to govern communities and provide some safeguards – and then employed police officers and social workers to clean up the resulting mess and ensure that it did not burst out into your streets or from your tv screens.
Along the way you decided that Police Officers should come straight from university through Bramshill, Social Workers should get a degree, and turn overnight from middle class university material, into the sort of people who could make proper judgment calls on lives of which they had no prior experience. Lives so convoluted and complicated and inter related- and generally chemically enhanced - that it requires the judgment of Solomon to sort out.
You don’t get the judgment of Solomon from someone who is overworked, with a horrendous case load of problems that have no solution, You get mistakes, and bad calls. You get a gradual immunity as to what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’.
If you want to rant and rail against someone, rant and rail against the people whose ideology has left an entire generation of feral individuals to amuse themselves day in day out, on a pittance of an income, with no hope, no reason to to take pride in their lives, no ability to take care of themselves.
Don’t take it out on the people you appointed to the hopeless task of making sure that the feral inhabitants of the swamp don’t offend your sensibilities.
The pedants will be out in force tonight, telling us what ‘should’ be done in such situations, with their unlimited ‘arm-chair’ budgets, their illegal knee-jerk solutions, their pious belief that if only ‘someone’ had done their job properly, this would never have happened.
Try keeping the lid on the ‘swamp’ in the real world of budgetary restraints, the Human Rights Act, Citizens Charters, Data Protection Laws. You will soon understand what a miracle it is that seven years elapsed between Victoria Climbie and Baby P.
Ask yourself too, whilst you are clucking your disapproval of the adults around Baby P, and the two year old girl who was raped, why the media are so content to justify a platoon of Doctors leaving their young children unattended whilst they went out drinking – and thus setting an example to the inhabitants of the swamp that it is OK to neglect your children, even if one disappears, so long as you are middle class professionals.
OH UPDATE: If you haven't seen what really happened to Maddy, Anna has it