Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Making the Right Choice (part 2)

Having had a metal weight thrown at his head, which would enrage even the most passive person, Liam went in to an apoplectic frenzy. Edwin’s instincts quickly told him that were he to remain in the vicinity of Liam he would be the victim of grievous bodily harm. Edwin, for once, made the right choice and locked himself in his room. The pregnant Becky joined him, as did the two female members of staff. Liam emerged from his room wearing a pair of steel toe capped building boots. He headed for Edwin’s door and started to kick violently with all his strength. I asked him calmly to please refrain from trying to break Edwin’s door down, always with the manners of course, it’s good for their self-esteem you see to speak to them so. Of course, he didn’t listen and threatened me as well. I reminded him that there was a pregnant teenage girl in the room with Edwin and that she was terrified (he has attacked her in the past but been restrained by staff) and that such high levels of stress were not good for a pregnant woman. All to no avail. Liam told Edwin that he was going to “mash you up”, “shank you innit blood” and “mess you right up”. Edwin, having now the protection of a door with furniture against it, had a sudden burst of verbal bravado and both himself and Liam exchanged more threats. All the while, Liam was violently kicking against the door hoping to break in. By then, Liam had also acquired a frying pan and judging by the way he was holding it, he wasn’t planning to make Edwin an omlette with it when he got in to the room.

I heard the phone ringing in the office so I went to get it leaving Liam to kick at the door further and threaten Edwin. I secretly hoped that Edwin would open the door and throw another weight at Liam hopefully getting him between the eyes. I got to the office and answered the phone and it was Louise, the Senior support worker, ringing from Edwin’s room, telling me to ring the police as she believed that the door was beginning to give way and she was genuinely concerned that Liam was going to carry through with his threats if he managed to get in. I rang the Police and surprisingly they had two officers around within twenty minutes. However, they were none too pleased to be there and were initially quite rude. I told them I empathised with their frustration (there are only two of them for several villages encompassing several thousand people). They told me no offences had been committed and that I should have dealt with the scenario myself. I politely said, “Surely this is a disturbance of the peace? If I hadn’t called you now in an hour I would be ringing you about GBH.”

They reluctantly talked to both Edwin and Liam. This seemed to do the trick. However, as soon as they were gone Liam refused to go to bed and started demanding a lift home to his mother’s in London (he’s on a section 20 i.e. his mum still has most of the rights over him but the taxpayer accommodate and look after him). Liam demanded to talk to the on-call manager, as it’s his right to have everything explained to him he was allowed to phone her, to know why he couldn’t get a lift from staff to London. It was now 0145 am and staff had been on since 0800 and some of us, including myself, were on our second day straight through. Eventually, by 0230 in the morning tiredness got the best of Liam and he went to bed. It was a close call. The night could have gone so much worse.

Now, on the Monday morning after the incident on the Friday night, the manager called me to the office. I thought maybe it was to ask how I was having gotten almost no sleep on the Friday shift and having been threatened with actual bodily harm by a person with violent tendencies. It was very na├»ve of me to make this presumption. I had momentarily forgotten that the care system treats its frontline staff with disdain and views them as expendable and badly paid receptacles of abuse from the spawn of the underclass. The managers, many of them nice people, some of them not, spend their days in offices filling in forms and ticking boxes. Sometimes, they too can be at the receiving end of abuse but a lot less so than the Support Workers. Anyway, the manager was calling me in because Friday night’s incident was creating some bureaucratic and form filling issues for her.

“Winston, why were the two female members of staff hiding in Edwin’s room with Becky?”

“Well, it might have something to do with a 6’2 teenager in steel toe capped boots running towards them with a frying pan?” I quipped.

“Staff should not hide from the young people, by doing so they learn that they are in charge of the house. Liam should have been restrained in that scenario.”

Yes, he should have been restrained. I agree. In an ideal world there wouldn’t be two diminutive females with whom I would be doing the restraining of a teenager twice their size and several times their combined strength. There also wouldn’t be several forms to fill out after the restraint, to justify it and let’s remember we were already up several hours past our own bed time and had to be awake and on shift by 08.00 the following morning. There also wouldn’t be the constant threat of the young person making an allegation that you used excessive force. If they carry through with such allegations it can lead to immediate suspension from work whilst you are investigated. Even if you are proved innocent the fact an allegation was made stays on your record. Teenagers in care regularly threaten to make false abuse allegations, both physical and sexual against staff, some of them carry them through ruining the careers of their victims even when the allegations are untrue. It is these teenagers’ most effective weapon and the threat of it alone makes you very weary of ever using restraints.

“Look Winston, the bottom line is that the other staff should not have been hiding. Also, why did you call the police? There was no need to do so in these circumstances. I am going to find it very hard to justify in my report to OFSTED why the police were called for this raucous. I mean Liam often kicks off and mostly never carries out his threats,” remarked the manager.

“Yes, but sometimes he does carry out his threats and in this instance I judged it wise to call the police. This was the worst I’ve seen him and we do also have a pregnant girl in this house whose safety we must guarantee", I stated.

“Well, it’s going to be a nightmare to write up and OFSTED will not be happy.”

Obviously, the issue here is how this fits in to existing bureaucratic templates and the reaction of the state inspectorate, not how do we control this boy and make sure he cannot and will not behave like this again. My two colleagues were also reprimanded for the manner in which we dealt with this scenario. No one asked us how we were.

This same day, Liam was once again refusing to attend his own private school on the premises, whilst the teacher out of boredom surfed the internet. I’d say he was delighted. When Liam is in there he threatens him and smashes up the class. The walls have the holes to prove it.

The other staff and myself followed Liam around most of the morning reminding him how much money he could earn for the entire week if he only spent an hour a day in school and behaved himself by making the right choices. The manager told us to inform Liam and his peers that another trip to the amusement park was planned for the coming weekend dependent on behaviour. In reality, there only has to be a very minimal standard of good behaviour and not even on a consistent basis.

However, the biggest question that must arise for any sane person is where are the effective consequences for this young person that will make him learn from his mistakes and will tame his aggressive and anti-social beahviour? In reality, there are none.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have been following your blog for a while now after a mate sent me a link to it. I can only marvel at your patience and symapthise with your frustrations. I am a product of the care system myself as my stepfather regularly put me in care. Often after putting me in Hospital first. I joined the militiary at 16 and am now a good citizen with two kids in a secure marriage, a good job, no criminal record and a sense of right and wrong. But that is because I realised that life is give and take, these kids seem to think that life is all take what they want and give abuse. They need to be disciplined to a degree the "system" just does not accept. I admire you for the work you do, i couldnt do it. For Instance "Liam" would have got a major physical warning for just upsetting a pregnant woman in the world I inhabit.

WinstonSmith33 said...

Thank you so much for your post. So often in the care system and also in supported housing the staff and management excuse all negative behaviour as a result of problems and dysfunction in the child's family. I am forever pointing out that the majority of people who experience problems in their childhood do not become feral teenagers and criminal adults.

You and so many others, including myself and many people I know are living proof that problems in your formative years do not equate to a wasted adult life. I believe the main reason these excuses are used and put forward for dysfunctional behaviour is because having abandoned traditional justice and discipline when dealing with the likes of the teenagers I write about an excuse must be invented but that is all it is, an excuse, and it is an insult to all the people I know personally and have worked with from dysfunctional backgrounds who have succeeded in life. Its a pity that folk such as yourself were not running these care homes. The children would leave there well balanced, disciplined and strong individuals.

Anonymous said...

Winston, I stumbled across your blog a few months ago, and enjoy (if that is the right word) reading your postings.

I am horrified that actual or potential young criminals like Liam are treated with such leniency and given no appreciation of right and wrong. Not to support for a minute bad behaviour, but how are young people to learn civilised behaviour in a world where there are seemingly no consequences whatsoever for acting out?

As it happens, I ran off the rails in a big way when I was in my early twenties. A long gaol sentence for armed robbery made me see the light, and now I am as law-abiding and considerate a citizen as you will find anywhere. But I wonder what I'd have been like if I hadn't been made to face the consequences of my criminal actions.

Anonymous said...

Good Grief, what a bloody mess.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous (the ex-armed robber) you'd be like Liam.

The country is full of Liams who haven't gone quite as far off the rails as you did. There's a lot of "low level" crime and this sort of behaviour. Nothing is done about it.

Then, they cross the line, then the full weight comes down on their heads - for example the young people who arbitrarily kill some bystander or someone who dares to challenge them.

Winston is the sort of care worker who does a great job. I'm amazed he hasn't been sacked, mind, saying things like "the majority of people who experience problems in their childhood do not become feral teenagers and criminal adults" will be viewed by many as absolute heresy. Even though it's true.

His 'managers' will say Poor Liam, it's Winston's incompetent caring, it's ..... anything but Liam's choice.

Those of us who work with the Liam's of the world know full well that Liam does it because he's allowed to.

Big Blue Rob said...

Winston, My word. I can completely understand your feelings especially

"the manager called me to the office. I thought maybe it was to ask how I was"

I used to work in secure units. more for people with disabilities and associated challenging behaviour. I left the job
because I was burnt out and also hounded out, not by the clients/service users/residents (delete as appropriate I called
them the guys) but by other members of staff who would complain about me and one even put in a complaint of abuse against
a client for which I had to fight (the pen is mightier and all that) for my very job and self respect.

Now by that point I was a deputy manager and the one thing I ALWAYS made sure I did, even to those who were against me,
is ensure their emotional stability after incidents (as much as I could) I would get them 'off-shift' even if just for an
hour. I would help them with the paper mountain and more importantly of all (I think) I would talk to them and let them be
cross and angry and upset and shout and bawl and say all the things you say when the adrenaline has long gone and is
replaced by that shakey gnawing feeling in your guts. I let them say the politically uncorrect downright illegal comments
because I knew they had to get it off their chest and I knew it was better done with a colleague rather than a peer or
family member. I knew from my own failing relationship that if your partner is incapable of understanding what is going on
with you at your work you have no chance of getting any emotional support from them and sometimes thats the right thing for
some couples.

But I digress, If you do not look after the emotional well-being of your staff, especially in the care system and even more
so when they face challenging situations, then you will lose them. Worse than that though they may suddenly just flip and
lose the plot completely. I remember one guy who did that, he just had enough and one day he jsut walked out of the shift
adn was never seen at work again. I went to see him in a secure unit as he was sectioned and he told me that it was his
last remnants of sense that made him walk out the door and not start punching things, people, the guys whatever.

Either way is a nightmare, loss of continuity, new faces around the place always upset the routines and make things worse,
more work for the staff trying to train and keep out of trouble the new members of staff, the guys trying it on cos they
spot the weak link in the system etc etc.

Fair Play to you fella, if I was your boss I'd have given you a pat on the back

Anonymous said...

I'm more shocked by the attitude of your manager and the police than Liam's behaviour. Liam just sounds like he is either a psycopathtic type who doesn't distinguish between right and wrong ...or he's someone who's violent because hasn't been taught right from wrong or given any disciplin. But the police and especially that manager should know and see the reality of the situation.

Anonymous said...

Winston, in an ideal world, and if you were in charge of the home, how would you have dealt with this situation in particular and for Liam's continuing care in general?

I can understand the need to discipline him - I'm just not sure how to translate that into reality.

WinstonSmith33 said...

This is the problem, anonymous above, you as an adult are not sure how you would discipline a teenager like Liam. And the likes of Liam have learned this from when they were very young and have controlled the adults around them with violence and aggression but to be fair to Liam who is still a juvenile he hasd been failed by his family, the education system and the youth justice system.

Liam grew up with a single Mum who gave in to his every demand and when she said no to him he would be violent with her until she capitulated. In school Liam lashed out and was abusive and there also no personal responsibility on Liam's behalf was required. He was simply given a psychological diagnosis of 'oppositional defiant disorder' and 'ADHD' and as a result all the adults removed the power of choice from Liam by telling him his behaviour was not his fault. He continuously committs criminal damagage and assault in the care home and the home shield him from the law. Perhaps, they are afraid he will be put in to care and they will lose the few thousand they get for him every week? After all they are a private company as are most care homes.

So here is what I would do. First of all I would stop bribing Liam and all the others like him with cash rewards for going to school, behaving well, etc etc. Second of all when he kicks off in the manner which he did in the story I told I would remove all privileges and benefits for up to a week even two i.e. no play stations, Tv time reduced, Tvs in bedrooms taken out, pocket money reduced, no lifts anywhere, grounding. And if he kicked off again in the same manner I would have the system set up that violent and dangerous youths like Liam could be fast tracked for a short sharp shock in a secure unit for a couple of weeks to give them a taste of where they will end up if they continue with there behaviour.

However, overall there needs to be a shift in the thinking of our society in the way we view children. I dont believe in excessive authoritarianism or harsh corporal punishment and I believe that children need to be listened to and have their feelings and opinions taken in to account. However, we have gone too far and are now treating children as if they are ratrional, well balanced adults whose opinions and feelings must be considered on every topic. This wooly, excessive nurturing approach is the reason for an increase in feral beahviour amongst a large swathe of the youth populace and even the adult one as well. We need to bring back some of the wisdom of past generations. Naughty children should be spanked lightly and punished for minor transgressions so that they dont go from being naughty to being savages. Schools need to become stricter and kick people out with ease who are problematic. Parents need to be held accountable for the criminal actions of their kids and young offenders should be punisehd for their crimes rather than rewarded with DJ courses, day trips and snooker club membership. Until we as a society reinforce that adult authority is sacrosanct and back that up with proper discipline, even harshly so for major transgressions, then we will contine to slide in to the moral pit we are in with our youth. The rot is only beginning.

Anonymous said...

Winston, I agree with you but I would just like to add that in additon to Liam's mom giving into his every demand, she was probably tired, depressed or had inadequate parenting herself, which meant that little Liam didn't have the parent-child experience that would enable his brain to fill will synapses required for healthy human functioning.

If it were up to me I would keep Liam in a secure unit for the two years it takes him to reach adulthood so that he is able to learn from the experience of strict control over every aspect of his life - something he missed out on as a young child.

WinstonSmith33 said...

Anonymous above, my mother was tired,had severe depression, anxiety attacks and had a dysfunctional childhood. Yet I nor any of y siblings turned out anything like Liam. I wasn't perfect and had some problems growing up but I had a healthy respect for adults and other people around me and so did other kids from severely dysfunctional backgrounds. Why? Fear of the consequences of your actions. Even if your parents put up with disrespect and agression from you at home in the past the wider community just wouldnt stand for it and people instinctively knew this and so anti-social behaviour amongst young people and adults alike was less frequent. The fear of a clout from the Police and severe consequences for violent criminal behaviour would soon sort Liam out regardless of the state of his synapses which is just more excuse making.

Anonymous said...

I wonder about this phenomenon often. The one where the past always seems to be better then now and calls of bring back corporal punishment, marriage and good old fashioned values are heard as the panacea of everything modern.

I just want to ask that if this is the case - why did they change it at all. They could have happily carried on allowing cops to beat noisy teenagers and pregnant schoolgirls to dissapear to those laundrettes. Something must have not been to their liking - beats me if I know?

But I am 100% behind your "fear of consequences" theory - and
i would like it to start with the consequence of birthing a child you cannot financially and emotionally afford to raise. If people would just consider the consequence of an impractical pregnancy - there would be much less anti social behaviour without anybody needing to get nasty!

PS - Winston - why is it that there was still anti social behavior then and could ther ebe more of it now as there is a much bigger population?

WinstonSmith33 said...

Im not saying the past was perfect, far from it. I dont think that marriage is the solution to all of societies ills either. I have nothing against single Mums. My Mother was single when she had me. However, she didn't get given a free house and lots of benefits. Sher had to work and rightly so.

However, the cultural upheavals of the 60s which in many regards were progressive (although Ive been accused otherwise, I am a Liberal) led to a an overall softening in societies approach to dealing with all forms of anti-social behaviour. That is why so many schools are over-run with extremely problematic children that verbally and physically attack teachers. That's why are criminal justice system is a joke. That's why the Youth Offending Service send young car thiefs on DJ courses and over 60% of Young Offenders re-offend.

Violent and threatening anti-social behaviour must be met with severe consequences and if we started this in schools then we wouldn't have the problems we have today. I dont believe in teachers having the arbitrary power to use corporal punishment for any trivial offence but it should be reserved for violence and threatening behaviour to staff and the yong person's peers. With all the much needed change since the 60s we have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Our granparents got a lot wrong and we needed to progress but in doing so we also jettisoned much of their wisdom. We shouldnt have been so arrogant to think we knew it all.

Anonymous said...

And the pendulum is swinging back towards a more conservative way of life. You are not alone in your way of thiking. Hopefully we will be able to get a more balanced approach to life post the noughties.

Louise said...

Your manager sounds like a total plonker. My mother is a psychiatric nurse and until recently she worked on a adolescent unit. She left to work on an acute ward. On the adolescent unit in a single month one member of staff was hospitalized by a 'client' and a diminutive anorexic girl was attacked by a six foot patient with some kind of conduct disorder. Needless to say that in neither cases did the member of staff involved receive much support from their pen-pushing superiors.

North Northwester said...

WinstonSmith33
"Our granparents got a lot wrong and we needed to progress but in doing so we also jettisoned much of their wisdom. We shouldnt have been so arrogant to think we knew it all."

And you STILL describe yourself as a liberal?! ;-)
OK, so maybe corporal punishment for every misdemeanour was too much, but as you correctly point out 'spare the rod and spoil the child' is still wisdom indeed.

I have to say that these people aren't exactly going out into a world in which personal responsibility and self-preservation are much required even if they do learn to pass whatever test it is that lets them out on their own as 'adults'. The gentle arms of the welfare state will gather them to its bosom and let them do their own feckless, disorganised thing until prison, addiction, or serial absconding and multiple motherhood claims them almost inescapably, forever. I know - those gentle arms are mine.
Fight the good fight WS33, and keep telling us how it is at the sharp end.

WinstonSmith33 said...

North Northwester, I would indeed describe myself as a liberal. I believe in individual rights and freedoms but with these come responsibilities and consequences for choices made. That's where the paternalist welfare state gets it wrong. It is not a liberal creation but a socialist one where the state assumes responsibility and in the case of the UK has ended up spawning an underclass of immense proportions. That said Im not a complete free market capitalist and in believe in a minimal welfare state. I stress the word minimal.

Anonymous said...

"The rot is only beginning."

I think you're right about that, and the consequences are a bit scary. I wonder if 40 years from now we'll be summarily hanging thieves in the town square simply because there's no other way to deal with all the crime.

halojones-fan said...

Seems to me that part of the issue is that this job is meant to be its own reward. There's no payback for a job well done--and there's God's plenty of crap dumped on you if you do badly.

Carrying a troubled youth through the rocks of adolescence and turning them into a rational, responsible, benefit-to-society adult gets you an "attaboy"...at best...if your manager is the sort who cares enough to see how well his charges are doing.

But if you screw up you're for the high jump before you can fart twice. It's like somewhere along the way, someone decided that it was too hard to reward success--but that they could cointerfeit a reward for success by making failure have awful results. "I didn't get smacked in the nuts with a golf club today," the worker thinks, "I must be doing a good job."

Rob said...

"They (the two coppers) told me no offences had been committed"

Lazy arsed useless twats. How about criminal damage and breach of the peace? Doesn't this sum up the police these days?

Still, smoke a fag within two metres of a pub doorway and they'll be on you like a ton of bricks.

You have my sympathy regarding this young nutter. You are the expendable front-line and are the one who takes the consequences for the liberal establishment's indulgence of mass disorder and thuggery.

woman on a raft said...

JuliaM sent me over. I can't believe I've missed this important blog.

Thanks to her, and I'll be back to read more.

Bill Sticker said...

“Staff should not hide from the young people, by doing so they learn that they are in charge of the house. Liam should have been restrained in that scenario.”

Er pardon me, but wouldn't 'restraint' be a violation of your charges human rights and an open invitation to disciplinary action emanating from the manager concerned?

Anonymous said...

"where are the effective consequences for this young person that will make him learn from his mistakes and will tame his aggressive and anti-social beahviour?"

There aren't any consequences left.

They aren't even expected to stand in a queue any more
http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6021535

WinstonSmith33 said...

In most cases ADHD is an excuse for what was once called being naughty. Instead of a queue jump a clout on the back of the head is what most ADHD hoodlums need.

North Northwester said...

"Instead of a queue jump a clout on the back of the head is what most ADHD hoodlums need."

NOW we're talking!

Incidentally, I'm pretty sure that 'dyslexia' is the middle-class parent's get out of jail free card for lazy or stupid children.
The responsibility-deniers of this country are medicalising crime and other misbehaviour to take the aspect of free will out of it, and so to avoid any concept of punishment. Same with not being too bright - it's respectable to have children with a syndrome, but thick? Nah. Doesn't fit the middle class aspirational mind-set, and I post as one of their number.

Louise said...

It's certainly a money spinner for Novartis: the drug firm that manufactures Ritalin.

Anonymous said...

Having read your latest post, may I say, you deserve every moment of your job, you horrible, fascist git.

That said this Liam boy definitely belongs in prison or in a hospital for the criminally insane.

North Northwester said...

Latest Anonymous ; " Having read your latest post, may I say, you deserve every moment of your job, you horrible, fascist git."

It's not WS who's unleashed this horror on the world - it's people like you who use fascist imprecisely but by reflex. WS is a liberal. Learn the difference, anon, and get a name. Brain. Argument. Life?