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 naïve 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.