Thursday, 3 December 2009

Horse Tranquilisers and Recommended Reading

Just the other day, I was sitting in the office at a Supported Housing project filling in evidence of the support I'd given a 'client'. I received an email last week from someone in the policy department instructing that from now on I refer to 'residents', as they were formerly known, as 'clients'. If the term resident is somehow now offensive or disempowering they should hear what I call some of the 'clients' when Im down the pub. Have these people nothing better to do than dictate the pedantry of language? Probably not. I can think of so many better uses of taxpayer's money than funding Newspeak officials straight out of Orwell's 1984.

Anyway, as I was recording that I had successfully reminded him to pay his portion of rent and to sign on, one of our less socialised residents came to the office to see if he had any post. For someone with limited literacy skills he is very interested in being written to, but then he has us to read him his letters. As I rummaged in the post box I noticed that the resident's nose was slightly bleeding.

"Jim, do you know that you have a nose bleed?" I asked.

Taking a tissue to his nose, he responded, "Oh yeah, that happens a lot probably from taking ketamine." This is a horse tranquiliser and ironically it never seems to actually sedate Jim who is regularly involved in a variety of forms of anti-social behaviour including aggression, violence and threatening behaviour. Maybe he needs to up his dose?

"Then stop taking ketamine as it's damaging your health and is a dangerous drug," I remarked.

"But Ive been taking it for ages and Im ok," he said whilst blood trickled down his nostrils.

How do you reason with that kind of thinking? It's almost as if Jim is intrinsically incapable of sorting out his life.

I wrote this down as well. Any conversation is deemed as support. The social malaise that is stalking Britain in the twenty first century is being well documented for future historians to read, depending on whether the confidentiality of the dissolute classes will still have to be respected after their death.

If you enjoy reading my blog, if enjoy is the right word, I recommend visiting Monday books. This publisher is at the forefront of giving a platform to the chroniclers of the social demise in Britain and the complicity of government in that process. There is Frank Chalk's both hilarious and distressing dispatches from the frontlines of a crumbling comprehensive secondary school. Then there are several acclaimed books written by police officers that hightlight the absurd regulations and bureaucratic constraints that hinder the police from doing what most people expect them to do: police. Last but not least, there are two titles from Theodore Dalrymple, an inner city hospital consultant who journals the wasted and despairing lives of the inhabitants of slum Britain and who The Guardian described as "a modern master."


Atticus said...


The 'caring' public sector classes are complicit in this language nonsense.

A friend of mine edits a council newspaper and had the temerity to use the word 'hooligans' in an article about anti-social behaviour.

WW3 broke out! The social services director said it was oppressive and stereotypical language. It portrayed, so she said, all young people in a bad light.

The article had nothing to do with young people by the way. The word 'hooligans' must have excited her own prejudices.

The answer? Why, let's recall tens of thousands of copies, get the relevant page reprinted and send 'em out again!

These people have absolutely no idea how isolated the bureaucratic classes are from the man and woman in the street. Could this be why the public is withdrawing from the political system? Could this sort of gulf between official attitudes and the public's attitudes explain why some people are voting BNP?

WinstonSmith33 said...

There has been a complete distortion of language in relation to social problems. Some of it for the better and some of it to the detriment of society. For instances I am glad the word bastard isnt socially acceptable any more but then being one I would say that. However, words like thug and hoodlum exist to describe people that engage in certain activities. Just because we change the words it wont make the problem disappear.

A lot of the people working in social work/social care seem to inhabit a black and white moral realm that dooesn't correspond to the real world. Most people know that the word hooligan doesnt implicate every young person as one, yet we are all higly censured for such language when it is apt. A social worker told me lately that too even have negative thoughts about 'clients' can affect how we work with them.

So am I supposed to not have negative thoughts about a young person who I know commits random acts of violence or even some one with a history of sex offences?

Now, whilst working in this sector it is impossible to work with these youngsters if you use derogatory terms directly at them and I would never lower myself to their level. But why can I not say someone is a hooligan when talking between colleagues without fear of censure? Yet I can be called a c**t on a daily basis and nothing happens to the young person.

Also most of us working in this sector know that all young people are not hooligans and that even the hooligans are never all bad, some of them anyway. If more time and effort was spent on ensuring these youngsters were civilised and socialised would that not serve their interests and society's as a whole much better than obsessing about terms for those who do act in socially destructive ways.

Rich said...

The use of the word client in social work baffles me. In the strict and normal sense of the word, a client is a person who pays for professional services. In being a client, there is an implicit element of choice - I can withdraw my patronage of your service at any point.

If your 'clients' do not in any normal sense of the word pay or actively choose for your service, in what way are they clients??

Miss Terry said...

I also work in social care- as a teacher. I completely understand what you've written here... and I also can't understand why we refer to 10-16 year olds a 'clients' or 'service users' - surely they're 'children' or in my case 'pupils'?

It doesn't bug me as much as the term 'stakeholders' though.

Keep up the good work, it makes interesting reading and rings true with me.

WinstonSmith33 said...

I also hate the term stakeholders.

The only stake I want to see held is the one that will hopefully one day be driven through the heart of all these useless policies.

Anonymous said...


oddly considering that real "clients" pay for services, private sector professionals put up with much less nonsense from their "clients" than public sector employees are meant to put up with from theirs.

Can you imagine a lawyer or accountant keeping a client who screamed obscenities daily or attacked him? In fact, can you imagine a cashier at Wal-Mart who was supposed to put up with that? I can't.

halojones-fan said...

Miss Terry: Well, yes, but there it is; "child" or "pupil" implies that they're below you, and that's simply not something we're allowed to admit. According to the modern fuzzy-headed thinker, all humans are inherently equal; a three-year-old child should have the same rights and priveleges as a fifty-year-old adult.

Jobbing Doctor said...

Here in GP-land we have resisted the clientisation of our patients.

Agree about Theodore Dalrymple, and I see you have my mate John Crippen (NHS Blog Doctor) and Frank Chalk on your list.

The Jobbing Doctor.

Bloggenson Crusoe said...

I enjoy your blog as well as Frank Chalk's. My blog is derived from my intriguing experiences in a American school district that is very chaotic. I teach children with emotional disabilities and the stories I come home with are so crazy that I had to write about them; how can I keep these things to myself? Please visit my blog - perhaps you have some advice for me since I am starting out?

Anonymous said...

It is utterly ridiculous. I used to work in young peoples supported housing many years ago. My attitude was be friendly, be non judgemental, sit down and have a coffee and a cigarette with them. But make it very clear what was not acceptable. The people I worked with responded well to that. They needed clear and consistent boundaries and sanctions for poor behaviour. It does not restrict or damage them it makes them into well rounded people who can function properly in society. If I went back to the same job today I'd be sacked within a few hours.

I met one of my 'boys' last year in town, he recognised me and came up to me straight away. He was so proud to tell me about all the things he had been doing and he is making a real life for himself. This was a young lad who spent his life in and out of care and was expelled twice. If he was born 10 years later he'd be on his way to Prison.

The current system is destroying these people and not helping in the slightest. It makes my blood boil.

WinstonSmith33 said...


I so agree with you. Of course kids should have rights and be protected from abuse and harm but I would argue that to tell children and young people that they are equal to adults to the extent where all authority is removed actually damages children. As well as love and nurturing children and teenagers need discipline and firm boundaries. I was a wayward teenager to a degree (prolific truant, pothead and heavy drinker no aggressive behaviour of any sort though) but I had a conscience about what I was doing and this was due to my parents expressing disapproval and delivering consequences for my actions. You will always have kids and teenagers rebelling and pushing the boundaries but when you remove these constraints, as we have now done, you see the problems everywhere and they are horrific. Dr. Aric Sigman has written a book called The Spoilt Generation which details the consequences of not providing children with boundaries and discipline. Its a good read mostly but parts I dont agree with.

Billy the Fish said...


There won't be any future historians, as I'm utterly convinced that the current generation of thirty-somethings are the final hurrah of British education.

It's all downhill from here on in, old son...

Little Richardjohn said...

The trouble with this country is that it hates children. It is institutionally paedophobic. How can it be anything else? It has destroyed play by building roads and sub-standard porifteering housing on anywhere children used to play.
The bloodtop media has terrified parents into believeing that if they allow their children out of their sight they will never see them again, in spite of the figures, which show that such crimes are falling, as are the figures for child murder in general.
And so we now have more than one generation of adults who have grown up deprived of normal learning and socialisation, and seem doomed to repeat the same suppression with their children.
As if that were not bad enough, we also now see children as a status symbol. A commodity, with all the formal expectations of any other expensive product. And when they do not conform to these stereotypes or model specifications, we are outraged. And demonise them as hoodies, ferals, chavs, and other hate-words.
The nett effect is to dehumanise children, cripple the adults they become, create and intensify another layer of alienation in society (make even more people hate and fear each other) and help to create the ideal Consumerist society in which nobody talks to anyone except via some profitable media, and people become so deraged that only possessing sparkly objects can give their lives any purpose.