Last week I was back at one of the several care homes for teenagers I regularly attend in order to receive my weekly ration of verbal abuse, threats and perhaps an assault or two. I was to do the afternoon shift through until noon the following day when the local social services were due to do an inspection. I arrived on shift prepared for the possibility of little sleep due to the high pitched screams, shrieks and wails of the she-lout class that often go on until the early hours in many of these care homes. For once, I was hoping that the young ladies would not live up to my cynical expectations, but I was no sooner in the door when the flickering spark of hope was extinguished by Sammie, 14, and her less than eloquent greeting.
“Oh no, it’s you. Don’t think you can tell me what to do you c**t. I don’t have to listen to you or do what you tell me.”
Sammie’s answer reflects that she has a pretty good understanding of the inefficacy of the care system to teach her self discipline and respect for others. Before the bleeding hearts remark that her behaviour is as a result of bad parenting just remember that the state has been her parent for several years now so they must share the responsibility for the character of young woman Sammie is becoming. From what I have seen they are failing abysmally. She would have more order in her life if she had been left to be raised by a pack of wolves.
Later on in the shift, Kylie, 15, returned to the home drunk, at around nine thirty in the evening. One of the senior staff, Emma, called me in to the kitchen where she and Kylie were having a chat. I presumed that Emma asked me to come and talk to Kylie about the fact that she was drunk and had walked a mile in the dark on an isolated road to get back to the home. However, Emma seemed more concerned with complying with the demands of an intoxicated teenager rather than providing her with the discipline and adult authority she so clearly needs.
“Winston, Kylie has asked me to drive her to the 24 hour Supermarket as she forgot to do her weekly shop earlier today with staff and doesn’t have the food she’d like in at the moment. As she is drunk, Im only willing to drive there with her if there is a second member of staff. What do you think?”
Emma was the shift leader and the most senior member of staff on duty and yet she was asking the agency worker for advice. She is supposed to have some idea of what to do but like so many people that I’ve met in these care homes and in supported housing they shouldn’t be given responsibility for looking after single cell organisms never mind human beings. However, I didn’t waste the opportunity to speak my mind and hopefully inject some common sense in to the evening’s proceedings.
“The way I see it is this. Kylie you are drunk and under eighteen and we will not be taking you to the supermarket tonight to go grocery shopping as it is inappropriate to be hammered in shops and I for one will not be seen assisting a teenager in a drunken state about the local late night food market.”
“But all I’ve got to eat is f**king toast and I want some chicken burgers before I go to bed.”
“Toast is more than adequate. Orphans in Calcutta wouldn’t turn their noses up at toast I can assure you. If you had come home when you were supposed to today we could have gone grocery shopping but instead you choose to get drunk, so now you have to deal with the consequences of that. Anyway, I’m more concerned about the fact that you are drunk on a school night and that you walked home in that state through a secluded area. You have put yourself at grave risk of being attacked. I am going to recommend to the manager that you receive a sanction for putting yourself at risk as well as being drunk.”
“Im fine I do this all the time and nothing ever happens to me no one has attacked me yet. Emma, please get Winston to agree to come to the supermarket I want my shopping now! This isn’t f**king fair!”
If I wasn’t here and it was one of the namby-pamby brigade Kylie would get her way. Instead of giving Kylie the discipline she needs Emma tries to undermine me.
“Winston, if the two of us go together with Kylie it will be ok,” pleaded Emma.
“I don’t agree. Kylie has come home drunk and placed herself in danger on the way here and now she is demanding to be taken shopping as the food she has doesn’t correspond with her intoxicated palate. She needs to be sent to bed and we need to discuss what sanctions we will suggest to the manager in the morning so as to deter her from acting like this in the future.”
“I suppose you’re right Winston,” capitulated Emma with all the backbone of an amoeba.
At this point Kylie stormed out of the kitchen swearing and banging doors on the way to her room. By eleven o’clock Emma, Jill and myself were still trying to convince Sammie and Rachel to go to bed but they were obstinately refusing. We turned off the TV and removed the remote control from the room whilst under a barrage of verbal abuse and threats. When I returned to the lounge to remind them that they had lost their cash bribe for settling on time, or ‘incentive’ as it’s called, the two gargantuan she louts were knocking the stuffing out of each other over an argument about which one consisted of more lard and turkey twizzlers than the other. There also seemed to be a disagreement over which one of them was putting it about the most with the local male track suit wearing populace.
A while later as the staff and myself were in the office finishing the day’s pointless paperwork Sammie, Rachel and Kylie started to try and smash the door of the office with a fire extinguisher. When they realised they couldn’t break the door down, we recently had it replaced after they broke in and tore up files and paperwork on another occassion, they let it off under the door causing a bit of a mess in the office. Powerless to do anything directly to stop this, we threatened to ring the police. At first we were ignored, but after several more thuds on the door they stopped and went to bed. The one advantage of working with pudgers in care is that they don’t have the same physical stamina for loutishness as their skinny counterparts. If I had my way I’d be force feeding them tubs of dripping just to ensure they had no energy to engage in aggressive anti-social behaviour. The staff eventually got to bed at two in the morning. Three hours past our bed time and we had to be up again at half past seven. The three Princesses of crassness would of course repeatedly ignore calls to get up and verbally abuse and possibly throw things at staff for attempting to wake them. This is to be expected.
After coming on shift in the morning, I was looking forward to the manager coming in and hopefully dealing in some way with the catalogue of dysfunction on display the night before. It was a hope not imbued with too much expectation, due to experience, and he too lived up to the low standard I expected of him. It is so nice on those rare occasions when I am proved wrong. This would not be one of those instances. He arrived on shift and whilst I tried to talk to him and explain all of the issues from the night before he frantically ran around the house polishing banisters and coffee tables, installing new lamps and putting out bowls of pot pourri. He even brought new plants with him which he placed throughout the house. Perhaps he was going for a jungle theme to make the wild animals feel more at home.
In fact, what he was doing was preparing for the inspection of social services that morning and so all traces of the chaos and dysfunction that would have been a true representation of the house had to be glossed over. However, no amount of foliage and ambient lighting could conceal the behaviour that would be on display for the inspection should the three princesses decide to kick off after emerging from their lairs. As the manager was often on the receiving end of a chubby fist from Sammie, the inspection could prove highly embarrassing, as well as impossible to complete, with the girls present. There was only one solution; he had to get shut of them for the day. So he gathered the girls together along with Emma and Jill, their personal assistants, and gave them money to go clothes shopping followed by a trip to the cinema. No mention was made of the previous night’s multifarious displays of anti-social behaviour. How are these girls to learn right from wrong and have self discipline instilled in them so as to lead functional lives when the manager fails to implement consequences for their negative actions? This was not an isolated incident in this care home. In fact, it is common practice for negative behaviour to be either overlooked or dealt with in a feeble manner, if at all in this and other homes I attend.
So off the girls went on their excursion, having had it further instilled within them that they can do what they like and get away with it and in fact appear to be rewarded. After they left, the manager’s manager from head office turned up and all the required files and paperwork were put on display for social services to peruse. No doubt everything was written down as it should be and all the boxes were ticked in the right place so as to comply with social services’ bureaucratic regulations. Social services would be greeted with exemplary form filling and efficient bureaucracy and on this they would make some of their judgment on the performance of this care home. Unsurprisingly, I was informed that this care home was given a glowing report on their last inspection by social services. OFSTED too have commended it’s good work on their last snoop about the place. I’ll leave it up to you the reader to decide what you think of the standard of care these young girls receive from the profit orientated private residential care home system funded and regulated by the state. As far as I am concerned this is another case of box ticking trumping the welfare of the people that the system purports to care for.