Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Keeping Up Appearances

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.


Anonymous said...

Social Service Inspections weren't too bad ; it fell apart when it became a seperate quango NCSC/CSCI/OFSTED or whatever it calls itself this week.

When SSD did it they would come in in the morning, watch getting up, and come in the evening and see what the children did. The idiot quango used to turn up in the daytime when the children were at school and just look at paperwork - they didn't even bother to look at bedrooms and so on.

Needless to say, this means that everyone just focuses on the paperwork :(

Boy on a bike said...

I went to a boarding school where their intention was to turn out "young gentlemen". They took rough farm boys who hadn't worn shoes up until that point and managed to inject some manners and class.

The rules were few, but rigidly and violently enforced. The wake up bell went at 0700. Anyone still in their bed at 0701 had their bed tipped upside down. Beds not made to military perfection were stripped. If you got out of line with an older boy, you got thumped. If you got out of line with the staff, you got caned. If you came back drunk from a weekend pass (like I did), you got 6 of the best. No one ever came back drunk again after they saw the bleeding stripes on my bum. It hurt like hell - I bawled my eyes out - and it was shaming and awful. However, it straightened me out in one simple lesson, and it certainly encouraged the others to do the same.

I'm sure the housemaster that caned me didn't enjoy it one bit, but if I saw him again today, I'd shake his hand and thank him for it.

WinstonSmith33 said...

Thanks Boy on A Bike. I don't think I'd advocate that kind of regime either but its definitely better than the current state of affairs.

Merlin said...

Just got in from work & receiving a bit (but not as much, thankfully) of what you refer to in this post, Winston. Why is there always a "Kylie"? Why does Kylie's (and Zena's & Shania's & Chardonnay's & Shazoom / whatever's) skin turn orange at about 15?

I'll make a proper response to this post soon. For now, I'm going to hit the sack.

Good to see another post from you, Winston. & to be reminded that it's not just me.....

Stick said...

These horrors are going to be squeezing out puppies of their own in the near future. Another generation of gormless twits for you to look after. I don't envy you.

Anonymous said...

Another good post - a very vital blog which tells a story that is all too often not told honestly.

When I found this I read the whole thing, straight off; best blog since NightJack.

1) The rather extreme (and not particularly well grounded) view that we should abolish the welfare state, rather than radically reform it - which I take from your referencing of 'The Welfare State We're In' - a highly flawed document in relation to it's account of the history of social policy.

2) Increasingly Fox-News like language in relation to people you disagree with; which despite your protestations seems to place you firmly within a stereotypical right wing area; rather than just letting the utter absurdity of what you witness come through. I think you risk losing people by being to overly bombastic.

3) Similar sweeping criticisms of social sciences; if you actually knew the area in any depth you'd realise that there is actually quite an emerging body of empirical work to support what you are saying.

In the main though a very vital blog - I just hope you get somewhere such that we begin to see some positive stories about young people.

Take care

Anonymous said...

sorry that'll teach me to read comments back before posting - i meant to preface the three bullets with - 'just one or two comments'...

WinstonSmith33 said...

Anonymous above, thank you for both your positive comments and your criticism as well.

1) I do not believe in abolishing the Welfare state just in radically overhauling it. I am not a rampant free market ideologue. In fact, I believe that market economies require state intervention. In an ideal world we would have no such thing as capitalism but we don't live in an ideal world as I slowly discovered when I entered it and left my erstwhile radical politics at University. I can see how I am mistaken for a right-wing nut but in many of my beliefs I'm very progressive and liberal. I even have a bit of the radical left in me but it's been tempered by engagement with the lumpenproletariat.

2) This blog is a form of catharsis where I vent the anger and frustrations related to my work. Some of the 'clients' I work with threaten, verbally abuse and at times lash out physically. At all times when in such scenarios I have to remain calm and be careful of how I speak should a complaint be made against me. I think it is understandable that I may want to use pejorative terms for these people when in the privacy of my home. At work I always act in accordance with the ridiculous restrictions and constraints I must adhere to even when being abused. This blog is where I release that frustration. Unless you have worked in the frontline with the feral underclass you can not imagine the stress and frustration it brings. I am making plans to leave it within the forseeable future.

3) I would be grateful if you could point me in the direction of the social science research that validates my arguments. I studied social sciences for my degree so I have a good grounding in the discipline although somewhat rusty.

Thanks again for your comments,

regards, Winston Smith

Anonymous said...

3) If you look at what you are getting at, in terms of precisely why these children are the way that they are, the first place to start is the work of Pierre Bourdieu on Habitus formation.

Although Bourdieu would also himself most likely (and rightly) point to the historical effect of waves of mass unemployment in British social history and the impact that this has had on previously stable (and typically working class) communities.

The problem is that communities are not like switches you can turn on and off - it takes ages to build up the kind of reciprochal network of norms and values that allow communities to flourish - and just a few years to tear them down when they are debased.

As you may have alluded to with the 'lumpenproletariat' - in historical terms (somewhat surprisingly) Marx was massively scathing of what would later be called the underclass, defining them as;

'This scum of the depraved elements of all classes ... decayed rou├ęs, vagabonds, discharged soldiers, discharged jailbirds, escaped galley slaves, swindlers, mountebanks, lazzaroni, pickpockets, tricksters, gamblers, brothel keepers, tinkers, beggars, the dangerous class, the social scum, that passively rotting mass thrown off by the lowest layers of the old society."

There are fewer people now who would argue that what has been termed the 'underclass' are entirely the product of external structural factors - it is clearly a combination of both and often the result of different circumstances.

In alot of cases similar outcomes (e.g. your kids) can result from different local circumstances - in terms of explanation, one size does not always fit all.

One off-the-top of my head example of this in action can be found in scholarly work here:

MacDonald, R. & Marsh, J. (2001) Disconnected Youth? (in) Journal of Youth Studies (v.4;no.4) pp.373-391

...(cont in next post)

Anonymous said...

3) (cont.) another thing is perception.

Social interactions are oiled by the little things that allow two people who have never met to interact. These are learned behaviours - they are not hard and fast rules, but general guidelines for life that are so obvious that many of us take them for granted. We can see this in extremely socially isolated children (such as the rare cases of 'feral children' in the literal and not modern sense).

As you've correctly pointed out, this is happening with alot of young people in the projects you are talking about - they are being severely neglected in this learning process that you and I take for granted now because we had it when we were younger.

Of course personal responsibility comes into it, but the frame of reference by which one is able to make such choices is neccessarily based in the main on previous experience and the implicit understanding of what behaviour is acceptable in what context.

This goes all the way back to the 'norms and values' work of Durkheim. But norms (understood as common ways of being that we have 'ready to hand' in order to respond to a given situation) are not always virtuous.

That's part of the reason why your drunk teenager is going to act the way she does, because it's been reinforced by previous behaviour as you correctly point out.

Having some stake in more virtuous norms requires an awareness of reciprocity and empathy - both the positive and negative consequences of action need to be known; not just one or the other.

I did some work recently on young people and unemployment on an estate in the South. What struck me about one respondent was two-fold:

1) She only ever talked about the potential consequences or her quite horrendous antisocial behaviour for herself; never mentioned her victims.

2) Her youth worker was aghast that, while out on a walking interview with me, that she had randomly abused a passer by with children. Not because of the behaviour, you understand, but because my writing it up, even under anonymity, might render her 'vulnerable' to breaching the terms of her ASBO and that she needed to be 'protected' because she was 'turning her life around'.

Eight months later she was back inside for five years after what can only be described as a crime spree involving vandalism, threats, violence, drug abuse, and a projectile weapon all in the space of four hours.

All of this you obviously know already, but its just to point out that sociology is not an implicit game of blame the big bad capitalist to the exclusion of all else (even though there are some people who still do that, they just aren't very good).

Just as economics isn't always about rational choice and individualism (even though lots of economists still think that rational choice explains all human behaviour, and they too aren't any good).

Norms and values are at the hear of sociology in their many manifestations as evidenced above. This is in serious danger of boring the shite out of your readership so I'll leave this with a list of recent things in social sciences related to norms and values which may be of interest.

Bicchieri, Cristina. 2006. The Grammar of Society: The Nature and Dynamics of Social Norms, New York: Cambridge University Press

This final one is good because it not only goes into why Charles Murray's original underclass thesis (prominent American conservative sociologist) was flawed but also why liberal/left kneejerk reactions were too;

Anonymous said...

Just seen this from The Spectator, which illustrates why some right-wing analyses are also woefully lacking in evidence - my comments are in square brackets:

"The underclass has always been one of those issues which inherently cannot be seen alone; the
problems of welfare, crime and poor education reinforce each other [AGREED]. As Charles Murray explained
when he first wrote about the British underclass for the Sunday Times in 1989, the underclass is
not a description of people who are mostly poor, or even very poor. The underclass refers to a
type of poverty and a type of behaviour, whose members are defined by the values they hold –
their sense of what is right – not their annual income. The underclass is not a symptom of
unemployment, which is lower now than in the 1970s when the underclass was barely identifiable.
It is not a problem of endemic racism – the British underclass is predominantly white [AGREE WITH ALL PRECEEDING STATEMENTS]. The problem
is cultural [PARTLY]. The root cause is a combination of changing philosophical ideas (a convergence with
Continental philosophy) and the long-term fundamental decay of conservative ideas and
institutions in Britain, including a historically unprecedented collapse of belief in marriage and a
consequent epidemic of illegitimacy and unsocialised offspring who, contra the expectations of our
post-War intelligentsia, have not justified the age-old hope of Rousseau (that the absence of
restrictions on humans produces happy peace) but have instead illustrated the truth of Hobbes
this collapse is welfare dependency, rising violent crime, and an over £100 billion bill, hence this
subject is now talked about in Britain – it is becoming too expensive to ignore. Tony Blair’s
“Respect” agenda and the beginnings of a debate on welfare reform are the first clear sign that
concern about the underclass problem has reached all the way to the top."

Full text here:

WinstonSmith33 said...

Thanks for all the links. It will keep me busy reading over the next few days. I agree with you that a lot of the anti-social behaviour prevalent in society is as a result of schewed norms and values which are often not inculcated in young people in their homes.

However, there have always been dysfunctional people but in the past if the family failed to transmit norms to an individual the wider society was swift in sanctioning violations of widely held norms. In effect, the transmission of these norms was the responsibility of the whole society i.e. neighbours, extended family, police and criminal justice system and the education system.

Nowadays, this multi layered approach has been abandoned and if a child/ young person comes from a rough background the rest of society just makes excuses for their negative beahviour instead of teaching them the shared norms of a civilised society. The care system and supported housing sector is shot through with this approach. In many cases the care system or the state in one guise or another has been involved in the rearing and socialisation of these children and young people through the care system, education system and judicial system and therefore the state must share the blame for failing to socialise these young people. It is too easy to blame the parents. Children and young people are not just a part of their family of origin but fit in to the society as a whole and so we all need to share the responsibility for their upbringing.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree and respondents to my research have told me, repeatedly, the same thing.

Merlin said...

For anyone who's not read his work, I thoroughly endorse the recommendation above to have a look at the writings of Charles Murray. "Losing Ground" and the rest are spot on. The conclusions, though, are depressing in the extreme...

Chris said...

You are doing a very important job, keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who has looked at Charles Murray's empirical work in any detail would conclude that it is woefully oversimplified.

It is not that there is nothing in it; but his dogmatic adherence to the statistical lynchpin of 'welfare mothers' betrays a set of complex circumstances in different times and places.

Just to clarify - I was not recommending Charles Murray as a social scientist. His opening definition of the cultural distinction in the underclass thesis is interesting, but as a social scientist he is woefully simplistic and highly ideologically driven - as much as some of his more knee-jerk detractors on the left.

The link I placed above should provide something of a more nuanced example of the debate around his work, it's limitations, assumptions and flaws.

Let's be clear - Murray talks alot about culture and personal responsibility (important factors) but has nothing to say about massive structural change in labour markets and entrenched inequalities.

Quite apart from the fact that 'Losing Ground' is also quite dated now.

For a more nuanced (and better evidenced) picture of the current state of British Society for the general reader see 'Briton Today' - a magazine published by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and available for general readership.

Hopefully this will give some wider context - i.e. yes, we have problems, but it is hardly the apocalypse.

Anonymous said...

sorry that should have read 'Britain Today' obviously.

SadButMadLad said...

Winston, you say that the "rest of society just makes excuses for their negative beahviour instead of teaching them the shared norms of a civilised society."

In my view society has given up trying to teach rough kids because they have been educated to believe that the state will handle everything for them. You see this in situations where neighbours trying to help are put down as interfering busy bodies because people have been educated to believe that social services or police should be the ones handling the situation. Thats also why people walk by situations rather than help because they've been educated to believe that police should handle it. However the more the state takes responsiblity away from society, the more society acts like a spoilt kid and the more society goes downhill.

Maturin said...

Sadbutmadlad - Damn straight. I broke up a fight a few weeks ago that was taking place in broad daylight between two gangs of girls, one of whom was getting badly beaten. Weirdly, loads of people walked past. A few stopped and looked, then carried on. I can understand the impulse to walk on (which was presumably because of fear), but I was amazed at the complete unwillingness of almost everybody to get involved. They seemed to think it was someone else's problem.

Also, Winston, I don't want to get into the social sciences debate here, but I did want to say that you are absolutely dead-on about the paperwork. I work in higher education, and we've created an alternative universe with the paperwork. As long as the forms are right, my institution really doesn't care about teaching.

You are obviously dealing with some of the worse consequences of this sort of nonsense. My heart goes out - but good work (and thanks for another awesome, if depressing, blog entry).

glad to be retired said...

About 20 years ago I was working in a Police Control room, most nights at about mid-night one of the local childrens homes used to ring up to report X number of children missing, ie. out after curfew! The object was not concern for the young people more a 'bum covering' exercise. One young lady aged about 14 could usually be found in the local 'kerb crawling/red light area' supplimenting her pocket money. although knowing where to find her, staff always left it to the Police to take her back 'home'. I have said for many years that once a child enters the care system they are 'lost'. I agree it is a sweeping statement but having seen the way some premises are run, which match Winston's comments, I have very little faith in the system or the staff who attend there. While agreeing that there are good staff, a large percentage are just about as unemployable as their charges will go on to be.

Anonymous said...

[I work in higher education, and we've created an alternative universe with the paperwork. As long as the forms are right, my institution really doesn't care about teaching.]

Seconded...and from people I know in applied subjects like Occupational Health and Nursing the outcomes are becoming pretty disaterous - just not showing up because the monitoring is skewed to conceal it.

Hogday said...

Winston, I once spent some time in a remand prison in Amsterdam. The most traumatic thing I witnessed was a temporary fault in the lift to the on site supermarket. It was a haven of peace and tranquility. Your place of work needs re-branding. Even the YOI near here calls itself a `secure college of learnng`! Someone in your hierarchy is missing out here and giving you all a bad name. My respects to you, as always.

Anonymous said...

Best article I've read on New Labour's culture of governance - relates to education but very very relevant to the whole thing.

Jim said...

I can understand why you are frustrated with the system. I can understand why you are frustrated with colleagues who seem to have little idea how to do their jobs.

What I can’t understand though is the disrespect and contempt that you show for your clients. Children who are in care are not there for a holiday and have likely found themselves there with horrendous experiences behind them.

I can see that the behaviour exhibited leaves a lot to be desired and working under that onslaught can take it’s toll, but when you resort to insulting your clients on the basis of their appearance, then it is definitely time to get out. I read in other postings that you are looking for another career. Make it soon please.

WinstonSmith33 said...

Hi Jim above,

Contrary to what you say I do not hold any of the kids in care that I have worked with in contempt. However, I do hold the system in complete contempt and indeed the behaviour of many of the kids. I always treat all the kids I work with with common decency and respect. I would never dream of calling them derogatory names or insulting them as this would make it even more difficult to work with them. However, in the context of a blog I feel I am more than entitled to express private thoughts and feelings.

Many kids in care are there under section 20 of the care order and have been placed in care by their parents. Not all kids are from horrific backgrounds. Many are but there are those in care because there parents simply didnt know how to discipline and set boundaries for their kids. The state should not be taking these kids in to care.

Jim said...

You replied yesterday
Contrary to what you say I do not hold any of the kids in care that I have worked with in contempt. However I found this in a previous post “I laugh and take the piss behind theses kids fat backs”. I think any normal person would consider that to be showing contempt and lack of respect.

You also state. “Many kids in care are there under section 20 of the care order and have been placed in care by their parents. Not all kids are from horrific backgrounds”

I would think that being voluntarily given up by your parents is a pretty horrific experience. Life is unlikely to have been a bed of roses prior to this point either.

I said in my post that I recognise some of your frustration and can understand why you post, but you must be aware that your comments are inflaming the rabid right wingers.

You are trying to give a balanced viewpoint showing that although there are children in great need, there are some who abuse the system. You have previously commented
“I agree with everything you say. Kids in care are messed up and display problematic behaviour (to very varying degrees) as a result of dysfunctional parenting”

However many of your readers only seem to see one side and you get replies such as “Bring back corpral punishment and national service”

It is possible for you to write condemning the system, condemning misguided colleagues and condemning the behaviour of the children while at the same time demonstrating some compassion for the children that you work with. You don’t need to descend to the realms of personal insult.

WinstonSmith33 said...

Hi Jim,

I see nothing wrong with a bit of light hearted banter between colleagues about some fat kids weight problem, in particular if said fat teenager has been violent, aggressive and downright vitriolic to you and others.

Yes, in dealing directly with this teenager you must do so with common decency regardless of their behaviour. Taking the piss a little behind someone's back is not the same thing as holding them in outright contempt.

It is only human and normal to have feelings of anger and even contempt for people that spit at you, throw things at you, threaten to make allegations against you and your colleagues. A Psychologist, in one of the few good and effective homes I worked in, told me it was normal to have these feelings and encouraged us to talk about them and release them amongst our peers and in professiional supervision.

If a person working under such extreme circumstances tries to suppress and subdue normal human feelings towards being abused and attacked and threatened it is then that they are in real danger of acting in a directly contemptible manner towards these teenagers. Light hearted banter about some kid polishing off a box of magnums and refering to her as a little hippo behind her back is hardly the most pressing of issues in these care homes.

Jim said...

I get it that you have to blow of steam. Being negative about the kids when you are outside of work is understandable. Criticising someone who has treated you very badly is understandable and I can see how it is cathartic. However, I feel that when you start to criticise someone for their appearance, rather than what they do, it seems disrespectful