A few weeks back I was subjected to a day of training gobbledegook from one of our Senior Managers. I tried to get out of it by protesting to my immediate Manager (there are so many Managers)that as I am already well acquainted with the supported housing sector, having worked for years with other housing associations, that there was no need for me to go on a training day entitled "Introduction to Supported Housing." My interest might have been engaged if it was a course entitled "A Conclusion to Supported Housing." However, this particular housing association need to ensure that their own box is ticked with regards to me receiving the appropriate training even if I have received it before.
During our inculcation, one of the first things that the manager discussed was the importance of our roles "in helping young people to gain life and social skills so as to move on to independent living." Who could argue with that? After all, that is what I try to do when engaging with the residents. However, in supported housing it is possible to implement two diametrically opposite policies at the same time and fail to see the inconsistency and the damage this does to those young people the system claims to want to help. Allow me to explain by way of anecdote.
One of my fellow Support Workers, Stuart, complained that many of the residents kept their rooms in appaling conditions and that he was astonished that management objected to him trying to use punitive measures to ensure the rooms were kept to an acceptable standard.
"Some of the rooms and the shared kitchens are not just untidy, but actually very dirty. There are bags of rubbish in there, dishes lying around that have rotting food on them, carpets that have never been hoovered, again with food all over them and toilets that are never cleaned. Once we had a kitchen that had a fly infestation because none of the residents would empty the bins. Now although these are the extreme examples they are not uncommon and there are those that keep their rooms and kitchens in almost as bad a condition. I won't even repeat some of the things I've seen lying around in some bedrooms. Now, I dont think its fair that any maintenance worker should have to go in there when the rooms are in these states or that I should have to enter for health and safety checks every two weeks if they are this filthy."
"Well, Stuart, I can see how this would be frustrating, but unless there is an obvious health and safety issue such as an exposed electricity socket or a faulty smoke alarm, then we have no right to tell our residents how to keep their rooms. We need to be very careful here as there is a danger of imposing our own value system on to the residents. What you perceive to be tidy and clean is subjective and their living standards, as long as it doensn't impede on anyone else, are also valid," stated the Senior Manager. She's paid a significant salary from the state coffers to peddle the ideology of moral relativism.
I decided to speak up on behalf of common sense as no one else was coming forward to fight its corner.
"With all due respect, I completely disagree. Dirt is dirt and it is not subjective. A plate of rotting food or a floor covered in unwashed clothing is objectively unhygienic and filthy. You said earlier that part of our job is to guide young people to develop life and social skills, but this requires the imposition of values such as personal responsibility, punctuality, self discipline and so on and so forth. So on the one hand we are being encouraged to impose values and on the other we are being told not to. This is highly inconsistent. What's more is that the rooms don't belong to the residents, they rent them from the state which in most cases also pays for them and then these rooms have to be inhabited by other young people after each resident's two year stay and so should be passed on in good condition. Also, if allowed to keep their rooms in such unhygienic and deleterious conditions when living here they will leave the rooms in a similar state when vacating the premises and then the staff will have to clean up their mess. This is something I refuse to do any longer. I've seen enough used condoms and soiled clothing to do me a lifetime thank you very much," I ranted.
"I can see some of your points Winston, but at the same time we have to respect that the rooms are their homes and you wouldn't want anyone coming in to your home and telling you how to live," stated the Senior Manager.
"Yes, but I don't live in Supported Housing which by it's very definition makes a value judgement that the residents are not fully functional individuals and that they need to be guided. How can this be done without the imparting of values?"
After this exchange, there was a few hours of further goobledegook relating to the Quality Assessment Framework (government regulations), in which I contemplated faking an epileptic fit in the hope of being led out of there on a stretcher. Instead, I day dreamed of working in a job that saw results and where my outlook was appreciated.
At the end of the day the Senior Manager, who doesn't actually have to work directly with any of our residents, thanked us all for the work we do.
"I must admit I couldnt do the work you lot do and we really appreciate all of your efforts. I don't think I could last a day in your roles with all you have to deal with. Anyway, I hope you all have a great weekend."
We thanked her. She was a well meaning soul despite being indoctrinated by the waffle of Supporting People and the Quality Assessment Framework. However, most of us wouldn't have the great weekend she wished us as we would be at work and some of us on sleep-in duties which often means interrupted sleep as one wakes to deal with the noise of drunken and drugged youths disturbing the house.
I couldn't help but wonder what it is about the role of Support Workers that she wouldn't be able to abide? Would it be the verbal abuse? The threat of a complaint being made by a resident should you speak in a forthright manner when required, or even the fear of a physical assault? Perhaps, it was none of these things, after all who is to say any of this behaviour is bad. Surely, I should have learned by now that this behaviour is perfectly normal for our residents and to expect any thing is me trying to oppress them with my subjective value system. Of course, I am being facetious, as I said earlier the supported housing sector tends to employ moral relativism and the notion of subjective reality to deal with certain problems and the opposing belief system that there are universally accepted values to deal with others. Somehow, I don't think this helps any of the young people we deal with in that they need firm guidance and direction at all times not the misguided hogwash of moral relativism one day and the attempted imposition of loose boundaries and minor consequences the next. Is it any wonder that so many young people are so lost and dysfunctional when adults are refusing to guide them.