Thursday 9 July 2009

Just Another Burden on the Welfare State

Lately, I've needed some extra money and I also felt the urge to be verbally abused and perhaps even assaulted by a feral teenager, so I asked my agency to get me some extra work with teenagers in care whilst still working in Supported Housing for young adults.

I was sent to a home I've been to many times and where I'm not very popular with the girls that live there, on account of the fact that I try and enforce boundaries and discipline to the best I can within such a constraining system. One of the girls, Sammie(see one of Aprils posts for more on her), 14, was particularly verbally abusive and aggressive when I arrived for a twenty four hour shift the other day. I walked in to the lounge where she was ensconced on a beanbag in front of a large plasma T.V. flicking through the hundreds of channels available for her entertainment. There was a new member of staff that I hadn't met before and who got up and introduced herself to me as I entered the lounge. We sat and chatted quietly whilst Sammy gnawed on some turkey twizzlers or some other kind of junk food, all I know is that she definitely wasn't eating fruit or vegetables and judging by how even more obese she was since the last time I was here it's plain to see she is still being allowed to self destruct whilst ostensibly being cared for. This goes on in many, many care homes, this is not an abberation.

Anyway, after about five minutes of talking to Jenny, the new care worker, Sammie became enraged and threw her shoe at her and screamed, "Stop flirting with Winston you fat f**king slag Jenny, he'd never f**k a dog like you." Just for the record, Jenny was in no way flirting with me. Of course, like so much verbal abuse like this nothing ever happens and there are no consequences beyond asking the teenager to not speak like that in future or holding back the daily one pound bribe for good behaviour, it's not called a bribe though, it's called an incentive and you can also get them for 'choosing' to go to school or cleaning your room etc. etc. However, as there are no real conseqeunces for verbal abuse it is incessant but it's not as upsetting as being spat on or hit. That's definitely worse. More about that another time.

Now, many people will say when hearing this anecdote about Sammie that she probably had a tough and challenging childhood. Well,let's consider that. Was she physically or sexually abused? No. Was she being neglected? Judging by her weight when she arrived no. Is she from a poor or underclass background as so many people presume all kids in care are? No, in fact her parents are middle class and not at all poor.

So, just how did the likes of Sammie end up in care? Well, its all down to section 20 of the Children's Act 1989 which allows for parents to voluntarily put their children in care should they not be able to cope with them. Now, in the case of Sammie her parents were unable to discpline her or set her any boundaries as a young child and when she became a teenager she was uncivilised and bullied and hit her parents, unable to cope they turned to social services. As a result of Sammie's parents inability to parent her, you the taxpayer are paying around 2,500 pounds a week to provide Sammie with care (if you could call it that). Meanwhile, in a few weeks time Sammie's parents are jetting off to India with her little brother, where they go every year, as well as at least one other foreign holiday. Sammie is jealous because this is the first year she can't go. Sammie, despite her horrific behaviour is still a child and feels very rejected by her parents. Being dumped in a care home has made her behaviour worse not better.

There are thousands of kids under section 20 care orders who should not be accomodated and spoilt (as oppossed to cared for) with taxpayer's money. Many of them are dumped in care homes when Mummy or Daddy meet a new partner and the teenager can't cope with the new step-parent and the relationship becomes conflictual. I have no problem with the state offering counselling and support to families to help them communicate better or improve parenting techniques but the state should not be giving parents an opt out clause because they either have no idea how to discipline their child or because they've met a new partner and their teenager is jealous. The only people whose interests this serves are the private sector care homes (paid for with tax payer's money)and the well paid social services bureuacracy that maintains and monitors this system. The one group of people who don't benefit from any of this are the teenagers suppousedly being looked after. The state is complicit in assisting parents to abandon their children by keeping section 20 of the care order on the statute books and it is costing the taxpayer millions every year.