Thursday 22 October 2009

Mind your Language

In each adolescent care home a daily log book must be kept. This is a statutory requirement. There are also separate daily logs kept for each individual adolescent. However, one can’t simply write what one experiences in a working day in these log books. This is because social services object to what they call ‘harsh’ or ‘judgmental’ language. Frontline staff are expected to write up daily reports about the events in their respective care homes about each young person as if they inhabit some kind of morally objective universe where no one makes any kind of judgments or has any kind of standards. So, just what can be construed as ‘harsh’ or ‘judgmental’ language by those on high in social services? Here’s an example from the care home where the feral and violently dangerous Liam resides.

On Tuesday afternoon of last week, Liam was taken out shopping with his clothing allowance when he should have been at his own private school at the back of the house. However, he was being rewarded for having ‘chosen’ to go to school in the morning for an hour. ‘Choosing’ to stay in a classroom for one hour is viewed as a success as the standards of behaviour and compliance are set so low for Liam that he can’t but help to live up to them. He returned later in the evening with lots of new clothes and was only averagely verbally abusive to staff for the rest of the day.

On the Wednesday, Liam ‘chose’ not to go to school for the entire day and was rewarded by being given a walk in the countryside, as well as the hiring of a rowing boat on a lake at a local stately home. This was called an ‘educational outing’ in the paperwork at the end of the day. I can understand the teacher’s rationale. Sit in a class with a feral and aggressive lout twice your size who throws things at you and insults you or take him out walking in the countryside where with any luck he might get trod on by a bull. I know which choice I’d be making.

Anyway, having his every whim pandered to up until the early afternoon had set a precedent for the rest of the day. Liam demanded to be taken back out clothes shopping with the remaining twenty pounds left in his clothing allowance from the day before. I was going to walk with Liam to the train station and head to town with him as instructed by management. Liam still wasn’t happy in that there was no driver or car available to drop us both at the train station as they were out with the other delinquents somewhere else. Liam demanded that we get the support worker with the car back immediately to drive him to the station to get the train. Liam was told this wouldn’t be happening. He then proceeded to smash up the house. He tore several paintings off the wall, he threw a clock at myself and the manager but luckily missed, he later assaulted the manager, he spat in my face and later that evening grabbed me by the throat and he also spent a good hour trying to kick the office door down. For all of these horrific actions Liam was informed he would lose his one pound incentive money for good behaviour that day. He had already lost a pound for not going to school. He shouldn’t be bribed to do these things in the first place. He can earn up to twenty pound a week in bribes and this is before his pocket money or money set aside for weekly activities such as the cinema, bowling and amusement parks.

Liam is what used to be called a spoilt brat. He is in care because his Mother never disciplined him, his father left home when he was young and Liam learned to get his way by throwing tantrums and as he got older his tantrums became violent outbursts. Liam’s mother had the option of putting him in to care as the British state allows people to voluntarily abandon their responsibilities. Having been given no boundaries in the home, a form of neglect with far reaching social ramifications, the state has continued in the same vein by medicalising Liam’s behaviour by diagnosing him with two fictitious conditions. They are ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. These diagnoses are used by care management and social services to excuse Liam’s behaviour and to allow them an excuse for not successfully enforcing boundaries and discipline. Of course, I’m not suggesting this is a conspiracy to assist the state in abdicating it’s duty once the child is in care but it conveniently allows no one to be held culpable for Liam’s behaviour. At the end of the day Liam is the victim of a society that no longer enforces boundaries or instills discipline and respect in the young. Children and young people need boundaries, consequences and discipline to grow in to healthy and functional adults.

Whilst Liam might not be held responsible for any of his actions whilst in care the staff certainly are for theirs. The day after he thrashed the house and assaulted staff including myself I went to wake him for school. I went in to his room and called him. I was standing about three feet from his bed and repeatedly asked him, politely of course, I wouldn’t want him to log a complaint, to get up. He pulled the blankets over his head, ignored me and turned around to face the wall. It was a welcome change from the usual barrage of abuse and threats.

A few minutes after trying to awaken Liam from his well deserved rest after the previous day’s delinquent indulgences I wrote an entry in the daily log. It stated: “I went in to Liam’s room and attempted to wake him, he pretended to be deaf and ignored my requests to get up.” An hour after entering this in the daily log I was called in to the office by the manager. She politely informed me that what I had written would be viewed as ‘judgmental’ and ‘harsh’ language by social services in that I was “making a presumption” and “jumping to conclusions without being sure they were the facts,” according to my manager. I told her I was there and watched him ignore me but still my word and observations based on common sense were not valid as they were my opinions and not the facts as I couldn’t know for certain that he pretended to be deaf or had ignored me. I was going to argue with her but I didn’t bother. I have learned by now that this whole sector is infected with an institutional and ideological form of insanity and sometimes I haven’t the energy to argue with the insane. Another member of staff was reprimanded that day for writing that Becky was ‘‘sulking’’ as this too is ‘oppressive’ language. Liam however escaped any verbal censures for the previous day’s escapades but was told he could go on a trip to a leisure centre on Saturday if he managed to behave until then, thus inculcating him with the belief that one behaves appropriately, not because there is an inherent value in good behaviour, but because it entitles you to be indulged and rewarded with entertainment of one kind or another.