Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Well, I never thought the day would come when I would link to a Daily Mail article, but the day has arrived. You might remember the case of Victoria Climbie, who died a sad and savage death at the hands of relatives a few years ago. The social worker involved in the case was slaughtered and vilified; lost her job and was deregistered. Her managers involved in the case all went on to bigger and better things while the social worker lost her job and reputation.

Little mention was made of the two doctors who said that the child was not at risk, nor of the fact that the social worker, newly qualified, and working a case she should not have been, was being supervised by a religious nutter, nor of the fact that, despite her lack of experience, she was still just about the most experienced member of the team. Little was made of the fact that referrals were just left on her desk, with no background or advice given. Systematic failings took place from the very top, but the people at the top absolved each other of all responsibility and continue to sail blithely on, while the poor bloody infantry, as usual, get their arses shot off.

I can tell you that social service managers have not changed. They still obsess about performance targets and budgets above all else. They still overload social workers with work; they still pile on the pressure and I can guarantee that the next time the shit hits the fan, it will be the social worker who cops all the flak, not the managers, not the medics, not the education department and not the police, all of whom will have been involved in the decision making process and most of whom will be more intimately acquainted with the case.

Why mention it now you might well ask. Well, the social worker has just won her appeal to be reinstated on the social work register, so she is back in the news and has given a great long interview in the Mail on Sunday, which is worth a look even if you aren't a social worker.

And if you don't believe me about the stress inherent in the job, the bloody conservative party agrees. I think the world has turned upside down.

After my eulogy to Welsh novelists a while back, I am reading another book by another Welshman: Sea Holly by Robert Minhinnick. I'm only about 60 pages in so shouldn't really recommend it yet, but so far it is poetic, lyrical and beautiful; I suspect that there might be heartbreak to come. It set among the sad, the mad, the lonely and the washed up who end up like driftwood in a small resort town in Wales, with the disappearance of a young girl at its heart. If you like the sort of thing I usually like you might be surprised, because this is like a proper novel, not a crime caper. Don't let that put you off though.

Apparently, it's set in Porthcawl, which, given a fair wind, I can get to in just over half an hour from where I currently sit. We never go there though, we prefer to whizz by it in search of more salubrious sand, but I might just have to go and have a bit of a mooch around now.

A Minhinnick poem.

All doom and gloom down at the Blues, whatever happened to gallows humour and stoicism?

While I am recommending, I recommend you have a listen to the new Silver Jews album. It was available in it's entirety on their myspace site last week but it looks like you just get 3 tracks now, which is better than nothing.
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