Tag: social worker

Slipping through our fingers

There have been several cases in the news recently, in particular two this week, of children suffering unfathomable cruelty at the hands of their parents / caregivers. Much has and will be made of the failings on the part of social services and social workers. How could the horrors and suffering go unnoticed and why were concerns not followed up, staff nor taking a more joined up approach, so the children could slip through the net?

I don’t doubt that there certainly were failings in the services. I’m not denying that. I can’t imagine the guilt the workers involved in those two cases are feeling right now. I’ve suffered myself and so did my mother and so have several other people I care about, because of failings in the organisations that should give support and protection, which let us fall through the net without intervention in times of crisis and without promised follow up or communication across different services. Sometimes the services involved have seem totally unaware of the harm this causes and unwilling to take responsibility. That hurts even more. Fortunately I have never suffered anything approaching what the children in this week’s cases did.

I’m not trying to deny that there were failings and I don’t want to hurt anyone who has been through similar experiences. However I think the somewhat understandable jump to publicise the blame attributed to the social workers and agencies masks some important points.

First, the perpetrators of the terrible abuse the children suffered were their mothers, father’s and family members. That’s the greatest horror. It is terrifying that as humans we are capable of inflicting such suffering on another, let alone on one of our own family or our own child. It’s particularly horrific that a mother can do this to her own child. It so negates every good and nurturing thing a mother is. It means no relationship and no home is immune to evil actions and absence of love.

Secondly, that is such a frightening fact and we want to know why. How and why can a person do that? What does that mean about what’s possible? About our human race? That sounds like an overly broad concept really. But I think it shakes us. Can we conceive that our world is one where what should be the safest and most protective relationship, mother and child,  is used to inflict fear and hurt and pain?  We don’t want to. We at least need some explanation. It’s easier to label the failing of a particular social worker or agency, because that we can understand. That we can name. What brought the abusers to use their own children that way, we can’t.

Thirdly – and this is something that’s hard to explain but significant to me as a survivor of childhood abuse – these horrific abuses can and do happen in secret and undetected. Trying to come to terms with what happened to me and questioning over and over whether the things I can remember done to me are true, I’ve often doubted myself and told myself it must have been my fault or I must be mad and inventing it all, because at the time nobody else realised what was going on and nobody intervened and people thought my family was normal (er okay maybe not but they didn’t often suspect the full truth). These two tragic cases in this week’s news show the awful fact that abuse much worse than what I suffered can indeed continue in secret. Therein lies the abuser’s power to control, manipulate and deny.

Fourthly, no more resources are coming for social workers and care and protection teams at the moment. The little glimpses I’ve seen from my work in hospitals, psychiatric services, care teams and so on has shown me loud and clear that there simply are not enough hours in the day and not enough people on the ground to have the contact and communication and time to spend directly with children, families, patients in need,  as well as following the ever more extensive proformas and completing paperwork that is required to meet the rules and regulations (which are supposed to ensure good care is happening but at the same time take you away from doing it).

This is no new or ground breaking feeling. I think most people in nursing or caring services have been saying this for years. But it’s still frighteningly swept under the carpet and denied by those in power. When I worked in a service that supported teenagers and young adults with mental health needs and social support needs, I would take the minutes of clinical team meetings. In one such meeting, changes to documentation for care planning and recording were being introduced, which would require nursing staff to (a) spend much longer away from patients, sitting at computers completing databases and reports and (b) in many cases require nursing staff to spend already limited professional development time on training in IT packages, not in patient care.  Of course, the aim of all these whizz new care planning systems was supposed to be a magical improvement in compliance with regulations about good care. However, nobody could answer who was going to be delivering the care during the time that the already over stretched nurses were completing the compliance paperwork. I wonder whether there’s a box in the risk assessment screen to record the increased risk caused by the fact the nurses and carers are filling in the [expletive deleted] risk screen instead of assessing the patients? 😉 Time and time again there was no answer to this impossibility. In that meeting, one or two nurses directly asked, how in the same shift with the same staff,  were they to fit in their work with their patients, as well as completing the new compliance activities being introduced. How could they do both? Which was to go when the time ran out? In my eyes the response was appalling. The nurses were told that was an unacceptable attitude to display and there was simply no choice and the compliance work was to be done. This came from a senior clinician who I had greatly respected and her response was totally at odds with her usual very reflective approach. Of course I don’t know the history with that particular member of staff who asked the questions and perhaps there was more to it than that, but there seemed a forced denial of the impossibility of continuing to provide good care and the level of presence on the ground with those we are caring for,  which is so important if we are to prevent tragedies like the children who slip through the net where abuse and suffering goes undetected.

I left the service I mentioned because more and more changes were taking clinicians, and support staff like myself, away from being able to maintain the personal contact with patients.  (I’ve since regretted leaving, I’ll admit.) Clinicians left too, at least in part due to stress and sadness around similar issues. They were a great loss to their patients, in my opinion.

A little later I worked a temp cover role as a secretary for the legal team that supported my local county council’s child protection services. Round about this time I thought about training as a social worker. I didn’t in the end. I thought I’d find far too many situations where my hands were tied and too many times bureaucracy stopped me doing the good that was needed.

….

I cry for the children that suffered and for those who so want to be present on the ground to help those at risk but who are taken away and whose voices are silenced when they highlight the lack of resources and impossibility of meeting the demands of keeping children safe in the field, and complying with everything that’s supposed to be ensuring children’s safety. One thing is sure and that’s that it is far too easy to be silenced – again both in the case of the victims and the carers pointing out the shortage of resources to help them. Let’s keep on speaking out.

Ginny xxx

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Victim roles – holding on tight and falling faster

Victim roles – holding on tight and falling faster

A couple of posts ago I said it is very hard not to be bitter. This week it continued to feel like a twisted game someone is playing. God, perhaps, and I have to keep looking back at the Cross to remember my God is not vengeful, twisted, scornful or delighting in our hurt.

This last week, things continued to snowball and I clung harder and harder to the smallest things. I felt completely alone and the importance of every tiny possible bit of help or hope increased.  The pattern repeated relentlessly that every time I counted on something, inside I built up to, “if I can just hang on to xyz, maybe then I can just manage, maybe then there will be help, maybe then I won’t die” and just as that had started to give me some security, whatever xyz was would be snatched away.

Whatever xyz was didn’t matter so much. I went to the Housing Benefit office to try to get some questions answered. I got some answers but also found out my Benefit will be suspended for weeks because of a 2-hours-per-week change in my working hours, likely putting me further in debt with my rent. I got another 3 page long form to fill out and supplementary statements to write. The time I’d counted on to rest to be able to work the next day was then filled with more anxiety over debt and more form-filling. In pieces losing it I phoned the hospital. We agreed that I could cope with telephone support until my care coordination appointment on Friday. 30 minutes later someone else from the hospital phoned to say that my appointment was cancelled (second month running) because my CPN is on training. I insisted I needed to see someone else.  My friend cancelled our meet-up for the second time within a week (not really for any fault of hers). But I snapped at this point.  The last thing I was hanging on to had been snatched away from me and I couldn’t take any more. Then Friday came and the day of the “replacement” appointment to try to talk about support I needed to cope with finances, Benefits, the threats from my landlord, the mountainous paperwork that needed to be completed and numerous telephone calls, and the effect all the confusion, delays, stress was causing to me, to the point that I was overdosing and cutting several times per week. I admitted that I’m not safe on my own, especially at night, and can’t manage simple things like cooking or keeping my flat in order, because the strain of trying to keep working, therapy, then all the financial problems, combine to be too much and leave me with nothing to go on with. The first person I was speaking to appeared to understand and suggested that there would be help available to me and that we could look at whether more social care support could be available. She asked one of the hospital social workers to see me straight away. The social worker came in and said I wouldn’t qualify for any help, that nobody gets anyone to intervene on their behalf or do forms etc for them, that I wouldn’t qualify for personal independence payment as they don’t recognise BPD and I’m working, and that I’m just “in a bit of a pickle” and that everyone has to deal with problems with benefits, tax and so on. She had no conception whatsoever of the extent of my distress, my self-harm, the danger I am in. I lost it totally and walked out.

At that point, yes it was a twisted game. In my mind, someone was delighting in my hurt, laughing at me, seeing just how far they could push me before I broke totally. And they were going to win that day. I was going to take an overdose or maybe I’d walk onto the train line because that was it and they had finally won. They’d had everything they wanted of me and there was nothing left. Everything had gone beyond possible to absolute desperation and this was the end. Everyone who was “supposed” to help me or whom I tried to rely on, was doing me the most harm when I had most hoped and could least take more hurt.

Obviously, I didn’t go and end it,  because I’m here writing this blog post. I can’t really remember exactly how I didn’t, though I’ll write another post about that later.

Something hit me today.

Vengeful. Ridiculing. Laughing at me. Hurting. Snatching from me. Hitting me when I’m most vulnerable. Rejection when I most need help, by those I most trusted. Scornful. Delighting in hurt. Delighting in making everything my fault and taking no responsibility. That’s what I find I meet with when I most need help and they push me to self-harm and suicide.

My abuser was all those things. Now the world takes that role to me and I am in the same position of being hurt. I’ve got away from my abuser, physically (though not in my head), but now the world takes that role to me and I am trapped and still its (her?) victim, not allowed to be saved. I got away (bodily) from her when I walked out, shut the door, got on the train, hung up the phone. That was hard enough and took over 20 years. Getting away from this abuser’s force in the world is going to be much much harder and the leaving I must do this time is going to take much much longer, I think. I don’t think it’s leaving, exactly, but changing something in me so as to receive something other than abuse.

Ginny xxx (Very confused)