Number One: Disclaimers

This is more of a disclaimer than a blog post. Which the online etymology dictionary (disclaimer: it’s a bit shit) tells us is a word that has it’s roots c. 1400, in the Anglo-French disclaimer, Old French desclamer “disclaim, disavow,” from des- or dis- (from Old French des- or directly from Latin dis- “apart, in a different direction, between,”) + clamer “to call, cry out, claim”. Thus I separate myself from some claim or other. But in issuing a disclaimer am I not crying out in order to deny, disavow, distance? But from what? The claim my website might have made if hadn’t denied it? ‘Poor website!’ I hear you cry. ‘It has to start somewhere!’ One dis- leads to another. Words become their opposites, the centre cannot hold etc.

Anyway the point is, I’m not trying to deny anything, I do however want to distance myself from your keen judgement, your shrewd discerning eye, your sneer of contempt; by letting you know that this new web presence of mine is still very much under construction. I only started doing it to practice my WordPress skills and so that I would finally have something to link to when I do put myself unashamedly forward in an online context. Honest daddy.

Let’s try and make this first blog post a bit more bloggy and a bit less self-conscious. (Although one final metacomment – I just looked up ‘how to write a blog post’ and note that step 2 of the top hit is: “Write an intro (and make it captivating)”. Consider yourself captivated. (Captivate – to charm, to fascinate or engage the affections of, from the Latin, captivus, from capere, captum, to take – that’s just good old Chambers). If your affections are not yet engaged, I must disclaim that I only read step 3 after writing paragraphs 1-2.) Anyway, onwards.

News / politics / journal

(DISCLAIMER: This is both disturbed, and very badly referenced)

I’m a trainee solicitor now, in the world of community care. I’ve left the fold of Social Services, where I sat on a ‘duty team’ amongst true heart social workers. I myself was just a caseworker, carrying out human rights assessments in respect of destitute migrants. I would just like to say something about how things looked in the week that I left.

Social Services departments are very much a final safety net for the people of a city, those most at risk, most unsafe, most unable to protect themselves. The workforce is by nature humanitarian in impulse and warm of heart. A mixed bag, as in most workforces but even more so, I felt. (Actually many workforces are an extremely unmixed bag, so forget that disclaimer.) People are drawn to social work from a multitude of backgrounds, for a multitude of reasons. This workforce must act like an emergency service in places emergency services can’t venture, or where their venturing is limited: a safeguarding alert about a terminally ill woman getting beaten by her husband and doesn’t want the police involved; a man too old and too ill to be homeless, too lost to alcoholism to be tolerated by a private housing provider (and there are no other kinds); a severely disabled man locked in a car for 4 hours on a hot summer day while his carer is gambling in a nearby pub; the list goes on. The Council has many statutory duties to its residents, but it’s social care duties in these contexts are ‘end of the line’. A duty to the person at risk: to ensure safety meet needs, to avert risk. And a duty to the ‘public purse’ to do it it cheaply, to prevent future costly hospital admissions, to support ‘informal’ (read ‘unpaid’) carers.

The people who work to fulfil these duties are, as you’re probably aware, being systematically shat on from all kinds of heights. Swingeing cuts in central govt funding, peddled on the myth that there is no money, huge media misrepresentation and vilification, jostling pressures from Council and city with regards to community safety and visibility… Like firefighters they can’t down tools – people would die. To refuse to administer the system would have massive impact on human life. In my last week at work I saw two experienced social workers reduced to tears. The threat of the Coroner’s Court looms ever present as one thing has to be prioritised above another. The word of the day is commissioning – this is privatisation through the back door but not only that, worse: it includes in this context the explicit shifting of statutory duties onto the charitable (“community and voluntary”) sector. The duty is still with the Council, but it is now obliged to look first at whether the person can be supported ‘in the community’ (read – ‘for free’). Big lottery funding for charities doing the kind of work that used to be done by the statutory sector in this context abounds. (Note the same was true after legal aid ‘reform’ in 2013.) The charities are so sweet, they’re happy, they take on more staff (on a fixed term, 6 month contract), they can keep doing what they set out to do: to try and help. Thus the state quietly slides off the hook. I don’t know what the answer is, but the state has to be held to account when this system fucks up and systematically fails people, as it is and will continue to do. Acceptance isn’t the answer. Creative approaches by front-line staff aren’t the answer. Senior management transferring the pressure to their workforce isn’t the answer. All of these things are disclaimers: they force a distancing from the necessary claim that needs to be made by and on behalf of those inside the creaking system and those it works to support.

I stopped reading the how to write a blog top tips, sorry daddy. It was when I noticed it had a whole separate step for deciding what your content would be, what a waste of time.

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