Thursday, 5 December 2013

Could This be Why We're in Trouble?

The report by Mr Neary in the BBC regarding the manner in which his autistic son is 'managed' by Social Services might explain a bit about what is wrong with the UK today. It certainly goes a long way towards explaining how many of our 'services' have become unanswerable and worse, unaccountable. But, who can challnge them? Everything is concealed by the use of 'jargon', and worse, the people they are supposed to 'help' are treated as objects incapable of thinking for themselves and unable to decide what is good for themselves. Mr Neary's case is far from unique, though he probably is unique in having taken the social services in this case to court and winning.

Social Services were set up to look after the vulnerable in our society, but, like a lot of good ideas, have been overtaken by the 'systemisers' and 'processers'. It has become a self perpetuating 'industry' in which its all about 'numbers' and 'procedures' and not about looking after people as individuals. This particular instance involves the Social Services, but almost all the 'new' professions that have arisen since the 1960s do it. Everything is about creating a niche, a permanent home for all those who like to feel they are 'caring' about something. The first thing that inevitably arises is an opaque 'jargon' which only insiders can actually interpret. It builds a mystique around whatever the profession does, and prevents outsiders from seeing or understanding how it operates or what it really does.

Some of my former colleagues will recall how our own profession was highjacked by a small group who suddenly got the 'education' bug. It wasn't long and everything was reduced to acronyms which most of us couldn't interpret. We went to meetings and listened as the 'experts' delivered briefings that consisted entirely of acronyms linked by a few verbs, articles and the odd noun. I once sat and listed every acronym used and when the bright spark giving the briefing finally asked 'any questions?' stuck my hand up and asked where I could find a list of the 43 acronyms I'd noted which would enable me to interpret them into English. There was no answer, and I think I was removed from the management Christmas Card list at that point.

One of the prime examples of the manner this quasi-professional jargon is used to exclude or to control access must be the Politically Correct process which dictates that no one may identify any group as being more likely to commit some offence, or more likely to be 'at risk' of something. The result is that everyone is now regarded as a potential criminal, or of being 'at risk' of dying in a fire starting in their kitchen due to falling asleep while heating a pot full of oil to make chips. Everyone - particularly pensioners - are suspected of 'fiddling' their tax returns and hiding income, but not, it seems those with mega incomes and clever accountants who make sure the money stays in tax havens. Every home must now be 'disabled friendly' in case the occupant is disabled - or a disbaled person wishes to buy it. Everyone is considered to be potentially racist, sexist or any other -ist, particularly those who profess to be followers of Christianity.

This 'process' imposition on every aspect of our lives is, in my view, one of the major reasons our society is becoming increasingly dysfunctional. By allowing quasi-professions like Social Services to reduce us all to 'cases', by allowing the family courts to hold sessions 'in camera' and accept evidence that would not be given to time of day in any other court, we are slowly but surely dehumanising the very people we are supposedly trying to help - and in dehumanising them, we lose something ourselves.

The second aspect to this that is deeply disturbing is that we are conceding power and control to these opaque professions. Their jargon passes for 'expert speak' and sounds 'professional' but it conceals the opposite. Much of it isn't scientific at all, it just sounds good. As the example given by Mr Neary illustrates: if you or I make a choice, it is a simple 'choice'. If someone in the care of Social Services makes the same choice - they are 'being empowered'. If one of us loses their temper, we get it off our chests. If someone in the 'care' system loses their temper, it requires a 'case review', followed by 'anger management training' and a 'risk management plan', somewhere along the line involving at least one psychologist for an 'assessment'.

When one reads of this and similar cases, one does begin to wonder if we have all taken collective leave of our senses. We actually believe this 'processification' and 'objectification' of the subjects is good for society? As I said, Social Services does do some good work, but all too often the good work is undone by a slavish adherence to 'procedure'. The powers over us all that have been given to the ubiquitous "Social Worker" are far greater than most Trading Standards Officers or Fire Safety Inspectors wield, and most have less legal training. Surely we can find a less soulless approach? Surely we can find a way that doesn't become so bureaucratic and rule bound it loses sight of children and adults who really are at risk while dealing in an often draconian manner with those who are trying to follow the rules?

The more I look at this, the more convinced I become that we are in trouble. We've allowed a lot of very smart people to highjack key parts of our lives, and now they have entrenched themselves - at the expense of the very people they are supposedly helping (see Mr Neary's comments on the closeure of Day Centres) and covering their deceits in jargon.

After each and every failure of 'care' by a Social Services Department we hear the same excuse, and the same 'remedy'. "We are revising our procedures" or "we are understaffed and underfunded". But, as I said, we should not look only at Social Services, there are numerous other 'industries' now all building little empires, all with their own jargon, all with their own clientele and all demanding ever bigger handouts to fund their 'activity'.

It is time we took a long hard look at all of them and demanded proper, jargin and acronym free answers. Until we do we will not get anywhere near repairing the divisions in a society that is becoming more fractured with each passing year.


  1. The triumph of procedure over process is partly a result of that feature of the Bliar years that I continually harp on about. My Granny would paraphrase it by insisting that "You don't make the pig fat by weighing it".

    BS5750 was a fairly decent quality assurance standard, but then came ISO9000 and its followers, the paper-chase had begun. Along with that were highly detailed "occupational standards" that frequently said nothing at all about the "occupation" but required endless records of training to "prove" competence. Those familiar with the work of BF Skinner et al in the field of behavioural competence will recognise that it requires constant assessment, something like the enforcement of a communist regime requires constant vigilance. In both cases, however, my experience indicates that in the former case the measurement becomes the outcome rather than a mechanism to ensure an occupationally appropriate outcome and in the latter, rather than being vigilance against the rich or privileged rising above the masses, it becomes a repressive force acting as a barrier between the "haves" and the "have nots", neither of which should exist in a Marxist state.

    Both systems therefore have similar limitations, they have an appeal in theory, particularly to those who have little going for them in life, but prove to be impractical in any meaningful way. Let us adopt the words of one of the most significant self-made men of the past 50 years, one who in some way has altered the lives of countless billions of people throughout the world, Bill Gates... Except that he borrowed it from Charles Sykes.

    The full list can be found here

    The first four, however, can be outlined here and are the most vital;

    Rule No. 1: Life is not fair. Get used to it.
    Rule No. 2: The real world won't care as much about your self-esteem as much as your school does.
    Rule No. 3: Sorry, you won't make $40,000 a year right out of high school.
    Rule No. 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait 'til you get a boss.

  2. My advice, therefore is to suggest that we start selecting for education again, so that the morons can't drag down the people with ability. I went to a selective grammar school and believe me, it was not populated by over-privileged rich kids, there were some, but there were also bright poor kids.

    Stop enabling people to sit on their fat backsides and claim benefit. I do not mind paying to get someone back onto their feet, but I object to paying to let them sit on their arse, smoking 40 a day glued to their 50" TV fed by a Sky satellite feed costing >£50 a month.

    Help unmarried single mother s to bring up their children, not by giving them houses but by giving them a job in a hostel with care provision. I am not suggesting a return to the Magdelene laundries, but a walk along Evesham high street around 11am most days makes one consider it.

    You are entitled to benefit, including HNS care, if you have contributed, if you have not, then a proportion of the cost should be billed. If a Polish or Roumanian working person needs NHS care, fine, they are paying tax and national insurance.

    Let the press report TRUTH, not hype. Exactly which truth is always a matter of personal taste, but the type of non-truth that we are forced to see and hear every day is an insult to an educated population. (i.e. those of us who are either old or who worked hard.)

    Make some rules about minority interest groups. I am not suggesting banning them, that way leads to despotism, but why should radical Islam, radical feminism and many of the other extreme minority views be entitled to stop me from expressing my personal individual views?

    Lastly, yesterday was the second Sunday in advent, a great celebration will begin on the eve of December 24th with watch-night services and midnight masses. Note I said it BEGINS, then... It will last for twelve days. I myself will also celebrate the Solstice, mid-winter, just as I celebrate it in June, however the holiday is Christmas, with the emphasis on Christ, it is not a "Winterval" it is not simply a secular beano and the population of Britain should cease to deny this.

    The US has slightly more excuse, being a population of immigrants, Hanukkah for example, is a Jewish festival and the 4% of Americans who are Jewish still often populate Jewish areas, this is rare in the UK, but between 73% and 80% depending on measures, of the US population declare themselves to be Christian... So have Christmas for Christ's sake!

    I was born into a country that valued fairness and provided a welfare state to assist in this. The 1948 model is now hopelessly out of its depth, it requires a complete revision. Ian Duncan Smith has started this process, but it must be the first step of many to ensure that Britain does not become a laughing stock in years to come.