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.
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