HORRIBLE FAMILIES

There is a litany of family horror stories dominating the media. They really are so awful, no embellishment could ‘improve’ them for the media.

Today,it is the British father who abused his daughters, who fathered nine children by him. They were pregnant by him, between them, eighteen times. This almost competes with the Austrian man, except, these two girls were not imprisoned in a sealed sound proof cellar, as the Austrian girl was. They and their children were not physically hidden from the world, they were visible. Yet,the world around them could not and did not help them.

The official enquiry report talks of the father as a controlling man with Jekyll and Hyde behaviours, who moved his family SIXTY times to keep authorities at bay. Those movements and traits would not be unusual in such a case. With all those moves, of course, there were bound to be systemic failures, the father would have known that. Joined up communication between local community service disciplines is in its infancy, it has yet to come of age and expand beyond limited borders.

There is another feature which will remain a potential future weakness. Unless there is joined up management expertise, critical evaluation and support to front line workers in the multi-disciplines, who, undoubtedly, will have contact with seriously dysfunctional families, all kinds of abuse will still go unchallenged. This means good training has to be instituted at all levels and that there is access to reliably knowledgeable legal specialists.

Workers who stand alone, who are steadfast in their concerns, have had their concerns stifled and dismissed; “It’s the flavour of the month”, for example. When proved correct,if it hasn’t already happened, life in the office has been made difficult, if not impossible. Management guidance and knowledge and support has often been less than satisfactory. It is no wonder the medical, educational police and social work services have been paralysed, unable to make appropriate responses.

It is an indictment on our services that very often, it has been a case of an individual worker personally taking risks to raise awareness in order to obtain an intervention. This manner of working has to stop.

There will always be abusive situations that slip through the net, unfortunately. It is impossible to provide 100% safety and security. However, there is a desperate requirement to ameliorate what there is, for service structures to accommodate hearing and listening and be prepared to investigate issues and to challenge.

The media and society have be more sympathetic and supportive to investigative process and interventions. The legal framework has to be less binding, clearer and more responsive.

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0 thoughts on “HORRIBLE FAMILIES

  1. The soft under-belly, is too soft; that’s what such horrible exposures might say about the nation. Or, it might tell us even less desirable descriptions; stuff no-one is comfortable hearing.

  2. I’m am ‘afraid’ of that ‘last bit’; suspect there is some of that ‘unbearable stuff’….too many signs of ‘the dark side’….not least ‘negativity’ in perception and attitude.

  3. The lack of responses to such a post. (and other recent ones I have written that are likely to be uncomfortable) is indicative to me, at any rate, of the discomfort that people feel. It is hard to believe there is no view, it is easier not to put ones head over the parapet.

  4. I trust when you specify social services you group the community services together. What you say, should include the police, the medical professionals at all levels, in hospitals and in the community, schools and social work.

    The general paralysis was almost inexplicable. Fear of getting things wrong, is another difficult issue to overcome. There has to be a sea change in practice and the public psyche. The lack of quality professional guidance and strong leadership in all services, was inexcusable, but sadly, not untypical.

  5. That is so. There is no use in being a barrack room lawyer about these things, that is absolutely no use, in fact it is quite unhelpful. There are never any useful suggestions, from my experience, to come out of bluster. It feeds everything except anything positive.

    What is needed costs a great deal, in money, time and equipment. You can rest assured, it isn’t going to evolve any time soon from any political will. Tinkering occasionally in the last 30 years to appease opinion, (to wit Ian Huntly who killed the Cambridgeshire school girls)is testament to that. Now with the present financial crisis, politics locally and nationally, will have to be more creatively presented, even if the systems remain the same.

  6. ‘Other big organisations’….culture definitely needs a big overhaul in all of them.

    Discussing the case with a friend, we came to the conclusion that the case is, if anything, a failure of multiple disciplines, not just one. No way, can it just be one. The father would have known he could blast holes in traces, communication etc. by moving around as the family did. Therein lies national information system failures, mostly ones that do not exist, even now.

    I am saddened for all the children in this family.

  7. There have been several tragic eruptions in our Society – Hungerford springs to mind….Dunblane is another…not to mention some other memorable ones….They ought to be salutary reminders of an inherent capacity for such dastardly deeds…

  8. Hungerford and Dunblane had awful similarities, though years apart. I still remember my shock and horror on hearing about Dunblane. I recall my disbelief at the Hungerford incident. I am still unsure whether efficiently working data sharing would have prevented both of those events, because of the manner in which the protagonists operated.

    Tobin…he had a violent background. He killed while on licence. He had disappeared, changed his name, worked for a Church in Glasgow as a handyman, sexually assaulted and murdered a girl, hiding her body in the church. Only when he was picked up after that, were his other earlier murders,including that of a schoolgirl years before, uncovered.

    There are so many variables that cannot be secured, and plenty of devious people who know what those variables are.

  9. Tragically, at a deeper level…such incidents/events are frightening reminders of the human capacity to inflict horror — everywhere possible…

  10. Indeed…None – no part of human nature is beyond redemption; crucially, we need to recognise our propensity to ‘regress’ as much as to ‘progress’…..For the better part of our lives….we tend towards the positive…but the negative is so destructive that we dare not relax our vigilance….

  11. I understand what you say, but I am thankful that the great majority don’t plumb the ghastly depths, that high level personality disorders are again under the mental health acts, that extremes are dealt with in forensic units. Unfortunately, lack of sufficient forensic resources means that a large number of people in main stream prisons, should not be there and they are under served to meet the safety and benefit to public safety.

    Back to the main problem in all areas of problematic behaviours, improper resourcing.

  12. My husbands nephews, who lived with me and him until they left home were removed very quickly from their parents when they could not be cared for. There were several agencies involved including SS in two places. They DID speak to each other thankfully.

  13. There are ‘good’ stories. The nature of confidentiality being what it is, we don’t hear about them and neither should we, unless someone wishes to disclose.

    Meantime, the media and the public feed on a frenzy of negative input.

  14. There’s something I’m not doing right. I highlight the code in html, copy and paste, as you can see, and you get the code and no sign of the emoticon.

    Any thoughts?

  15. Hi Menhir, I note your remark about there being few comments when you raise a matter of true importance for discussion. Is it just this blog site? I haven’t used any of the others.
    You suggest (if I understand you) that they stay quiet because they would rather turn away and contemplate more cheerful things. I wonder if this is true? Or is it that they just feel they don’t know enough about it? That would be a reason I would understand to some extent.
    A long time back when I blogged before, I brought the same sort of subject up and criticised some of the stupid and damaging remarks that were being made by those armchair philosophers who feel obliged to criticise social work practice and yet appear to have no actual knowledge of the subject matter other than what they have gleaned from the pages of the Daily Mail or Sun. In other words, none. There was one particular character who I could only assume had had some bad experience with Social Services at some time, who continued to harangue me with the most ill-informed arguments you could imagine. As I’m sure you know, there are around 60,000 children on the Child Protection Register and any one time (sorry, we’re not supposed to call it that these days), but the public generally don’t hear about the success stories. It’s only bad news that sells. If the public actually knew what social workers were up against on a day to day basis with regard to the law, government guideline documents, paperwork and performance-based targets, they’d probably think it remarkable that anything significant gets done at all.

  16. Hi WiF,

    Yes, some people do not comment as they do not think they have anything useful to contribute; they won ‘t know unless the venture forth. Then, there are those who genuinely feel they are uninformed, which is a little different to not knowing enough about ‘it’. The majority of us don’t know enough about ‘it’ with many things. I for one would admit to not knowing anything about many issues around today, and something about many.

    What euphemism is in use for The Child Protection Register now?

    The number of children who are at risk will always exceed numbers known about. What you or I may have experienced, not defined in terms of neglect, cruelty, abuse decades ago, would now be under the risks umbrella. As certain family care behaviours have become unacceptable, increasing work, staffing and resourcing resources has not kept up with it.

    Being uninformed can be countenanced by all of us and can be stated in many way; often what we are informed with by so-called reputable sources, can be limited or skewed. You will have found, no doubt, from your academic development, that theories and statements are wide and varied, changed, and disproved. I would often say, ‘it has been said'(source) or ‘it appears from what I have heard or read….’ Sometimes, An interesting challenge or alternative viewpoint will turn up, not always unsupportive. Then there are those barrack room lawyers, and those you describe as ‘philosophers who rarely can, or want to contemplate a broader spectrum of ideas.

    You will have noticed that your point about good news not being reported news, was made in comments between myself and ‘lifeloveschocolates’ on my friends list.

    Social workers are good bait, easy scapegoats. All community services get lumped together as social work. Basic grade and front line workers pay for management weaknesses, and fuzzy management – some of it very well meaning, some incompetent – put in place to manage several services, to cut local government costs. You would not expect to have a dental receptionist, deal with your personal dental needs, apart from making appointments and looking after the administration that goes with the practice. Yet, in some places, social workers have been ‘governed’ by individuals who have no first hand direct working knowledge of what has to be tackled nor the skills that are required in complex matters.

    It has been difficult enough to obtain support from local team management in the past, with decent knowledge and qualifications and even those with particularly good training in supervision, who don’t like ‘uncomfortable’ issues. Sadly, with the current financial constraints and future ones to look forward to, cost-cutting rather than extra slow resourcing, will be on the cards. It will all remain variable, I have no doubt, and there will be more horrors. The very things that single-shared assessment is meant to reduce, lead workers etc., will stumble without UK wide collation and information systems. Such a system very expensive to install, would not be fail safe, but would go some way to thwarting devious individuals who, at the moment can subvert any system by disappearing around the country.

    Here I will endeth. All food for thought. I am glad to have an opportunity to share. :yes:

  17. Hello Again WiF,

    I am horrified that my formatting is not showing in my reply to you. In edit mode it is all there. That is most odd.

    I wanted to add something to the discussion.

    Cast your mind back to the seven year old who died of starvation, cruelty and neglect. Apart from failings in various systems, some to do with reasons of weak education legislation, the neighbours who saw this girl scavenging from their bird tables, must have seen how she looked, let alone what she was doing. Presumably, the other children were seen from time to time, as well. The neighbours did nothing to help. One has to ask questions; what were they afraid of; were they afraid? Their lack of reaction is not dissimilar to the turning of a blind eye, not commenting on uncomfortable matters, afraid of ‘come back’, afraid of dealing with argument (the Latin word for discussion) or avoiding any confrontational scenario.

    Many People view blogging as a pleasurable activity and they create their rules for enjoying it. Those rules may not include making a comment on difficult issues of the day.

    In a more extreme scenario, this same ‘keeping ones head down’ behavioural reaction, has been seen in war zones, it’s usually described as self-preservation. Once the conflict is over, there will be seekers of blame, much of it needing to be uncovered in those extremes.

    There is a blame culture that has developed in this country that can be, and is often skewed. It is certainly not necessarily seeking the truth, but it is assuaging public opinion, often stirred up by the all-powerful media. Scapegoats abound in our society, it is no wonder that there are huge numbers of vacancies in children and family work.

    It would be more constructive for the money and energy that goes into the blame culture, to go into and improve what the community services, and especially social work, are having to work with and without. The new work culture is, it appears to me, an entirely defensive one, not productive for anyone.

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