One thing I’ll tell you: No one gets into social work for the laughs. I’m in about seven months now and it’s been a relentless parade of misery and awfulness, a daily dose of systemic dickery and individual flaws and failure. It’s been punctuated by the occasional bit of progress and improvement, the odd bit of reason to think sometimes it works. I think maybe you have to be in a long time to get enough success to keep you going, to feel you’ve made enough of a difference often enough it counters all the times people charge into their miseries and all you can do is write about it. I sound a little down on social work, and on life. A week-long child protection course will do that to you.

The past four days I’ve been holed up in a training centre, me and 14 other newbies too fresh to be cynical, too new to shrug anything off easily. Professional detachment protects people. We haven’t got it figured yet. We’ve spent four days talking over cases of child abuse. Talking over kids beaten and burned and tortured and poisoned, kids unwashed and hungry, kids seeing the world with adult eyes, seeing their parents drunk and high. Kids touched where they shouldn’t be, kids made to touch people where they shouldn’t, kids raped and told to keep quiet. We’ve been talking these lives over, feeling shitty about them. They’ve been living them; we’ve been feeling extra shitty, like it’s not our place to feel anything, like our sympathy’s an indulgence.

Today we worked through a stack of serious case reviews, cases where children died and workers didn’t see enough to see it coming or do enough to stop it happening. Peter Connolly, murdered at 17 months. Kennedy McFarlane, killed at three years old, drugged and beaten by her mum’s boyfriend. Caleb Ness, killed at 11 weeks, tiny and so thoroughly helpless you can’t figure it fully, his life so short, his tragedy so huge you can’t find its edges. Victoria Climbié, burned and beaten, chained and tortured and killed at 8 years old, let down so completely we should be ashamed for about the next thousand generations.

Get through tomorrow, I’ll take on these cases myself. It’s work I want to do. It’s mildly terrifying. 65 million people in the country, all behind closed doors, all with their curtains drawn, all working to keep their secrets. Children scattered over the country, scared and living with God knows what. Me with my questions. Me trying to find where the truth is.
We need as many eyes as possible, as many routes to the truth as possible, as many routes out for as many children as possible. The NSPCC’s the Chazza of the Month. They keep Childline going, taking 650,000 calls and online contacts last year. They run the Parents Under Pressure programme, getting in about children whose parents use drugs or alcohol, working to keep the danger from them. They run Minding the Baby, making weekly visits to babies born to young and vulnerable parents, kids themselves who haven’t got enough figured to know how not to do harm. They’re campaigning their assess off for children’s rights and researching their assess off to find better ways of doing things. They’ve got a ton of work going. A bit of cash their way will help.

Hell of a week. The lunches have been good. They did soup on Monday. It was cold outside.

Photo credit: The Zero, kind of.