What with all this talk about the Big Society, by which I mean what with all this insincere talk about the Big Society which is only revolutionary if you’re a selfish Thatcherite former public schoolboy who didn’t realise the rest of the world already cared about each other while you were getting rich, it seems timely to update you on how the old social work degree’s going.

I’m out on work placement, shadowing real life social workers and getting stuck in here and there and generally trying not to make an arse of things. It’s all hugely confidential, of course, which makes blogging about it somewhat challenging. Let’s just say I’m in a place – perhaps an office in a local authority or some such – where people with needs of some sort relating to circumstances in their lives get some but not all of the help they need according to what they’re entitled to and how far the budget stretches.

In the past couple of weeks I’ve seen a few child protection cases, an assload of domestic violence, a touch of mental illness, a wallop of neglected older people, and poverty so punishing it makes you embarrassed you’ve got enough for a smear of jam in your sandwich. And everywhere the proof that miserable lives look to alcohol and drugs for distraction, that when a council grants a license for another pub in a shithole area of a run down city it knows its people are going nowhere and they’re done trying anything about it, and those posters they slap up about cutting down are just gestures of the token kind.

Now, I don’t know enough yet to do much good so my time is spent watching other people doing good, but it’s clear this is a career in which good can be done. Children at risk can be protected, violent relationships can be improved or ended, mental illness can be treated, older people can get a bit of support, and poverty can be helped along a little. And of course there’s a big dose of failure and half assedness around, but the potential’s there. It just needs a good worker and a hefty dose of structural changes in the way the world goes about its business, which is why a bubble-faced Prime Minister talking about compassion on the one hand and disabled scroungers on the other is about as productive as me asking him how come we can’t be friends and then setting fire to his cock.

Photo credit: The Zero