“Even now there are places where a thought may grow” (Derek Mahon)
There is a significant space to be filled in our thinking about childrens social care placements.
Simply put, decisions need modelling.
As we have learned recently modelling is especially important in a situation where there are any number of potential variants, and an absence of data.
As we are coming to understand you need a plan. Adrian Ward, a writer many come back to repeatedly for sound sense gained through combining theory and experience, observed once that any plan will do as long as you have a plan.
Reflecting on recent decisions and actions and they seem to be being taken in an entirely reactive way.
The sudden introduction of multi-homes, re-interpretation of regulations and now supported accommodation give a good insight into the potential for unplanned actions.
We have been talking of a shortfall in provision for some time. Certainly, there is a very significant problem in children’s social care placements.
The answer to this is not to re-fold the clothes that will not fit into the suitcase but to consider what type of suitcase we need to safely pack all of the items it must hold.
Currently there remain mountains of unknowns in the changes proposed and clarification (or perhaps it is rationalisation?) is occurring incrementally only after publication.
Meanwhile there are linked funds in the Spending Review. But linked to what? Is it numbers or needs? What is the plan? Is there a plan?
It’s the difference between a planned firework display, extended purposeful planned delight, and lobbing a match into the box, momentary impact, potential for casualties, followed by deafening silence, and a dark vision. Currently we face the brevity of unplanned pyrotechnics rather than planning.
Why is there no beauty seen in planning? What’s the ideological ostrich position about coherence?
There’s a new term popular in management, being ‘agile.’ It requires a smaller work force, raising productivity, a concentration on outputs not outcomes. If it’s agile you want, you don’t need a structure to adhere for the endless reactive measures as a pool of people are redeployed to meet whatever is the latest urgency? That’s not a secure base for social work/care. Attachment, Resilience, Relationships all go. It is the principles of Frontline as explained in their Freedom and Responsibility. If this is what is deep in the psyche of the Care Review then a loud disavowal by the lead reviewer, in print, will be most welcome, in fact, essential. In its own terms, being agile, would require stating unequivocally that this is a situation not to be agile.
There are times when a million things are possible. Lasting development comes at the top of a cycle of economic and intellectual confidence. A pandemic shakes these, and more.
The Children Act 1989 (CA89) has been one such lasting development. An important piece of the Care Review lead identified ‘Jenga tower’ was recognised by Sir James Munby in a recent BASW celebration of the CA 89. He observed the CA89 as sound, it was current practice that needed improvement, new laws were not needed, maybe guidance. Wendy Rose in the same event explained we are still in the implementation phase of CA89, it was so extensive it would take 30 years to get started. That takes us to about now.
We have a serviceable model. Implemented well the CA89 gives us what we need. What we don’t need is starting again. Nor do we need another model of care.
A while ago NCERCC was working for and with a LA and identified 9 different models of care practice. This is the same lack of coherence being introduced by the Innovation Programme. It is important to have one culture cohering values to structures to practice. It’s the worry about the Care Review’s individualist/ localist thinking about Freedom and Responsibility. It doesn’t relate to children’s services. It’s a start up business thinking that is imported, and actually is an impingement as understood by Winnicott.
A pandemic is no time to be making long term decisions other than one, to emerge having made things better. The pandemic reveals the ethics of our age. If fear roams our streets and our minds; it also reveals we are interdependent. There are choices connecting internal and external, do we have a responsibility for others? Of course, we do and so we must be responsible for what we do to others. This means being mindful over what we do and not do; for ‘us’ to survive I choose not to do some things and to do others and to accept this may mean to deny oneself some actions.
Thinking about care has been affected by pandemic thinking. Rather than defend against the idea of it happening, we must accept that it will inevitably happen on some occasions. In identifying it has happened we can stop the reactivity and proactively deal with making what is before us best experience that it can be.
Taking this stance is to go beyond the worry that all the available money has gone to ‘get us through’. This was never true as it is very possible to fund what needs to happen now over the next 50 years. If indeed we even need to think in such a way being a sovereign country with its own currency.
A pandemic needs clear management from an ethical base that is agreed by us all and by which we all abide. It is how we appreciate we need to make sudden changes in direction if ‘we’ are all to come through.
“There’s no point in thinking how this will end” thinks a character in Sarah Moss ’ new book, The Fell. The outcome is not the point.
The pervasiveness of the pandemic we now see in the government response regarding ‘supported accommodation.’ It is not a response to a consultation, certainly not to the one that started out as a discussion on unregulated accommodation. It is a new proposal.
We are not back where we started. We now know care and support cannot be separated. Now is not the time to redefine care, or support, or to seize the definition of ‘fair and just’. As we see recently even small steps, like not going to a party, are enough. These avoid reactive big steps. Now is not the time to be radical, but conservative, to overcome fragmentation rather than exacerbate it.
There is a remarkable absence of the necessary benevolence, charity; curiosity and goodwill needed.
There’s a willingness to recognise as Michael Sandel shows, that the most fateful thing that has happened in the last 30 years is the expansion of markets into spheres of life where they don’t belong.
Now the struggle/discussion/negotiation/ development really starts. It is clear from the response that DfE are by no means certain or confident. The responses were overall against the DfE original proposals. And now they are saying, ‘We’re not sure we’ve got this right. In fact, we’d like to start again. We’ve heard and are opening the door. You can make the conclusion quite different. Please do.’
Now is the time to take back control of needs-led provision and make new proposals.
Now is the time for RCC providers to join with those who have been making the case in asserting and upholding needs and rights.
The fact is that independent providers, as represented by their representative organisation, or in a new organisation, are in a position to make new proposals. They no longer need to seek to collaborate or negotiate and can safely state they do not intend to participate in doing wrong things, but now have opportunity to do the right thing, to state unequivocally they do not support the proposals and do not intend to open such provision. That they will not seek to use their power to exert concessions.
They are committed to new proposals; and commit their numbers, funds, organisation, representatives, to achieve fresh proposals.
They have a choice that will affect the future of children in care.