The Truth About Adoption Is That There Are Many Truths

Last night’s Panorama documentary ‘The Truth About Adoption’ was a vivid, honest portrayal of the heartbreak and joy of fostering and adoption. As the adults, the social workers, carers, adopters, parents, the court, went about their business, it was impossible not to be profoundly moved as the stories of the children unfolded and their hopes and fears revealed.

Despite the setbacks they have faced in their short lives, all were remarkably optimistic about the future. Undeterred by delays and adoption breakdowns, they hoped for the love, care and security that we professionals call permanence. And why not: it’s the least our society should be able to offer.
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A Damp Squib – Or A Day on Strike

Yesterday, I was on strike. I haven’t been on strike before. It wasn’t a decision I took easily but was a considered thought as a result of weighing up the action that I judged to be necessary. I’m glad I was striking and wanted to share some of my perceptions of the day.

I started out early as I had offered to join a picket line outside my place of work. It was a picket line staffed mostly by social workers with a CPN (Community Psychiatric Nurse) joining us. We had supplies of banners, leaflets and whistles to hand out to passers-by and those who were going to work.


We had resolved that, knowing the decisions we had each struggled to make, we would not be giving a ‘hard time’ to those who needed to go to work – whether union members or not – and indeed, we had people nipping out to offer us tea, coffee and biscuits during the morning. As for passers-by, they were very supportive save for one person who seemed to drive his car towards us at alarming speed and thought this constituted a ‘joke’. I suspect he regards Jeremy Clarkson as a role model. Continue reading

Not A Good Week For Adoption

Social care is usually the poor relation of politics. Compared with other topics it seldom gets an airing, nationally at least. The reason is simple; it’s not a vote-winner, even though the way we look after our children, our sick and our vulnerable says more about the health of society than any alternative benchmark.

So it came as a genuine surprise to hear David Cameron discussing adoption a few weeks ago in the House. Although the critical perspective of adoption Czar Martin Narey has been making waves for several months, this has been largely confined to the profession itself. Cameron on his feet in the Commons brought the debate about rates of adoption into the full glare of the media spotlight. Adoption has become a political issue.
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Adoption, League Tables and Targets

I don’t and have never worked in adoption services. I have though worked in Adults Services in a Local Authority. I know about targets. I know about performance indicators.

So Cameron’s ‘oh so brave’ declaration that he will be ‘name and shame’ councils that don’t facilitate speedy adoptions struck me with more than a hint of misunderstanding and opportunism on his part.

A government playing politics with social care – that would be a surprise!

The shocking statistic that the Prime Minister calls up is that only 60 children were adopted last year in the UK. It did surprise me to be honest and I would be wholly in favour of streamlining a variety of processes but there are a number of assumptions that the Prime Minister makes that I would challenge.
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Big Society vs Actual Society

In the week that the Conservatives are holding their annual conference, an opinion poll of voluntary sector workers was published. The poll asked whether they thought Cameron’s Big Society initiative had resulted in an increase in volunteering.

95% of those polled said no.  If they’d seen any increase in volunteers, it had been as a result of people needing something to do with their time because they’d been thrown out of work.

Well, yeah, it’s an absolute shocker, isn’t it? Who would have thought the Big Society would turn out to be empty window-dressing? A meaningless lecture from a bunch of career politicians, lawyers and PR types, intended to make the decimation of our public services slightly more palatable.

Meanwhile, there are those of us who have invested our time and careers in society – doctors, teachers, social workers, nurses, voluntary sector workers. Some of us were doing it while Cameron was busy trashing restaurants with the Bullingdon Club. We’re starting to see the headlines about public sector cuts translating into services shrinking and in some cases disappearing.

I’m a worker bee in an NHS trust. Whether I speak to colleagues in my own trust or neighbouring ones, I hear the same words being uttered. Talk of recruitment freezes, of posts being deleted when people quit, constant memos offering voluntary early retirement schemes, offers to “buy” extra annual leave in exchange for a pay cut. No talk of actual redundancies…yet.

Part of my job involves liaising with other agencies – social services, schools, voluntary agencies. I hear the same talk with them, except in their case it’s even worse. We heard a lot of comforting assurings in the run-up to the general election of how the NHS would be “protected” from the cuts. In practice, “protected” has turned out to mean “a bit less awful”.

This blog will be about the actual society. Not the “Big Society” dreamed up by a political PR machine. It will be by and for those who work in or use health and social care services. Other authors will be joining and introducing themselves in the next few days.

The social consequences of the economic crisis have been severe, and there’s likely to be more to come. We intend to provide the dispatches from the front line. Watch this space.