Friday, 30 July 2010

Social Care in the Media

The first thing I did this morning was read a few pages of the excellent Pete Davies book 'All Played Out'. Sadly it is now out of print, but without wishing to write a review a large part of the book is dedicated to the machinations of the press and the role they played in creating and perpetuating the hooligan stereotype. Davis himself not disguising his contempt for the gutter press.

The second thing I did was to switch on the television. Not being one for the endless re-runs of Friends and Top Gear I decided on BBC Breakfast just as the local news segment was beginning.

There are certain things which happen with a depressing regularity, late trains, disappointment with a well hyped film (Inception) and England losing a penalty shoot out. Added to the list should be abuse in care homes; so regular it is, even in social service departments, almost expected.

The media for their part have a standardised response to any breaking story of care home abuse and the first target is always social services. The report I watched today was true to form. A brief presentation of the facts then the camera switches to a person the caption identifies as the relative of a resident. What do they comment on, their horror that their loved one may have been mistreated, their concern for them and other residents. Condemnation of the home, or even surprise.....

Not one thing of it, this may come later but, first, now it is always the same. The people the relative condemns are social services. In this case the relative is criticising social services for their indecision; telling them one day they're relative would need to move in a few days, then later revising this to immediately. The implication is that social services are dithery and incompetent

Possibly these are some valid points, maybe the department could have communicated better, but is this relevant to the story? Is it even that preventable? I can picture the scene in the office. Frantic phone calls trying to arrange emergency placements, constant calls to senior managers, the police, CQC. Assessing risk, making sure people are safe and trying to keep people informed against the backdrop of a constantly shifting situation on the ground as well as phoning their own families to tell them they won't be home until 10pm that night, getting someone to pick the kids up from school and give them dinner. I can picture this as I've scene it many time; dedicated competent people competently doing their jobs to keep people free from harm.

One case I was familiar with the local rag criticised social services and the police for being incompetent and heavy handed. Column inches were given over to family members who praised the home and the hard-working, caring staff whilst raging against social services. The tone changed when the owner and manager were convicted by a court; both receiving prison sentences.

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