Sunday, July 15, 2007

Pretty Vacant

I am not in the habit of looking at job adverts. You may recall that a couple of weeks ago I finished a very short contract that I undertook for the purposes of hearing the reassuring sound of clinking in the House of Pants kitty. I liked the job well enough. It amused me to rattle around in an old town hall and listen to earnest people blather on about step changes and achievable outcomes. What really made it worthwhile, apart from being able to afford slightly better wine and a new pair of impeccably sensible shoes was that for an entire week after I finished it, I basked in the joy of not having to go. You become inured to the blissful state of joblessness after a certain length of time and I find it helps to dip your toe into the mire of misery every now and then in order to appreciate this extraordinary state of grace.

I therefore cannot explain what I was doing poking about in the Society section of one’s adored Guardian last Wednesday where I discovered this continuing source of mirth in a little column entitled Jobs of the week. It begins,

A versatile team player is required by Lambeth council to fill the position of area manager, team around the child.

That does sound like jolly fun, although possibly not for the child being surrounded and the salary? A very respectable £65K top whack. Naturally I read on to ascertain if in any way I could be suitable for this post. I am, after all, the very essence of versatility and would only have to do it for about six and a half minutes in order to eat for the remainder of the year. But what would I have to do, exactly?

Focusing on the early identification of need in line with the Common Assessment Framework, it calls for a mix of strategy, partnership working and commissioning.

Happily I have an NVQ in Bureaucrese so I can tell you this means – fill out a couple of forms (2 mins), talk to a few people (two mins), and buy some things (2 ½ mins – extra half a minute required as there are often long queues in The Early Learning Centre these days). So we’ve established I could do the job but do I fit the person spec?

The successful candidate will have proven skills around inter-agency working as well as substantial knowledge of the issues surrounding the Every Child Matters policy and Change for Children Programme.

I happen to know quite a bit about these initiatives. Every Child Matters is our ongoing national penance for the horrific death of a little girl at the hands of a relative who was entrusted with her care. Rather than see this vile event for the mercifully rare anomaly that it was and be content with punishing the murderous relatives and negligent social workers, Government decided that the appropriate response would be a permanent state of paranoia about child safety.

It was around this time that the term ‘looked after children’ entered the local government lexicon. For a while I was asking everyone ‘why are we worried about these children. Shouldn’t we be more concerned with children who aren’t being looked after?’ I eventually twigged that ‘looked after children’ was a euphemism for ‘children in care homes’. You live and learn.

The Change for Children Programme is, I think, a very good idea. You give children all your small change when they are very young. You don’t miss it and they have something to play online poker with which keeps them off the streets. By the time they are adolescents they have plenty of change so do not need to sit in front of cash machines with dogs on bits of string asking complete strangers, ‘got any spare change?’ Everyone benefits.

I think this will be six and a half minutes well spent. If you’ll excuse me, I must go look for my CV…

Pic from


Political Umpire said...

Crumbs, I could use a new job (you can only be as intellectually arrogant as I am in one place for so long - and my present place has been far too long) but I couldn't deal with that gobbledegook as you so effortlessly have just done. So suggest you get the job, then tell us all what it actually means.

I know the case to which you refer. I wonder why it was that all the attention was on the social workers who 'failed' the child rather than the parents, who sent her to some relatives they didn't know, and the relatives themselves, who killed her. The same lot would have been up in arms if social workers had taken the child away before all the abuse started ...

Ms Baroque said...

I'll tell you what I couldn't deal with.

The term "looked after children" is a predicate in the past tense: I looked after children; you looked after children; he, she we and even they looked after the children. If you want a phrase that means "children who are being looked after" it would have to be "looked-after children."

Sorry TSP! (if that was you...)

That's so pants said...

Hi Pumpie

Making fun of the gobbledegook is at first a survival mechanism but quite quickly becomes an end in itself when you realise how useful a passer of time it can be. In fact so amusing have I found the whole thing that I have even written a huge novel about it.

I agree that the social workers involved in this awful case took the professional rap for the whole tragic business and that was a bit of a let off for the social services system - which was very obviously flawed.

But it was clear that they had ignored evidence of serial abuse and, when the death of a child results, I believe the consequences of that should be serious.

Unfortunately, I think the sickly sentimental language of documents like Every Child Matters does more harm than good. It is long on cloying emotionalism but manages to fail to offer credible insights on protecting children who are in need of protection, preferring to infer that all children are at risk.

There are several famous cases that illustrate just how difficult it is for social workers to carry out their jobs successfully. Abusers can be crafty and know how to put on a show for visiting professionals. But there have also been disastrous misjudgments leading to the mass removal of children (Lewis, Cleveland) whose parents had caused them no harm whatever.

Still I do think that the day-to-day job of making sure children are fed, watered, have slept and have something interesting to do, is not nearly so hard as it's made out to be. But I would say that, wouldn't I - I don't have any!



That's so pants said...

Hi Ms B

No. You're quite right, of course. It's difficult to know where to start with issues of use of language when discussing government documents - but you know that, right? It is as it is - 'looked after children' is what it says on each and every box. The hyphen is almost extinct as a tool for clarifying meaning. Most people think it's a thing that the computer puts in if you use a long word at the end of a line. These days I regard myself as lucky if the sentence has a verb in it.



Quink said...

Brilliant. Stand aside Don Watson. I've long lost the ability to laugh at Newspeak, though I do find some of its more inept enthusiasts laughable.

That's so pants said...

Hi Quinkie

Yes, I too had become jaded but just when you think it can't possibly get sillier, something like this little gem comes along to brighten your day.



Kris said...

Brilliant. I've been waiting for someone to reveal the pain behind the ads in the Wednesday Guardian!

Ms Melancholy said...

As an ex-social worker I can't possibly comment on the ludicrous measures that follow either a) every investigation following the death of a child, or b)every investigation following the removal of children from middle class households. I shall be giving all of my spare change to small children from now on, though. Marvellous idea Pants. You should apply.

That's so pants said...

Hi Kris

The bar just keeps crashing on this one. You see these ads and wonder how anyone can possibly work up a personal argument for attempting to match these criteria.

Many of the contracts that come my way require me to 'put the community first'. I have no problem with allocating it pole position but it's WHERE to put this community that is the puzzler.

Hi Ms M

I sometimes empty my purse of coppers and leave a small pile on the ground near the front door for the little children to find. Once I did this and won a tenner on the lottery the following day. It's great fun to look out the window and see the children discover their little treasure too.



Liz said...

It appears, Ms Pants, that you would be perfect for this job. However, this being the public sector, your being the perfect candidate would guarantee that you didn't get it.

That's so pants said...

Hi Liz

You are absolutely right, which is why I would never apply for a job like this, even assuming I could work out what they actually wanted me to do.