Sunday, 25 November 2012

Our Saga Continues. Chapter 4: In which our protagonists researches her situation

In the days that follow, I work out what has happened. It looks as though the hospital didn’t properly log our change of address and appointment letters have gone out to our old place.

I relay this to the social worker when she next calls.

She sounds sceptical. “So, that’s what your saying has happened?”
I cut her off
“That’s what I think has happened. I can find out for sure when I go in for my scan.”
The scan they have finally booked me in for.
The one that should have happened months ago.
 I agree to pop down to the social services office afterwards.

I research child protection procedure, to better understand what will happen next. I talk to people about it, especially other mothers and especially other mothers who have been investigated themselves.

There is a predictable class divide. Middle class people tell me there’s nothing to worry about, it’s just a mistake and of course it can all be smoothed out. Working class mums tell me to be fearful, to put everything in writing and to never ever admit to any vulnerability. I learn a lot.

The not showing vulnerability thing: That’s because Susan MacDonald is there to help the baby: not me. There might come a time when she needs to consider whether he might be better off without me. The game is not simply to cope: It is to be seen to be coping.
 If this feels pressurising to me (and it does) I can only imagine how tough it must be to pull off in an actual crisis. I start to see how naïve I was, when I almost suggested approaching them voluntarily, as a source of help.

I also learn that social services in Glasgow are a little bit different. They are larger and better resourced than other places and therefore (in practice if not in theory) have a lower threshold for doing getting involved, which explains some of the wariness I've encountered towards them.

In areas where everyone is struggling to get by, it seems particularly strange that such an individualised service is funded so generously.

It’s the irony of a state which won’t insulate housing, limit fuel prices, raise state benefits, provide jobs or tackle a heroin trade so widespread and influential that it takes in every ice cream van, arty night venue and town councillor in the city. But will nevertheless send a worker around to note that this household or that has no food in the cupboard, no heating and no adults that aren't out of their minds with grinding worry and the bleakness of life.

There are unintended consequences: Someone tells something that happened at her kid’s school. A Mum wanted to make a complaint about how the school had handled some bullying. The teaching assistant made some comments implying that the child was poorly dressed and hungry. The mum understood what was being threatened. She left without making the complaint. 

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