Social Services and the Fulfilment of the Eugenic Dream

From Dystopia...

Social services. What is it and what is it for? Ostensibly, we are discussing here an arm of the State which aims to provide a 'service' to the social body of the United Kingdom.

The remit of what we undertand as social services is broad, ranging from the care of the elderly and mentally ill to child protection and family support and intervention. Let's focus, however, on just one area of social work and analyse its fruits - its work with children and families.

We are reminded on a regular basis that social workers are unpopular, but do a 'difficult job'. It is interesting that social workers are not called 'social servants' since their role, ostensibly, is one of service. But for whom is this service? In my limited experience, as one who has met families who have had dealings with social service, I have to say that the service appears not to be one done to society, but to the State. If it is a service done to society, then it is a service in engineering society. Their work, the work of social workers, is work on behalf of the State who funds their endeavours.

It is, by any stretch of the imagination a very different organ of community work to those who work 'in the service of the Church' or, indeed, any voluntary organisation working in the community. You see, one who works in the service of the Church, knows that his powers are limited and that power belongs to God. To work in the service of the poor is to work at clothing, feeding, assisting, aiding - coming to the aid of the poor. It is a foot-washing kind of service - a service done to Christ.

Of course, in an age in which poverty, social deprivation and want still persist despite the creation of a sprawling 'welfare state', much of the work of social service centres on the difficulties and hardships experienced within largely poor areas and sections of society.

Yet, it takes a true leap of the imagination to regard what we understand as 'social services' to be a charitable endeavour. This is work - a career - and more than this a career in the service of the State.  Social workers, by and large, go into the field because they aim to do good or make a 'difference'. I have no doubt that social workers working with families 'make a difference'. I do, however, question whether it is a positive difference. They train for the role and are taught what they are required to know, understand and undertake in what was once perhaps perceived as a vocation, like nursing or teaching.

Social workers must abide by rafts of legislation.  They are bound by regulations over conduct and rules which oversee their investigations. Of course, it is also true that social workers must undertake certain duties which most people would find difficult.

Over recent years, the sector of social services has hit British headlines for numerous reasons, few of which are good. Perhaps, like the Church, social services rarely hit the headlines because they have done something praiseworthy.

Firstly, we can consider cases in which social services have failed monumentously in their statutory duty to protect children.  We know that Victoria Climbe and 'Baby Peter' died horrendous deaths at the hands of parents. We know, too, of horrifying cases of abuse of children that makes most in society shudder, as well as cases of neglect of children so woeful that it shames 21st century Britain.

Secondly, as if that were not bad enough, the reputation of social services is blackened even more by reports that it has, partly because of Government legislation rising from the aforementioned cases which have hit headlines, become so drunk on its own power that children are removed from parents for reasons which mystify parents and society. We have heard stories of how family's and extended family's wishes are ignored as children are placed with homosexual couples despite the fact that these families have objections. We hear, too, of cases where children have been removed from families because they are deemed 'overweight' or obese. We have learned of cases where social services and the means they have used to deal with families have been disasterously excessive.

There is no doubt that each 'case' that social services encounter in terms of its work with children and families is different and complex. In a family court, a judgment is made as to whether a child can remain with parents or whether a child must be removed by the State. However, there comes a time, and I believe this is the time, a time long overdue, when citizens of the United Kingdom must examine precisely what role social services play in society and precisely because social services has become known as a temperamental and often a rather schizophrenic arm of the State.

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Comments

muriel from seaford said…
I think all those statistics were worse before the creation of social workers or the evolution of the modern welfare state.