Front Line Focus: Arnie on my shoulder

Inspectors leave me feeling depressed. Perhaps it’s to do with my malformed superego and its critical parent. The inspector becomes its personifi cation. And here he is once more, arriving on the doorstep in all his Freudian glory, unannounced.

Don’t get me wrong. Commission for Social Care Inspection inspectors are thoroughly decent people with a job to do. In my experience they conduct themselves with fairness and decency. But, like police offi cers, they are a breed apart with their own language. I’m not sure whether I’d want my daughter marrying one. Not without a phrase book, anyway. But no, they can’t be blamed for our dysfunctional relationship – “it’s not you, it’s me”.

It all started going pear-shaped with the complaints leafl et. In my defence my head was already spinning with all the policies and guidelines he was requesting to see. Complaints? No problem. I have a leaflet right here. Too late to realise that the particular one I’d unearthed from a dusty folder that I happened to be clutching came from circa 1066. It was the one copy that had escaped being ditched. Of all the thousands of up-to-date copies I had in the cupboard I just happened to give him the one they gave out free with the Domesday Book. Never mind, perhaps he could sell it to a museum.

Tired of handing out historical oddities, I changed tack. I told him airily that with our electronic database there was no longer need for all that. Everything is accessed through our intranet. His hooded eyes looked up. Being smarter than me he already smelled blood. “Show me,” he said, beginning to sound like Arnold Schwarzenegger. With a self-assured swivel I hit the desktop. It was then I entered bureaucratic wonderland. That perky icon used to access all our policies and guidelines, the one that’s always been there 365 days of the year, today, under the inscrutable scrutiny of the inspector, had gone AWOL. The graceful glide of the cursor (never has a name been more apt) began to falter with my draining confidence, until it was reduced to a drunken stagger. The inspector’s professional patience, palpable at my shoulder, made it even the more painful while also sealing my fate – there was no way I would find it now. So I took the only noble course of action left – I blamed IT.

Unconvinced, the inspector left. And I returned to the normal world where the most valuable work we do is never recorded between bits of paper. And it will certainly never be found in cyberspace.

Nigel Leaney manages a mental health residential service



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