From the vaults

Thirty years ago

* A report on Community Care’s “Off Load” page (Backchat’s venerable predecessor) paints a more racy and less politically correct picture of the social care past. An unnamed but “extremely handsome” social services director was reported as falling foul of one “raven-haired Jezebel”. The article quoted the director as describing his beau as a “gorgeous bit of fluff”, before detailing the breakdown of the relationship. Apparently, she told our lovelorn leader “To get your fuckin’ bollocks out of here”, to which our social care boss replied with a fist. The court took a dim view and ordered the social services director out of the shared flat and to take his goldfish with him. The woes continued when the director forgot that responsibility for homeless people had been transferred from his department to housing – which took a dim view of his antics. Still, I presume being “extremely handsome” meant that he had no problem finding a place to sleep. Can you imagine the current crop of social services chiefs being involved in such a scandal?

* Twenty years ago

Every journalist’s fear, a 31 December issue (yes we had to work through Christmas during the height of Thatcherism), had an editorial outlining several child abuse inquiries and pointing out that 1987 was another poor year for child care. It also highlighted the discovery of a “new phenomenon”: child sexual abuse. This was defined as either “deliberate exploitation for pornographic purposes” or sexual abuse by a member or friend of the family. The conclusions of the inquests and reviews are familiar: “Workers under intolerable pressureforced to make difficult decisionstoo few resources”. The editorial ends with a call for more training and powers, and to entertain the idea of a single agency to deal with child abuse. Twenty years on and the call for more training and resources remains a familiar refrain.

* Ten years ago

That well-known Christmas conundrum was written about by columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: whether to send Christmas cards to your friends who follow other religions and involve them in the festivities, or do you assume they wouldn’t want to? This question still exercises the brain cells of many councils. Some ignore the problem others ignore Christmas. Some pioneering councils even risk ridicule by creating their own festival, giving it a non-Christian theme, leaving out the nativity play but keeping the presents and decorations. This reminds me of the Jerry Seinfeld episode where George and Frank Costanza (George’s father) celebrate “Festivus” on 23 December with such rituals as the Airing of Greivences (“I’ve got a lot of problems with you people, and now you’re going to hear about it!”), the Christmas aluminium pole (instead of a decorated tree), and Feats of Strength where the head of the household challenges all comers to a wrestling match (“George, didn’t your Dad used to wrestle you to the ground and make you cry”). Sadly, when councils try such ground-breaking holiday-making, the media write lurid headlines about how Christmas is being banned and political correctness is out of control. Yasmin’s advice was eminently sensible: don’t assume that everyone celebrates Christmas but do offer people of different faiths the choice: invite them into your homes this Christmas. Afterall, that’s what Christmas is all about, isn’t it? Happy holidays.

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