We receive a referral from the emergency duty team – a teenager named Sally had an argument with her mother. The pair have been advised to see us. Later I go with a colleague from another team to a house reported as filthy, where four children live. When the police arrive we enter through an open door – the place is piled high with household items, clothes and soiled nappies. No one is in, but there are pets. We make notes, call the RSPCA and give water to pet rats in a cage. We leave the police to take photos and we try unsuccessfully to contact the family.
I compile a chronology on Sally, which lists lots of our services for teenagers. Sally arrives at the office, upset and angry. I show her the chronology and how so many agencies have tried to help but she won’t co-operate. Her belligerence slowly evaporates and I see the vulnerable person she is. She stays with a friend. A colleague will monitor the mother of the dirty house.
A colleague and I visit a family whose children are on the child protection register. Mother is in a psychiatric unit, so my colleague engages the father and baby and I play with the five-year-old girl. We play vets I pretend to be an elephant with a sore throat. She examines me and prescribes some pills. I come away with Smarties for the elephant’s throat and relaxed about having had some fun, a rare thing in this job.
The referral rate in the team is high and staffing levels low. The atmosphere is tense and anxious we overwork, eat at desks and sickness is rife. The building is 100 years old. I wonder if there are spirits but doubt if there is a budget for an exorcism.
I interview schoolchildren with the police about an allegation of a teacher touching one of them. Afterwards I discuss with the police officer how it could be either of us accused or our children could be the victims. It is a harsh and dangerous world that we move in as part of our everyday life. Later, I visit a family where one teenager is Pavorotti-esque in size. She talks about horse-riding and her siblings say she’ll need an elephant! The mother recounts her voracious eating habits. The child is upset, but no matter what I say to the rest of the family about upsetting her, I realise such embarrassments must be an everyday thing for her. I adjourn to do my weekly shop – the list is one piece of paper I can deal with in an hour. If only the rest of life was like that.