Monday, December 15, 2008

Self Definition (in the style of Litany by Billy Collins)

I am the wild applause of the crowd
And the debris to be cleared when the festival finishes
I am the vibrations when the bass is loud
And the “leave me alone” of a petulant teen

I am the double chocolate mousse
Eaten slowly with a teaspoon
I am the restless insomniac hour
Wide awake at 3.32. am.

I am not the eye of the storm, the pink fluffy dice
Or the solid straight line.
I am however the silken feel of the well loved cat
And the heady scent of summer dusk.

I am the universe’s power
Charging through the void
But also the swirling motes that catch a
Lazy beam of noonday sun.

I am not the 3 hour exam but I could well be
The forgotten side of the paper
Containing 7 marks if only you’d turn the page and see.

I am not the cartwheel neatly spun
Or the dainty dancer with tightly scrapped bun
But at a push, I could be
The joyful spontaneous pirouette
Of the larger lady who has found true love.

I am the smile on a strangers face,
I am the frilled edge tulip,
I am soft, warm rain.
I am the valiant effort, second prize

I am not the chemo patient
In their relentless battle to defy renegade cells.
I’m not their Iron Man contest,
Their extreme marathon or
Their ultimate mountain peak climb.
I am their glimpse of what could be.
I am the pinnacle and the depths.
I am me.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Big Moon

How we love you,
Big Moon.
Your orbit is closer,
Dancing an oval path
In the sky.
You are close,
Almost enough to touch.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Richard Serra

I have been enjoying the Alan Yentob series Imagine (since I discovered it a few weeks ago). This week's offering was about American artist Richard Serra who is renown for his massive steel sculptures. I enjoyed how he described his childhood and seemed to imply that because a primary school teacher displayed lots of his pictures around the classroom and encouraged his mother that he was talented and to make sure she took him to lots of museums, that that made him become an artist. It would be great to base an educational establishment on that kind of principle. Anyway, in the meatime this is an example of Serra's work and you can see more in London's Gagosian Gallery in King's Cross until 20th December.


Sunday, December 07, 2008

Letter to Charles Clarke

Dear Charles Clarke,

It is with sadness that I have been reading the details surrounding the case of Baby P (as have we all). I wanted to write to you to strongly petition Ed Balls about financing social work and fostering/care arrangements in the UK to alleviate tragedies of this nature ever happening again.

I have also been reading today on the BBC website that Ed Balls has been talking about funding additional training for social workers. Unfortunately I don’t believe that this is the main issue that needs tackling. I believe that Children’s Services are seriously under-funded and under valued in this county and I do not believe that we are the only county in this situation. I also believe that just financing the training of social workers does not go far enough to tackle the problems in social work.

I work for YMCA Norfolk and via John Drake, I believe you are aware of a lot of the work that we do for children and young people in the county many of whom live chaotic lives. Recently you attended a PAYP/The Right Direction award ceremony held at The Garage. I am responsible for the team delivering preventative work as represented at those awards. Frequently during line management and clinical supervision sessions, workers mention that they have troubling children and young people on their caseload. We have exemplary systems in place for them to report disclosures and suspicions as is required by law. However once these are reported, many workers report doubts about the processes worked through by Children’s Services. This may well be to do with a whole series of action taking place that is hidden to a worker on the ground but often there is a communicated reluctance to get involved especially if the young person in question is 14 or older. Our workers and the children they work with indicate that social workers are stretched and thin on the ground and obviously with that they feel harassed and subsequently de-motivated.

Also if the alternatives to living with parents who are struggling to cope for whatever reasons are going to improve the outcomes for the child, then a social worker would feel confident in removing that child and placing them in that alternative care. I personally believe that the outcomes for a child placed in care are or can be significantly worse than leaving them in their home. This surely has got to be rectified. We cannot be considering which is the better of two evils when thinking about the care of vulnerable children. I believe that in the case of Baby P, had the alternatives to keeping the child with his mother been better, he would have been removed and would have been still alive today. Again the pressures on care homes, care workers and foster carers are as stretched, harassed and de-motivated as that of social workers.

I would also like to suggest (with another hat on as I used to be a youth worker for Norfolk County Council) that funds aren’t just removed from preventative or generalised services for children and young people in order to fund improvements in safeguarding. Generalised statutory youth work which also has a documented history of under-funding in this county (Ofsted report 2006) is vital. In an ideal world, with unlimited money general, preventative and safeguarding work would be awash with funds. This will never be the case especially in today’s economic climate but if Ed Balls is serious about funding improvements, we need to really hold on to this and make sure that we are funding something significant rather than just a knee-jerk reaction that appeases the popular press.

I would be interested to hear your views on this as well as communicating my points to Mr Balls.

Yours sincerely,

Helen Bouttell

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