Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Great Salad Debate

OK just to be a complete contrast to the post below, comes this:
Lettuce by itself does not make a salad.
I based a lunch choice on the fact that whatever it was came with salad. The salad item was important to me because it raises my number of fruit and vegetable portions for the day. When it came, it was lettuce leaves. Not varied leaves just ample frissee lettuce. The food was lovely but I was disappointed with my salad and thought that if they'd have described it as 'leaves' I would have been expecting the right thing.
It's not a huge thing to be disappointed in but little things can build up!


Thursday, October 15, 2009

My take on 'the problem with society'

OK this may be a long and rambling post so forgive me but I have been thinking quite a lot about 'what's wrong with the world and how do we fix it?' And when I say 'the world' I mean, England in 2009. This may well be the basis for a clearer and more well crafted document that I may present at a 'higher' level at some stage. I'd certainly like to think it could be. In the meantime let me know what you think.

I work in a service that cares for people. We provide services for young people who are broken and struggling. We hope that by caring in this way, they will heal and face the future positively and be well equipped. We're lucky because we have by and large a society that cares. People don't want knife crime because people get injured. They don't want people to become hooked on drugs because then they and their families get dragged down a dark path. We could be cynical but on the whole we're not just looking out for our own interests in hoping to rid society of knife crime or addicts but because we acknowledge everyone deserves the chance to fulfill their potential.
Yet we live in a society where kids carry knives to school and people feel so hopeless that they turn to substances to fill the gap. However wealthy our society, we have what seems like more issues and certainly more pressing issues than ever before. Programmes to tackle 'drugs problems' and 'knife crime' are actually quite in abundance and there seems to be a lot of money available to throw at them. I am part of just one service that provides programmes to help the sort of people that need helping.
And yet the problem never seems to get any better. WHy is that? However much money is thrown at 'the problem' (whatever that is), it never seems to get any better or go away.
I've heard that the slate is to be wiped clean for a lot of the funding that supports my department which is a scary prospect. But it's also good because I believe we should start from scratch and start designing services differently. But will we be designing things differently or just commission more of the same? I suppose I'll be able to tell you by February 2010!
My answer will probably not be popular and it certainly isn't innovative. Sorry about that!
It consists of three elements: relationship, holistic, time.
Let's take the issues of substance misuse, teenage pregnancy, knife crime.
Q. Why do these things happen? A. For all sorts of reasons.
Q. Could you narrow it down a bit so we can start fixing the problem? A. OK poverty tends to be involved
Q. So why are people poor? A. Well because their families are. Or their parents don't have a job maybe due to alcoholism, or lack of skills, or they can't mentally see themselves in a different environment.
Q. So family is important? A. Why yes of course!
Q. Are well that will be why so much money has been poured into parenting over the last couple of years? A. Yes but it's not the only answer.
Q. What do you mean? A. Well parenting could be just another black hole that absorbs money like drugs, sexual health, etc.
I'll start making a point now because I'm boring even myself! Every issue that young people face has a unique context. The only way that a young person can face that issue is with someone. 'Is it alright to do this?' The answer from a parent might be 'No, doing that will harm you.' If the parent is otherwise engaged the answer might be 'Do what the Hell you like. I really don't care.' If the parent isn't there then the peer might say, 'Do it and I'll do it with you.'
The answer in my eyes is a role model someone to give the answer when it's needed whether that's 'Should I carry a knife?' "Should I sleep with that girl?' or "There's no harm in smoking weed is there?'.
Easy. And to some extent we have that. But life isn't simple and the most complex young people will have multiple varying questions at varying times. A Tier 2 drugs worker may well give the facts about weed but he may not have been there to answer the question about why life is so shit. A sexual health worker may well ascertain that their young person can put on a condom but if they're so slaughtered when it comes to using one that they can't put it on, it won't keep them safe from unwanted pregnancy or disease. We have almost come up with the solution but are still a long way from getting it.
The answer lies in relationship. If you know someone and confide in them, you may well have the head knowledge you need to get by. If they remember your situation and ask how you are, you'll feel loved and special. If they are there in good and bad times, it's not just about crisis management. It sounds like a relationship.
If that person could work in different ways to help you recognising that not one package fits all, that might help too. If that person is always there (well pretty much for the duration if possible) it stops a feeling of 'everyone deserts me' which is the problem with multiple professionals coming in and out of a disconnected young person's life.
It stops being about drugs, or sex or violence. It becomes about the whole person.
It's far too simple isn't it? Too basic. It couldn't possibly work.
Well I don't see why not. Every child and young person should have access to someone whose entire reason for being in a school is to talk to them and to befriend them for their whole school journey. Not to talk to them about careers, or to stop them becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training) or to teach them how to put a condom on, or what the long term effects of cannabis use are or how physical scars from knifings are only the visible scars.
It should be about being a role model, a leader, a person to inspire, a listener, a parent. This is what says, I care, you're important.
My method is not a quick fix. It doesn't fit neatly into any of the funding boxes that I will be faced with which is why I guarantee that none of the projects and schemes proposed will work. I'm sure they'll be very good but they will be short term and non-relational.
People want relationship in a disconnected world. As Christians we know this means connecting with Christ too but I'm starting small! Simple.

(please for those of you who work with me or know people who work with me, don't discuss this anyone other than me. It takes time to work out next steps and I don't want people to feel in a vulnerable place. Thanks!)

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