Home Articles A Visiting Fireman in Africa A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4 - Page Fourteen
A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4 - Page Fourteen Print E-mail
Written by Ray Critchell   
Sunday, 05 July 2009 23:37
Article Index
A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4
Page Two
Page Three
Page Four
Page Five
Page Six
Page Seven
Page Eight
Page Nine
Page Ten
Page Eleven
Page Twelve
Page Thirteen
Page Fourteen
Page Fifteen
Page Sixteen
Page Seventeen
Page Eighteen
Page Nineteen
Page Twenty
All Pages

And so that first year rolled smoothly along; no sudden states of emergency, no crises, no fires, aircraft crashes or road traffic accidents, no shooting and no explosions. At home Marjorie slowly turned our little house into a comfortable home that was a pleasure to come back to, and although the gardens were a lot smaller than those we had been used to, they began to blossom under her green fingers. Marjorie is a skilled needlewoman and made most of our clothing, mine as well as hers and the children as they grew up. The kids at work were most interested to see me arrive in shirts and trousers made at home from materials bought on the local market.

Up till now they all seemed to equate home made with second rate, but after this, and especially after I introduced them to a braai in the garden, and showed them how to make home made doughnuts, sausages and boerevors, they began to see that making stuff for themselves could be fun. One of the older boys actually went on to win a prize at school for making a pizza.

When, after the first year had passed, I had a visit from the personnel officer that had recruited me to ask how I was getting on, I had to say that if it were not for the fact that I needed to earn a living, I would be ashamed to take their money for what, to me, was a pleasant way of passing the time.

After that first year, the County sent me off to Canterbury College once a week on day release training, and I began to get some idea of the nature of social work. Like many people I had only the vaguest ideas on it, and had tended to look upon it as a bit of a softie do-gooder thing. How wrong can you get. I discovered that a field social worker, i.e. a qualified one, as distinct from those of us working in various institutions and were therefore really 'care' staff, needed to be pretty case hardened. Their role in life is to attempt to deal with the problems of society that cannot be dealt with by the police, doctor, school teacher, parent or a priest. In fact, a surprising number of people are referred to Social Services by the police, doctors, school teachers, parents and priests, as well as neighbours and the man who calls to read the gas meter.

Some of their work is prescribed by law and this puts a statutory responsibility on them so that, in those particular aspects of social work, they have no choice in the matter, two of these aspects involve the awesome responsibility of taking away a persons liberty, normally the preserve of the Police; a place of safety order to remove a child who is being abused or ill treated, and, in liaison with two doctors, assisting to 'section' a person under the Mental health Act. This means to have a person compulsorily committed to a psychiatric hospital for treatment, when they are behaving in such a manner as to pose a threat to safety for themselves or to others. As I was to find out, social work is definitely not for wimps.

At the end of my second year there, I was invited to apply for the professional training course. During the course, of two year duration, I would be 'seconded', meaning that in addition to all costs being covered, I would be on full salary as well. As there were major changes taking place in residential child care provision by now, I jumped at the opportunity. Up until recently, children put into the care of local authorities would have ended up there for different reasons, and been accommodated accordingly.