Home Articles A Visiting Fireman in Africa A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4 - Page Seventeen
A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4 - Page Seventeen 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

Just as I launched into this new career, at the beginning of the 1980's, the UK stumbled into the era of a massive upsurge in cases of child sexual abuse that would continue for the rest of my remaining twelve years with the county before retiring. It should be said here that this was probably due more to an increased willingness by victims to disclose, rather than an upsurge in actual cases. In time, this led to the formation of 'Child Protection Teams' where Social Workers and Police worked together.

I remember a colleague describing how, at one of the first combined training sessions, the Tutor stunned the class by telling them to divide up into pairs of opposite sex, one police officer and one social worker, and then, when comfortably seated, describe to their partner, who was of course a total stranger, in explicit detail, their very first sexual experience!

Whilst everyone was still in shock, he quickly brought them all back to earth by saying that he did not in fact want them to do this, but he did want them to understand how an abused child might feel when they were suddenly being asked by a total stranger to describe what had been done to them. I doubt anyone was likely to forget that lesson. I know that whenever I was involved in such investigations, that scenario just kept on popping up in my head. It was certainly in the interest of the child for their questioner to proceed with great care and sensitivity, and that rather scary lesson drove the point home.

As it would be quite improper to discuss any actual cases, perhaps a brief outline of the sort of thing that will come through the doors of any Social Services Department on any day of the week, may give a flavour of the sort of day a social worker may experience.

Apart from their allotted casework load, which could be 25 to 30 individuals or families, with all that that entails such as routine visits to them at home, in hospital, a prison or other institution, liaison or case conferences with their extended families, their Doctor, the police, teacher, welfare officers from the armed forces etc, the courts and legal representatives, and the mountain of paperwork this generates, each member of the team is required to be the 'Duty Officer' in the reception office or suite at least once a week.

This is the point of contact for the public who have need of help of some sort. Because people who visit us are under stress of one kind or another it is not uncommon to be faced with angry, abusive and sometimes violent clients, especially if you cannot immediately solve their problems.. People under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or suffering from dementia or hallucinations may also present a threat to personal safety so many departments work with two duty officers on together, and the interview room is fitted with a panic button. For some problems there may not be an answer and no one, drunk or sober, likes to be told that

The Monday mornings and Friday afternoons seem to be busiest. A typical Monday could start with a phone call from the local police requesting your urgent arrival to sit in during their interview of a minor they have in their custody when the parents cannot be located or won't attend. Or they may have children in need of care provision where their parents have been injured or killed in traffic accidents or house fires.