Thursday, 11 December 2008

'It’s none of our business' Following my note the other day about neighbours' alertness and responsibilities towards vulnerable young people, Oli de Botton writing in the Guardian bemoans the way we leave such reponsibilities to an isolated professional: In the world of newspaper headlines that trumpet the rights of parents no matter what and at the same time castigate "do-gooding" social workers for not getting involved earlier, a slight fear by a classroom teacher just isn't enough to warrant intervening. But if a social worker, a teacher, the next door neighbour, the person in the local shop and fellow-students all think something is up and report it, then we really can do something about it... The only thing that will have a real impact in the long-term is informed professionals showing good judgment and supported with information from the community. But this doesn't quite address the questions, how do we deal with the privacy-fetish and how do we encourage greater readiness to intervene? I'm reminded of a neat example recorded by Graham Crow and colleagues a few years ago: 'We did actually have someone, you know, who used to beat his partner up quite violently, and you try and turn a blind eye, don’t you? You just listen to it because in this house you can’t help that, at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning. Then he started doing it early in the evening when the children were awake, so we had no choice but to call the police. It’s none of our business, but when the children are in, then that’s something else, isn’t it? … We assumed it was drink.' [Sociology,36(1), 2002: 127-145]

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