Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Rage at the Machine

I was recently lifted by Charlie Leadbeater who talked about Participle's amazing work buiding services from the bottom up. Then y/day I attended the living death that is the Children and Young People's Scutiny Committee.

Here we get the biblical detail of all sorts of services the council either provides or pays for. So much detail in fact that you need a detective's eye to find the real story. But what strikes you between the eyes is the sheer scale of the mountain to climb if anything is ever going to change in relation to the way we organise for good outcomes. Everything to do with children and young people is done in a `multi-agency' way. Which sounds great. But what that actually adds up to is a lot of meetings, a lot of IT and not a lot time spent working with children and families.

What I find hardest of all is that nobody is saying anything. Not even the Tories. Even they, in local government at least, have bought into the Ed Balls world of multiple strategies, directives and a style of service that is shaped around regulation, not around the user or customer.

`Safeguarding' is the latest example of this. Now everyone who gives a kid a lift to school football or plays the guitar in a school play has to be checked on a register. Let's not pretend this is about looking after kids. Its about protecting organisations. God only knows what all this costs - and its another fad, imposed on all of us by a Government that has, frankly, lost the plot a time ago.

I actually admired some of the people who had to pitch up yesterday in front of a bunch of Councillors (half of whom know very little about the subject) and explain what is being achieved, where the challenges lie etc. I don't envy them their jobs. Many look grey and strained from years of managing upwards and working in ways that I am sure are counter-intuitive.

What's the answer? I honestly don't know. Politically someone has to say this is enough and it isn't working. That the emporor we all worship is naked and failing. My fear is that even with a change of Government, we aren't going to see much change in the over-strategised and machine-like approach of the state to our major challenges.

Ed Balls' legacy will be safe for many years to come, I suspect.

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