” You weren’t there.”
There is an insidious disease which spreads through organisations and which ultimately makes them unmanageable. It is a corporate cancer and it can kill.
It killed Baby P.
The old British Rail became an unmanageable monster. The National Health Service is another good example, as are the Social Services, Police, our Education system and Local Authorities.
It is the creeping sickness of uber-bureaucracy and continually lengthening reporting lines.
All of the above organisations are over-populated by strata of management and administration which eventually create a corporate organism which appears to exists only to perpetuate itself. The end-user or client becomes the smallest and least significant stakeholder.
There are meetings, there are presentations, there is information-management and there is career-building, office politics, black designer suits and BMWs. Somewhere in the distance though , there is a bruised and broken child.
The “Management” feels smug because all “procedures” have been correctly followed, boxes have been ticked, the correct number of visits have been completed, PowerPoint presentations have been well-attended and lunchtime prawn sandwiches have been good. Meanwhile, the child waits.
Baby P became a dog-eared paper-file which was passed from Social Worker to Team Leader to Manager to Social Worker. The system appeared to be working well because cardboard files are so much easier to manage than small children. A file with a broken back sitting in a social-worker’s designer briefcase is not a cause for concern.
Of course, when really senior people become involved, there are press conferences, enquiries, suspensions and sackings.
We are treated to the ” lessons will be learned” mantra, the corporate apology followed by some political “sincero-talk”. Then senior managers are changed and another layer of bureaucrats is introduced so that “we can ensure that this sort of thing does not happen again”.
The real solution is a severe shortening of reporting lines – less management, less paper, fewer black-suited “directors”, fewer meetings and a reaffirmation that the job of protecting children is not a social worker’s career opportunity but a child’s sacred right.