Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Saturday, 30 October 2010

The Writing on the Wall

A week or so away from the Tavern has mean a couple of landmarks passing unnoticed, so, for the record, the previous post marked the blog's second anniversary and, with a pleasing symmetry, this is post number 333.

The recent hiatus is not unconnected with the onging struggle I have been having with an unnamed branch of Social Services on behalf of a relative. For the past eleven months, this department has continually sent forms to the wrong address and made telephone calls to the wrong person; repeated e-mails and letters have been ignored.

Even telephone calls are unsuccessful - usually they don't answer the phone at all but, on the rare occasions they do pick up I give my details, the phone inexplicably goes dead or the call is tranferred without explanation to someone totally unconnnected with the case.

Meanwhile, despite a council undertaking to provide interim funding, I found myself responsible for a debt of £15,000 in care home fees before my relative's family home could be sold to pay it off.

But this post is not about the shortcomings of the finance department - it is in praise of someone for whom the term public service is more than just a handy label for a cushy job. This mental health nurse, who once carried out an assessment of my relative's needs, called me last night at 7pm.

Although she has no ongoing connection with the case, she says she always checks the department files before going home for the weekend - seeing that no-one had returned my call, she did so, even though everyone else had gone home. And it wasn't the first time either - even though she has only met my relative once.

Her first question is always about the welfare of the patient - then she asks whether there is anything at all she can do to help. Polite, friendly and unfailingly positive, even when phoning from an empty office at 7pm with an hour's commute ahead of her - if all public sector staff were like her, we wouldn't be looking at draconian cuts.

I though of her when I read Pavlov's Cat's description of his own modus vivendi: 'Do unto others as you wish to be done by' - if we as a nation are serious about public service, that phrase should be written up in large letters on the wall of every council office, school and hospital in the land.


  1. Ta for the linkage.

    Having now worked in the public sector for nearly a year now. I can tell you it's part laziness, part long service / job security ennui, but in the end it's primarily top down driven in a "monkey see, monkey do way" The SMT don't give shit about people, so why should the drones.

    If you add in the constant degradation of any sense of personal honour or integrity. A land where bullies, liars, thieves, cheats and whoremongers are lauded by the press and/or elected to office.

    It’s no wonder sometimes I think just trying to stay true to yourself is like being Don Quixote tilting at windmills

  2. Hang in there, PC! Integrity doesn't pay the bills or guarantee job security but it does mean you can face yourself in the mirror each morning.

    Throroughly agree with you about SMT - who should be first up against the wall of redundancy but, of course, that won't happen - if they led by example, we'd all be in far better situation.

    As it is, there are many sound people in the public sector - they're the ones, by and large, constantly filling in and picking up the pieces after the jobsworths have gone home; I suspect their workload is such that most of them burn out and leave long before their lazier colleagues claim their taxpayer-funded gold-plated pensions.

  3. "...the blog's second anniversary..."

    Belated happy blogiversary!

    "...it is in praise of someone for whom the term public service is more than just a handy label for a cushy job."

    Her price is clearly above rubies. I suspect, as Pavlov's Cat says, she's new. It hasn't been beaten out of her yet.

    Here's hoping you get things resolved for your relative without too much further hassle from our public 'servants'...

  4. Many thanks, JuliaM.

    Sadly, I fear you may be right; if she doesn't get it beaten out of her, they'll find some way of getting rid of her for making the rest of them look bad.