I was reading Melanie Reid's column in The Herald today which whilst I disagreed with many of her conclusions, did I feel highlight the plight of a frightening and apparently increasing number of children in Scotland who are criminally neglected by their usually drug addled parents. I don't deal directly with children in my work but see enough of the evidence of this on my travels.
The other day I got chatting a rather drunk young boy at the bus stop who looked about fourteen apart from his mouthful of rotten teeth, grey skin and sunken eyes. He was actually eighteen. He was quite chirpy telling me about his sister's new baby 'fucking massive, man' though he was quite sad he missed the birth as he was in Polmont at the time. He was also a bit worried as he'd missed his alcohol counselling that day and he'd promised his probation officer he'd go.
On a happier note he has renounced gang violence because 'it's nae life when ye canny leave yer ain scheme'. As we were going the same way we continued chatting on the bus when he astonished me by mentioning that he'd never been to the south side of Glasgow. 'Not even to see Rangers?' I asked, noting the emblem on his grubby tracksuit. He told me he'd never been to a football match, though he'd played for a couple of local boys teams when he was 'a wee cunt'. Did the school never to take you to the Mosque or The Burrell Collection? I asked, mentally scanning the likely list of possible south side school trips he might've gone on. Again, no.
I was utterly astonished by this and continued questioning him, it transpires that he thinks the south side is 'somewhere past Yoker' which I suppose it is depending on where you're coming from. He has never been outside Scotland, his grannie took him to Edinburgh once but other than trips to Airdrie and of course his spell in Polmont he hasn't left Glasgow. I did entertain the possibility that I was being spun a line but he didn't ask me for money or even seem like he was looking for sympathy. Judging by the state of his teeth he'd clearly not been to a dentist either.
The worrying thing is I'm starting to see and hear more of this kind of thing. A relative of mine was recently talking to a woman who works for a charity which runs a mentoring scheme for deprived children and was full of tales of children who've barely left their own district, who turn up to meetings with their mentor dirty and unfed and who's horizons are so low they react to a trip to a shopping centre like it's the second coming.
One could get angry with the parents of these children but I suspect you'd only end up getting angry with their parents and so on down the line until you'd find yourself screaming at the dead in sheer frustration. However I would question why the insane policy of children being left with their drug addled parents continues to be pursued. I have had this explained to me through clenched teeth on more than one occasion by someone vaguely connected with social work who advises me that separating children from their parents causes them psychological harm, oh and it costs too much. I strongly suspect it ends up costing much more both in human and financial terms to leave children in such households. Far better to get them in foster homes and give them a taste of normal life. It might also give their parents a good incentive to get clean and get their children back.
I'm also slightly puzzled as to what goes on in schools. Aren't schools supposed to educate children and help them prepare for something a bit more ambitious than swigging cheap wine at bus stops. Perhaps even broaden their horizons or at least teach them to speak coherently. Oh no it's all coming flooding back, yes I remember school. That's where you go to be bored senseless, shouted at for asking questions and have any ambition you might have ruthlessly stamped on by people who get some sort of thrill taking their own career disappointments out on children then making them feel stupid until they stop attending. Which is bound to the children described above a world of good.