My heart bleeds for the Syrian children Cameron has agreed to take into Britain. These children will be in the care of local authorities. They’ll be “in care,” and if there’s one thing that children in care rarely experience, it’s care.
When I wrote Zappa’s Mam’s a Slapper, my hero, Billy, survived his time in care and went on to triumph. I wasn’t writing out of ignorance. There are successes among children who’ve been in care; some have been public figures and some you may know personally. For every success – for every Billy – there are hundreds failed by the system.
Don’t blame the social workers; social work departments are underfunded and understaffed, and they can’t win because they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. That goes double for care homes. It wasn’t a social worker who showed Billy the way out – it rarely is. In his case, it was a teacher. I could (though I won’t) name the real-life teacher I based Miss Taggart on. As Billy himself says when someone fails to understand his background, ‘I was lucky. More lucky than you can ever imagine.’
In a few years time, I don’t doubt that we’ll hear a few – a very few – heart-warming stories about people who arrived here as child refugees and have made their mark in broadcasting or the arts or some other field. We’ll also, if we can be bothered to listen, hear about hundreds of others: the girls who are on the street and the boys who are doing drugs and thieving. Weep for them. They’ll have received an inadequate education which will have fitted them for no other form of life. Just like the innumerable products of care we have on the streets and in the prisons today.
If you imagine that many of these children are going to be adopted, you don’t (and I speak as the father of adopted children) know much about adoption in this country. If you think that, after the initial well-publicised burst of activity, the care system is going to be adapted to suit their needs you don’t know much about that, either.
It will end in tears, and the children will be the ones crying them. And what will we hear then from the virtue signallers and the self-promoters and the politicians? Nothing. Not a damn thing.