Crime and punishment

Now that the riots of earlier in the week seem to have fizzled out there has been endless talk about what now. Most of this rhetoric has been about who to blame and how to punish the offenders. Callers to radio talk shows are keen to string em all up or at least ship em out to Afghanistan with nothing but their hoodies and stolen trainers.

The prime minister has declared it to be the fault of the police and the police blame cuts. Parents have come under fire for not being able to discipline their little darlings and the rest of us tut about society break down and the youth of today.

In today’s Guardian G2 Alexander Chancellor declares that teachers should shoulder the responsibility and that parents should, ‘somehow be coerced into siding with schools.’ Good luck with that and don’t forget to tune into Thursday evening’s #ukedchat on Twitter to see what real teachers think.

My local Co-op. Business as usual.

So who is to blame? I think we all need to take some responsibility here. Much as I’d like to blame everything on the government (and believe my teeth are gritted as I write that sentence ), as I wrote in my previous post before everything had really kicked off across the country, many factors have come into play. We all need to take responsibility be we parents, educators, politicians or ordinary folk about our daily business.

I also think we need to think carefully about the punishments the guilty receive. Custodial punishment needs to coupled with proper rehabilitation and restorative justice. Lock em up and throw away the key is really not going to work in the long run. I’d like to see those involved in looting working activitely. This might be cleaning up, working at the youth centre, shopping for old folk or digging flower beds. I’d also like to see them listening to those affected by what‘s happened. I think there is a view that stealing is a victimless crime but it’s important to understand how many lives have been turned upside down as people have lost their hard-won business (and all business that are still standing after the recession are hard-won) or their homes. I’d like to see looters listening to old folk who are scared to go out of their homes, families that are moving out of their homes because their afraid for their own safety and business owners and workers who are now unemployed and struggling. I’d also like to see the looters and arsonists come face to face with the guy who watched his family furniture shop that had stuff for five generations first burn and then be demolished. 

So let’s stop pointing the finger at each other and accept responsibility. It’s up to all of us to make sure this doesn’t happen again.  Are you listening Mr. Cameron?





Thank you…but not goodbye

Today is officially R day. My P45 was waiting for me when I got home for work yesterday. I have less than three hours left at work and I really shouldn’t be writing a blog post but I have things to say.

 Back in September I was considering writing a blog to help me manage my feelings about the whole public sector debacle and my own small part in it. I didn’t know any bloggers except my two lovely sisters-in-law, Miss Melancholy and Stray. When they visited us to help cerebrate Mr R’s birthday, I talked to them about starting a blog and they persuaded me that this was a Good Idea. ‘You’ll make friends!’ they said. I scoured the Internet for similar bloggers and tentatively made some cyber friends.

 I wasn’t convinced that anyone would read my ramblings but I set them down anyway and discovered that people did read and respond. Even The Guardian, the paper I’ve been reading since I was teenager, read and enjoyed. I was even an ‘expert’ on the Guardian redundancy Q&A. Memorable for not only being an honour, but also for being in the middle of a bout of Norovirus. I wrote my responses, threw up and lay down for a few minutes in a repeating cycle for the three hours of the live chat.

 I’m convinced that if I hadn’t written the blog I’d be sitting in a corner rocking by now. So a big shout out and a huge thank you to the blog massive especially, Ellen, Guerrilla Mum, fighting for the rights of children with special needs; Tim the Armchair Sports fan who is forever Slouching Towards Thatcham; Citizen CW, my cyber mentor and friend; Andrew Brown, Someday I Will Treat You Good, who I actually met in real life although we didn’t realise it at the time and the Redundant Public Servant who has retired temporarily from the blogosphere but who wrote a blog far more dignified and less indignant than mine. And of course Miss Melancholy and Stray who set me on the blog path and my friends, family, colleagues and tweeps who have been there. Also a huge thank you the brilliant Patrick Butler and very funny Judy Friedberg from The Guardian. Thank you for seeking out the truth.

 I felt like a I wanted to protect my employers so I’ve been anonymous until recently but sod it, I’m on my own now so I’m out of the closet. If you didn’t already know, I manage the Healthy Schools programme across three SW London local authorities and I support schools with all aspects of health and wellbeing (teenage pregnancy, healthy eating, gang crime, mental health etc). My friends call me the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll guru.

 But it’s not over!

 I will be blogging some more here. I’m still a victim of government cuts, I still have friends and family in the public sector and the story is not over. After all the title of this blog is- in homage to bad B movies- I was a public sector worker and a bit like being an president of the United States or an alcoholic, I will always have been a public sector worker.

 Thank you, TTFN and as an actor with biceps the size of small children once said, ‘I’ll be back.’

Please do not feed the kids

I read an interesting article in The Guardian by Carrie Quinlan today. In it she writes about our beloved education secretary Michael Gove. There’s not much money hanging around at the moment as we know and Mr Gove has decided in his wisdom that money potentially ear-marked for an expansion of the free school meal scheme for children living below the poverty line  is better spent on a fund to encourage councils, head teachers and private businesses to turn around failing schools. It’s a tough decision- feeding children or better schools? Quinlan’s stand is that school meals are more important at the moment but judging by the comments on the article there’s a lot of interest in the subject. 

Just say no, kids.

School meals are something I know about: I remember how dreadful they were a few years ago and how hard some of us tried to improve them at local level, being dismissed at every turn- after all, schools are about education and teaching and not about providing cordon bleu meals and restaurant standard dining rooms.  Or are they?

 Then along came tousle-haired pukka pixie Jamie Oliver to remind us that food and water are the basics of life and local councils were suddenly shamed into providing better funding and better catering contracts for schools. Catering companies had to review how they operated- chucking out the fizzy pop and chocolate that makes money and adhering to tricky nutrient-based standards. Parent power has been instrumental in this and parent campaign groups sprang up all over the place like the now famous Merton Parents for Better Food in Schools group. Before we knew it, kitchens were being built and improved, hot meals cooked from scratch and numbers of children taking a school meal shooting up. There’s still a long way to go. Standards are not always as good as they could be in secondary schools in particular. I was in a school just this morning where there were all sorts of nutrition crimes being committed in break service.

 For many poorer children this may be the only good quality meal they have during the day and parents should be secure in the knowledge that their children are getting feed properly at school. You have to be pretty poor to actually qualify for free school meal and I suspect that more children will become eligible as more and more people find themselves without work.

 Food is a basic of life. The link between a healthier diet and attainment at school has been well documented. Children have smaller systems and need carbohydrate-heavy meals to keep the going and sugar, e-numbers and caffeine have a greater effect on their growing frames than on an adult’s.  Schools already have to cope with children who have been fed huge amounts of sugar at breakfast (if they have breakfast at all), children who have tucked into crisps, chocolate and so called energy drinks on the way to school and pack some extras in their bags for break and lunch.

 It’s already a battle to get children and young people to eat healthier foods as well as junk and the poorest are the most vulnerable. So better schools or better food? Yes, we need superb schools with excellent head teachers but unless the basic physical and emotional needs of children are met they won’t make the maximum of difference. Is it too much to ask for both for our children?

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