Monday, 19 May 2014

Story Sixty Eight - Potential

In the last post, I mentioned the recent Court of protection judgement concerning ML. Much was made in the judgement about moving the young man away from his family and home in order "to reach his potential".

This hit a few nerves with me because it was a phrase I heard a lot in 2010, especially from the social worker. It was often used in the early days as validation for keeping Steven in the Unit - he will learn lots of important life skills and become more independent. Presumably, that was her idea of reaching one's full potential. It was cobblers. The only new skill that Steven came home with a year later was how to make a pepperoni pizza. Lots of things he could already do, like the toasted cheese sandwich debacle and loading the washing machine, they claimed the credit for.

The social worker's other catchphrase tied in with potential was "he's got so much more to give". This is X Factor language. A hapless contestant often pleads: "Vote for me because I've got so much more to give" before belting out Total Eclipse of the Heart in the wrong key.

I became very distrustful of "potential" because it seemed to be masking something else. The only suggestion that the social worker ever had to realise Steven's potential was to send him to Citizenship classes. Steven went once, gave it the thumbs down and never went back again. I don't honestly think that he's compromised reaching his potential by not going. But not going became very problematic for a month or so because myself and the support workers were blamed for not pushing Steven harder. Another black mark against us because Steven had rebelled about someones idea of how he should achieve his potential.

There's an inference in what the social worker said that, me, Steven's home environment and all the people involved in his life are somehow holding him back from his natural development. It's nonsense and doesn't stand up to any scrutiny at all but for a while it became very threatening. The only way Steven could demonstrate that he was developing was by embracing what their idea of development and potential was.

What is potential anyway? I always believed it was self defined and self realised, even if it is not conscious. But having a social care professional, with their own agenda, judge someones potential and whether they're meeting it, keeps the person as "It" - a project to be worked on and developed.

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