I was talking to a teacher friend the other day. He teaches primary school children, and for the most part, he loves his job. However, he was telling me that if a child falls and hurts itself, or is upset for any reason, he can’t put his arms around that child and comfort it. Another child has to be found to give the hurt one a cuddle.
This is a horrible situation. Not just for the child – when children are hurt, or ill, or upset, they automatically reach for the nearest adult for comfort. When that adult is not available, the child becomes more upset, and it sends a terrible message that nobody cares.
And it’s painful for the adult too: it’s only natural to want to comfort a child in pain. I’m no child expert or psychologist, but I do remember my own childhood, and I have nieces and nephews. Plus, I’m a human being – I don’t think you need to be an expert to know such things.
But more worryingly, and more insidious, is the way this ridiculous policy erodes trust between children and adults. And plays right into the hands of those the rule-makers are trying to protect children from.
Almost all abuse to children happens within the home, and is perpetrated by family members or close family friends. By pandering to the type of people who will set fire to a paediatrician’s house, society is perpetuating a dangerous myth: children should be afraid of and mistrustful of adults.
This erosion of trust is becoming evident all around us: would most people now go to the aid of a lone child who fell over in a public place? Perhaps some would, but always in the back of your mind would be: what are they thinking? Do they suspect me of wishing harm to the child?
The culture of Criminal Record Bureau checks for absolutely everyone having anything at all to do with children is one of the most damaging things to have happened to British society in recent years. On a purely practical level it is a massive waste of time and money; and it doesn’t do what it was implemented to do. The Soham murders would not have been prevented if the system had been in place at the time.
What it does do, though, is discourage adults who want to give their time and energy to get involved with children’s activities. Guilty until proven innocent is the order of the day – is it any surprise volunteer levels are plummeting? Which has the knock-on effect that activities cease – which leaves many children with nothing to do.
Boredom is a terrible thing for kids – it leads them to get involved with activities they shouldn’t, take too many risks, and get into trouble. Life is worse for them, and everyone around them – particularly when anti-social behaviour becomes a way of life.
Communities are being eroded bit by bit, partly because they are naturally evolving, partly because people seem to have less time for each other. The type of policy that makes adults into monsters unless proven otherwise and teaches children that authority figures are to be feared, avoided and defied, is the nail in the coffin. I don’t think Britain is broken, but I think some people are having a bloody good go at breaking it.