Work as a practitioner probation officer or social worker brought me into contact with a whole range of other organisations: schools, youth services, employment services, psychiatric services, occupational therapy services, physiotherapy, clergy, health visitors etc. Each have their own characteristic organisational cultures that need to be understood in order to work effectively in partnership (beyond the alliances that develop ‘naturally’ through personal compatibility of outlook.)
Schools were crucial when working with young offenders. There was a common refrain whenever you tried to seek some individual attention and flexibility for a youngster in trouble – ‘we’re not social workers’! It took some time for me to grow up enough to take this seriously and stop seeing it as evidence of a lack of compassion and understanding. And it needed to be taken seriously – schools operated under considerable pressures (not a modern invention!). Maintaining control of the pupils was a tough job and the inability to do so was threatening both to the career and the mental well being of young teachers. Parents would be putting pressure on the school to get rid of ‘trouble makers’ so that attention could be given to those who wanted an education.