Thursday, 1 March 2012

The Procrustean Solution - Chapter 3

 Procrustean Solution (Procrustes [Προκρούστης] )

What, you may wonder, does this have to do with a case in the Family Court? It is in the presentation of evidence to the Court by the Social Services that falls foul to the Procrustean Solution.

Firstly who was Procrustes? He was a figure from Greek Mythology a blacksmith and bandit from Attica. He would invite travellers to spend the night in one of two iron beds. If the traveller was too big for the short bed Procrustes would chop off the traveller’s legs to fit the bed, if too short for the longer bed, he would be stretched to fit. The original one size fits all!

It's important when faced with a problem to consider it carefully and find a solution that fits it, rather than forcing it into a premixed solution, a Procrustean bed. Templates and models of past situations are useful, but it is they that must fit the empirical circumstances, not the other way around.
The local authority makes the bed—the solution—fit their needs. Doing this takes a lot of knowledge. Those in the local authority do not have the knowledge of a sufficient quality. If they had had it would not be so easily discovered that the bed of information presented in the Family Court case is so badly made.

It takes craft and skill to make the bed fit the sleeper. It requires one to listen carefully to the scope of the problems. What are the real problems? One must ask have we obtained enough information. Have we supplied the right information? Is the information supplied true?
Crafting the solution to fit the problem also means exercising informed choices. Deciding what's really important and what is fluff? The local authority used more fluff than fact in the hope that no one would notice. In this case someone did notice!
One must not try to envision how to make the solution work until the problem has been thoroughly understood by those being asked to adjudicate. The adjudicators to do this efficiently and to the best of their abilities must be supplied with all the available information. In too many cases the adjudicators are not supplied with the proper and true information. In layman's terms they are lied to.

It's too easy to take up the approach of Procrustes and adjust the problem to fit the solution. As the local authority does when presenting their information to the Court.  I fear that the local authority managers and some in executive positions approach this daunting issue by emulating the misguided Greek guy. Their answer is to stretch the problems on the rack until they see it as the perfect fit or they amputate those inconvenient parts of the problem that do not give them their desired result. If the child and parents involved suffer they do not care. The social services have the result they want regardless of the what the truth is.

Worse still, do they know when they are taking those kinds of actions or even worse,  are they  ashamed when their Procrustean tendencies are exposed.

It becomes business as usual with no thought given to the damage done to the individuals involved, so at many levels within the local authority the evil that is Procrustes and his bed survive unabated.

Sometimes the bed fits. But often it doesn't, and the result of the local authority trying to use their preconceived distorted elements and presenting them to the Court as the truth is extremely misleading and very dangerous especially when engaged as we are in legal action. We are not here dealing with some inanimate object. Here we are considering the long term care of a young child. In spite of this being a human tragedy the local authority decides to try and use methods to gain their aims by any means at their disposal without regard to the truth of the situation.

Ultimately, emulating Procrustes often results in the same fate he suffered. Having made their bed, the local authority will eventually be forced to recline in it, stretched to fit or sans legs.

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