Can We Ever Remain Neutral?
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” Bishop Desmond TutuRobert McAfee Brown in his 1984 book, Unexpected News: Reading the Bible with Third World Eyes
The quote above comes from Anti-Apartheid Campaigner and Nobel Peace Prize winning Bishop Desmond Tutu who passed away recently. He was an outspoken advocate for fairness and challenged injustice wherever he saw it. In the aftermath of Apartheid, alongside Nelson Mandela, he helped set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to look at restorative justice in South Africa.
Even though he had a strong friendship with Mandela, he did on occasion criticise both him and the ANC for the way they handled power. This was a man who did not shy away from criticising those in positions of authority. However, he always looked for a method of reconciliation so people could move forward. Or, as we would describe on our training, he looked for the “win win” outcome.
Restraint In The News
The last year we’ve seen a number of articles where the vulnerable needed people to stand up for them. There have even been reports of children handcuffed on transport. Over Christmas there was an article about a man with autism described as the ‘loneliest man in the hospital’.
Given the quote from Desmond Tutu above, perhaps we need to examine how to support the most vulnerable in society. If we are neutral on handcuffing children then, we have perhaps, chosen to endorse it.
Duty of Candour
Unfortunately, society often only responds to these issues once it hits the national press. We are horrified. Then there are calls for change. The public might ask why nothing is being done? We might even see some charities do a press release calling on the government to change the law. But, it all seems quite familiar, we have been here before.
We must all do our part to eliminate poor practice in education, health and social care. It isn’t enough to ask other people to do it. We must stand up to the elephant (as Bishop Tutu would say). As a certified organisation, we have an obligation to identify bad practice and report it appropriately. We also have a moral obligation to do so. We are fortunate that the vast majority of organisations we have worked with since 1994 have been forward thinking and positive.
What To Do About Restraint?
When we work with organisations, we don’t just deliver training on managing behaviour or focus on restraint reduction. We spend time working with staff to understand behaviour that challenges and why it occurs. We try to look behind the behaviour to see if we can develop strategies to decrease interventions. This, in turn, will help improve the quality of life for all.
It is important to remember that many staff are working long shifts with complex challenges alongside an increasing amount of red tape. Increasing pressure has been applied to staff during this global pandemic. This means just telling them what to do is ineffective and will often breed resentment and reduce transparency.
Our philosophy has always been to work with staff and organisations to focus on reducing interventions. We do this by increasing engagement and helping people feel safe. The focus of our training programme is one of understanding why things happen, so we can more appropriately respond to people in times of crisis.
James Hourihan, Director Timian Learning and Development
Robert McAfee Brown in his 1984 book, Unexpected News: Reading the Bible with Third World Eyes