Socialist Worker

Will Damned expose Tories’ cuts agenda in social work?

by Louise Harrisen
Issue No. 2524

The cast of Damned

The cast of Damned (Pic: Channel 4)


Bringing grim humour to a sitcom about social work is difficult territory to say the least. But that’s what Damned, a new Channel 4 show created by Jo Brand, attempts to do.

It centres on a team of social workers in children’s services. Their disorganisation, although exaggerated, reflects the chaotic environment that is the reality of the profession today.

The first episode introduces some of the team—a snitch, a permanent temp who is annoyingly chirpy, an autocratic manager and Brand’s closest colleague Al (Alan Davies).

Viewers will warm to the characters. So far the show has also done well with its take on the coping mechanisms and banter employed to see them through the day.

It attempts to submerge into an emotionally challenging environment and then emerge with humour.

“Good egg” Rose (Brand) has the air of someone who entered social work during the less judgmental 1980s, when there was an emphasis on assistance and enabling.

It’s a sharp contrast to today, where those suffering hardship are deemed to have brought it on themselves.

I think many in social work will identify with the show and find it funny. But the very subject matter is controversial.

It attempts to submerge into an emotionally challenging environment and then emerge with humour.

This could easily be seen as trivialising some of the darkest stuff that both workers and families have to face.

Selloffs

With council selloffs of buildings there’s not enough space for everyone to work. As yet the show hasn’t touched on hot-desking or “agile working” from multipe offices—also known as fragile working.

I’m interested to see where the programme goes and if it starts to tease out some of the real issues.

Social work is in crisis from massive cuts at a time when caseloads are going through the roof.

Social workers are under pressure to spend precious time providing endless box ticking and form filling.

Children’s social care is seriously threatened by privatisation. Senior management overflows with an array of overpaid, self-interested consultants and commissioners seeking to transfer services out of public control.

Protecting children and families should never be about profit. How far Brand goes to highlight some of these issues remains to be seen. But I’m going to give her the benefit of doubt.

Damned, Channel 4, Tuesdays, 9pm

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