What would it feel like to be forced to change your career, be prevented from working with the people you choose, in the job you love and are skilled at, all because, during a time when you weren't at your best due to illness, you made a mistake?
Today I met a lady who is trying to put her life back together after this pretty much happened to her. The mistake she made was, admittedly, quite serious and potentially dangerous, but in the end noone died or was harmed.
At the time the lady explained that she was suffering from depression, and had allowed herself and her home to get into a mess. An unfortunate accident alerted neighbours, who raised the alarm. Having 2 children at home meant that social services got involved, and the lady was served a caution for child neglect. and yet, rather than being treated with compassion and support, this single mum was made a pariah.
Of course when cases like Baby P hit the headlines we are all sickened and are desperate to see more stringent measures against child abuse. Remorselessly abusive individuals must be prevented from having access to children and other vulnerable people, and somehow the law must deal with this.
However when decent, ordinary people get into difficulties due to personal circumstances and health issues, it's extremely sad that they are tarred with the same brush instead of getting the help and support they need.
As a result of her mistake, as a result of others' insensitivity and prejudice, and as a result of inflexible new legal restrictions, this intelligent and articulate lady now finds herself with a criminal record, no career as she was sacked from her job, and total uncertainty about the kinds of references her former employers are writing for her.
Nevertheless she is taking action, looking for new opportunities for herself and not allowing herself to dwell on the injustice she feels she has experienced.
We all make mistakes. We'd like to think that we can be forgiven for them. Instead this courageous lady will carry a prison sentence around with her for the rest of her life.
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