After thirty years, Neil Morrissey (the stupid one from Men Behaving Badly) returns to the care home where he was sent to live as a 10-year-old child. This first of two episodes is certainly worth a watch, as Neil drags up old but not quite forgotten memories of a splintered past.
While confronting a youth spent without family, he struggles to understand the reasons he was placed in care. In his own words, he and his brother, also taken away from the family home in Stafford, were simply “little scallywags” – not deserving of such a harsh seperation. They’d been stealing sweeties, playing in lifts. As Neil looks through the official court case records that led to his being taken away, he discovers a cheeky 10-year-old boy nicking liquorice and bits of rope with his older brothers.
Neil’s time in the home, although he was clearly smarting from the seperation, passed relatively peacefully before he was chucked out aged 18. However, he finds those that were much more at risk – amongst them, a man torn away from his family at six-years-old, and sentenced to care with a paedophile. Of the children he knew in the home, he tracks down two women, his former friends, that have suffered a lifetime of pain as a result of their father’s domestic violence. As little girls they called the police and asked to be taken away, knowing they weren’t safe at home.
Compared to such trauma, Neil’s crimes do seem trivial. He describes climbing out through a window while his parents weren’t in, and tieing the street’s door knockers together, so that when one door opened each down the street would knock. Pretty ingenius, and undoubtably pretty irritating, but did it constitute a threat to society? If not, where do we now draw the line between slapping an ASBO on a kid and dismissing bad behaviour as youthful hijinx? Just William would surely have clocked up a few ankle tags by today’s standards. Even more troubling is the nagging question of whether many kids guilty of nothing more than naughtiness were exposed to damaging, abusive situations as a result of the care system.