At one of my Citizens Advice Bureau surgeries last week I encountered a 20-year-old male.
He came in all flustered. He thought he was going to be evicted from his home.
He had already been assured by the Housing Department that his landlord had no right to throw him out within that week as he threatened, but further questioning revealed that this young man who had "a million and one problems" needed to talk through other issues.
Now I am supposed to spend as short a time as possible with clients and then move them on to the next person, organization, appointment, government department or whatever.
But this chap needed to talk.
His housing issue was also clouded with questions over university, where or whether to go to university, and a job offer.
He was made an offer to one of the top universities but missed a grade. He missed a grade because he did not get to the exam centre in time. He was late because he was working the night shift. He was working the night shift because he needed the money to support himself.
His college appealed on his behalf and based on his course-work he was given a "C". Still he needed a "B".
We discussed his options regarding university. He does not want to go to his second-choice mickey-mouse university but at least he would have a roof over his head if he went there.
By this time I had concluded that this was clearly a very intelligent young man. I probed further and discovered that he had also been offered a job.
Young man tells me he did not think he could take on the job because he cannot afford to live locally and travel to the job. There was no way he could afford to live nearer the job either as the taxes and rent will be higher.
So we talked through the options again. Working from home, travelling after 9.30am, getting more money, a loan, etc, etc.
In the end we pinned it down to him making a case to his prospective employer that he needs either a loan of £X, a promise of a raise after n months, or a straightforward increase in starting salary to allow him to take on the job, help build the business.
I assured young man that he must have been so good at his work (IT) that he was offered a job without a degree.
OK, he said.
Don't let anything take that away from you.
OK, he said.
Do you know exactly how much money you are short?
Well, work it out and then ask for the difference. Not an airy-fairy "I need more money", but "I would need another £700, say, to take on this job and do it well."
OK, he did not say. He just looked at me.
Your prospective employer could only turn you down.
More puppy-dog look.
After the long session with him I realized that I was not much more than talking to him like a mother would.
But he had no mother or father to talk to. He left the family home at 17 because of personal differences.
You see the welfare system makes it possible for 17-year-olds to leave home and live "independently", but young people do not have a mother or father they could turn to for advice like this.
You do the sums.