Friday, 30 September 2011

How welfare culture evolves (2)

When the receptionist handed me the client's thick pile of case notes I noticed my own handwriting in changing the address. The size of the file tells me this is a "chronic client", someone who has come back again and again.

"Do I really want to see him?"

It was a rhetorical question. We run on a taxi-rank system (not unlike QCs on legal aid in that manner). We take on any client without prejudice (theoretically). We cannot refuse to see a client unless the client specifically asked to see someone else instead. This has never happened to me, but some clients refused to see our younger volunteers a second time saying they were useless, which is unkind.

Any way I saw this man who looked vaguely familiar, but I could not actually place him. But as he spoke I realized it was the man who "you people" me in a previous post. This was the man who started my bread-baking career!

His face has grown rounder. Obviously he has been eating a bit better.

We have managed to sort out all his (deep breath) income support, housing benefits, council tax benefit, carer's allowance as well as attendance allowance, housing benefits, council tax benefits, pension, etc for his father.

Yesterday he wanted to find out whether his father, his mother (in a nursing home, with attendance allowance, income support or is it pension credit?, and all related benefits) and he could go on a holiday to India for 12 weeks without losing their benefits. We are talking here of nursing home costing the taxpayer about £500 A WEEK.

At least he is polite this time. He learned not to mess with me.

Then I saw another couple who had worked in the UK, returned to their own country, and have now returned to look for sheltered accommodation.

They had questions about "heating", which I interpreted as "winter fuel payment" worth £400, and how to apply for that. We looked up information and assured them that they qualify for this payment being in the country on the third Monday of September. There is no need to apply.

Then they went on to ask if, because they are living temporarily with their daughter, she is entitled to any extra support.

Further questioning revealed that their daughter is actually quite well off: owns her house, has a job, not on any benefits other than Child Benefit (which is universal, for now any way). But this elderly couple wanted to know if the taxpayers should subsidize their stay with her. They are already in receipt of state pension and pension credit.

But nothing beats the man I remember from several months back. He's been separated from his partner. His son lives with his ex-partner but is planning to come live with him.

This man wanted to know whether he is entitled to any benefits for having his son live with him (if the son decided to do so).

I checked. Nineteen-year-old son. Big problem. They fall within no-man's-land. It depends on whether they are in full-time education or in a job. No benefits, I'm afraid. Besides we ought to be seeing his son to advise him, not the father.

Then this, "O, I just wanted to know if the government would support him. Or that simply because he is my son, you know, I brought him into the world, am I supposed to be responsible for him?"

Answer on a postcard, please.

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