The managers were pleased that I was back this week after this episode last week. Told them that I would tell clients off the next time if they mess with my fellow volunteers.
It was an interesting session.
First up I was able to tell this elderly gentleman (after I've organized an appointment for him) who could not speak much English (his son was speaking for him) that it would do him and his wife a lot of good to learn to speak good English.
I said otherwise they would not be able to communicate with their grandchildren. His son agrees, but elderly gentleman was not so keen.
We (ie anthropologists) see this all the time. Elderly migrants who become prisoners in their own homes because a lack of English means they can't go any where on their own.
Grandchildren speak English fluently. Migrants think they must preserve their own language and culture, insisting their grandchildren speak it. In the end they lose it because they do not have the English to tell their grandchildren about their own rich culture and history.
What a pity. (In this particular case it is all Joanna Lumley's fault!)
Then I had a young woman who appeared to just want to hear her own voice. Laugh if you must. There are lots of lonely people who have no one to talk to in their own homes.
She had several problems. My task was to get her to see the separation between the bureaucratic (requirement that she signed on at a particular centre) and the affective (apprehension about her treatment there as she has an outstanding complaint about this particular job centre).
She wondered about making an appeal for four months of "loss of income" (ie loss of JobSeekers Allowance when she tried to claim ESA, a higher-value benefit). Really she did not have a case as she had refused to undergo those tests that her GP had ordered.
(I nearly said "she did not have a leg to stand on", but if she really did not have a leg to stand on, then she would surely get her ESA! O, never mind!)
The GP could not, in honesty, sign her off, and so her application was rejected.
To be honest, at one point I nearly lost my patience with her. This client thought she knew better than her GP and refused to take those tests. What help could I or anyone give in this instance if she thinks the GP is not good enough?
She was speaking gently, always politely, but you could see she is just such a troubled soul. The measured way in which she spoke suggested a certain "tightness" (for want of a better word) in her being.
After I sorted the one problem I could help her with I asked "would it not be better if she let go of trying to claw back the 4 months of benefits that she felt she had been deprived of and instead focus on the future".
She is still alive, she has a future to look forward to, why spend all her time and nervous energy thinking, "O! I should have been given those benefits."
How about trying to do something positive to make her future more of what she always wanted it to be instead of being dependent on benefits?
Yes, she missed her benefits for four months, but the fact that she found the strength to survive that shows she is capable of doing better. Look at this experience positively.
As I said that it appeared that a light came on in her head. Her face lit up. She started agreeing with everything I was saying.
In the end she declared that she would now go to do the thing she said she was fearful of doing when she first came into my office. With a smile. :)
She was also sign-posted to a good counselling service.
Then a single mother who was "sanctioned" (penalized for not doing enough "job-seeking"). We talked about her problem. We talked through her problem: what she needed to do. And then I thought, "Hmm, is it worth talking AROUND her problem?"
I suggested that she might think about using her other skills to earn some money (ie start a business) instead of relying on benefits and the poor (non)advice the Job Centre seemed to be giving her. She agreed that she should do so.
She then told me she is a good cook. I suggested ways she could explore making her skills known, maybe get a shop to sell some of her food, let people know she could do that kind of work, ready to launch her own business if not now, then later on.
Yes, it is difficult now with a 10-year-old to care for, but 10-year-olds will eventually grow up.
I said if we were in a non-welfare state we would be cooking and making things to sell to make some money.
She agreed. She would very much like to do that. But in this country there is such a mountain of health and safety regulations to get over, it guarantees that it is much easier to rely on benefits than to think about starting one's own business.
If only we could have a way of co-ordinating a few good (women) cooks to prepare meals-on-wheels -- in this case for the Asian community with their specific dietary requirements -- would that not be wonderful? Local jobs for the local community.
Jobseekers get to do something. The community benefits. The taxpayers are not worse off.
On the whole I thought it was a good session. I don't think I was able to help these clients directly (the other advisers would be doing that) but I think (I like to think) that I had planted seed thoughts in these clients and I do hope that their future would be much brighter, much happier, as a result of their resolution to do something for themselves.
Maybe I should apply for a job at the Job Centre ....