[Dated on 23rd September 2013, but I'm only just publishing this.]
My mum has trouble paying the heating.
My mum HAD some trouble paying the heating, but we're not behind now.
Is there any financial help we can get?
Lady phones up first saying that mum has debt, but no, not really.
Me: Does she work?
Caller: 10 hours a week.
Me: She could try to find more work.
Caller interprets into East European language to her mum. I did not understand, but clearly her mum was not pleased.
Caller: She's worried that if they cut off her heating. Her cousin lives here with three children.
Me: Has she other benefits?
Caller: Only Housing Benefit.
Me: How much is getting?
Caller: £1020, but our rent is £1800.
Me: How many rooms do you have?
Me: She's likely to be done for fraud if she lets her cousin live there when she's on Housing Benefit.
Caller: O, the Council knows. We have reported change of circumstances.
Me: But she's not owing heating bills?
Caller: No, not now, but she's afraid that she can't pay.
Me: OK, I'm not sure if there's anything else we can do, apart from trying to work more hours.
Caller: Really, what you're telling me is irrelevant and you are upsetting my mother.
I took advice from supervisor.
Me: My supervisor said you could use this online calculator to find out whether she is getting all the benefits.
Caller: I want to talk to your supervisor.
Me: I have spoken to her and this is what she says. Check this out on xxxxx, and then if you have debts, we can help you restructure it.
Caller: What does that mean?
Me: We'll see who you are owing money to, and we'll see what your income and expenditure are. We then say, perhaps your mum could pay £5 a month until her debt is clear.
Caller: Has she got to pay it?
Me: Of course.
Caller: But this is not useful. We need help.
Me: I am trying to help. You said she is not really owing money any more.
Caller: She is. She's paying a little amount.
Me: How much and who is she owing?
Caller: I don't know. She has not got all the information.
Me: Then you must help her collect all this information and if she wants us to help her, we can help her.
Caller: You know, what you said earlier about her having to work longer hours is not nice because she is 56.
Me: (I heard 66.) How old did you say she is?
Me: I'm 56 [well, nearly]
Caller: But it's different. You speak English. She does not. She feels ashamed that after seven years here she still does not speak English. You know it's hard for old people to learn, not like me, I can learn it .... [on and on she went]
Me: Does she have debts? If she does, email or call us, and we'll arrange debt advice.
Caller: You know, my mum is so depressed she was trying to kill herself. If you don't help her, we're afraid she might ....
Me: Has she seen her GP?
Caller: Yes, but ... maybe it would be helpful to get her counselling.
Me: [thinking how to give her counselling when she does not speak English in an English speaking country] I am sorry to hear that, but you must make sure that the GP knows.
And on and on she went, not letting me get off the phone.
Caller: Just one minute?
Me: What is it about? You know what you have to do.
Caller: Just one minute. What is your name?
Me: [gave her my name, spelt it for her]. I'm a volunteer here, like many of the people here.
Caller: What's your extension number?
Me: What do you mean extension number?
Caller: An extension number is the line we can call directly.
Me: I don't have an extension number. I only do this Monday afternoons.
She finally hung up.
Then I learned that she rang up almost immediately and spoke to another volunteer demanding an appointment. Now she definitely has debts. Colleague spoke to supervisor and said, she does have debt we could try to apply for a grant.
Colleague: 'Grant'. That was what she was after.
The caller had wanted to be given 'free money' in the first place. Which explains why her mum was not pleased to be told she could work more hours, and her attempt at emotional blackmail about her mum trying to kill herself and all that.
Why should these people who never paid tax in this country be given £12000 a year of housing benefit in the first place? And to treat volunteers at an organization trying to help others?