Sunday, 15 June 2014

Random Thoughts about Random People

Single mother tells me she is worried that by the end of the year when her daughter turns 20, she (meaning the mother) will be losing a range of benefits.

She went on to say, repeatedly, "I'm not having a go at you but" (which means that she was having a go at me as a representative of the 'system', which I am not) "there are all these people coming in and getting all these benefits. What do you expect her to do? Drop out of college? She will have to drop out of college, because I cannot afford the prescription charges, and so forth. It's unfair that there are no benefits for her just because she turns 20."

Hang on a minute, why does she assume that her daughter will need prescription charges? (This is the charge, currently £8 something, that one pays when filling a prescription at the chemist/pharmacist should a doctor thinks medication might help. It's the same charge no matter how dear the actual medication.)

Her 'all these people' obviously refers to the new immigrants.

Aged 20 and still on benefits? (Child Tax Credit and Child Benefits)

Come on, I was earning money to support my family at 18! Why is she here about her daughter any way? Surely her daughter should be the one seeing me to try to sort out her own affairs?

Went to my supervisor who said, well, those are the rules, there is very little we can do. Support for dependent children stop at 20, then they are expected to either work or go to university at which point they could get other benefits (student loans for undergrads and JSA for those 'job-seeking').

Her daughter is late in finishing training because she switched courses after one year. It was a decision she made.

Trying to help her I said, mum could still do some approved work for under 16 hours if she is on ESA (Employment and Support Allowance). In any case this mother was clearly physically fit. She refused to say why she was on ESA and had been on Income Support for such a long time. Was it something mental? She insisted that she was not capable of working.

Her daughter could also do some work during the holidays and weekends. Most young people do, not only for the money but also for the experience. I tried explaining that it would be good for her daughter to gain working experience.

Mother: "But she's working really hard at college."

There is only a six month gap between her birthday and her finishing her college course. Could she not try to build up some savings between now (June) and September (when the new term starts)? What about not having TV for six months? That's saving £12 a month on licence fees.

There are so many ways that mother and daughter could get around this problem, but no, "it is unfair that she does not get any help just because she is 20".

Fact is most of us as parents would simply pull our finger out and do something to support our children's education. We won't go whining about how it is 'unfair'. Life is unfair. Get used to it. It is unfair that having worked and lived here since 1992 I have not received a single penny of benefit. I have been a net giver to British society.

She and her family (she has older children) had been supported for all these years, ESA, CTC, CB, HB/CTR, etc. The family did not have to lift a finger to receive a steady income and a warm home. If they have not learned to do something for themselves -- empower themselves -- during all this time of public support, then the welfare system is not doing its part.

It is simply a culture of dependency that cannot continue.

Woman missed her citizenship ceremony and now she may lose her citizenship. Her husband insisted on speaking on her behalf. I said I would like his wife to speak instead.

He said her English was not so good.

'Not so good' would be an understatement. Or perhaps an overstatement. His wife has virtually zero English. So how on earth did she get her English certificate needed to get citizenship?

Your questions?


We see clients on a 'taxi-rank' system: whoever comes next. We cannot choose our clients. Although lately there have been many Tamil women clients who insisted on seeing our Tamil assessor, which is bad practice.

By sheer coincidence I saw the same Afghani man twice.

The first time he was really angry because he said he waited so long he missed going to the mosque (which was just across the road) to pray. I said it was nearly 3pm and I still had not the time to stop for lunch.

He thought we were useless as I refused to help him fill in some forms to get his son into a secondary school. At such-and-such CAB he said there were people who helped him complete all his forms.

You mean there was no one at the mosque who could help him? No.

I explained that my role was not to fill in forms. He has five children. He would have very many forms to fill in. Then he disclosed that he has English lessons five days a week. I suggested that he got his teacher to help him. Use the form as a practical exercise. I trained to teach English as a Second Language and I know that these are precisely the kind of work that teachers think are worth doing.

However if he was really stuck he could come back the following week and I will -- with the permission of my manager, as this is not within my role description -- try my best to help him.

I also made other suggestions as to how his family, in particular his wife, would do well to try to learn as much English as possible. There are libraries. Borrow CDs. Do not watch TV. Listen to the radio. Read books. He listened with intent. His eyes said he was really keen to learn.

He did not come back the following week for help with the forms. Good. That means he was able to find help.

But he was back last week with another issue. He was smiling.

I said you must have thought it was a bit 'off' that this little Chinese woman was telling him, a grown Muslim man, what to do. He smiled and said, 'yes!' But he also realised that what I said was helpful.

Again we could not actually help with his current problem. I did manage to show him how to make an online appointment at the local government office and briefed him as to what he needed to say to the officers there. It transpires that he was really keen for his daughters to have a good education. Good for him, I thought.

Yesterday I met him in town, wife and two children in tow. He recognized me and stopped me and smiled and was really friendly. I asked vaguely if everything was OK. He replied vaguely that everything was. I smiled to his wife, who looked really nervous, and went on my way.

I could have got very upset with his whining about his missing his Friday prayers the first time. But now I hope and pray I have made a start in getting him to help himself and family, and in particular his wife and daughters, to become a net contributor to British society.

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