Thursday, 20 May 2010

Lessons in Punctuality

One day a few months ago I was sitting in the office on the telephone enquiring after the status of one of our resident's housing benefit (they wont do it themselves) when Jerry, 19, decided to turn up ten minutes late for his support work meeting with me. I jestured to Jerry, who was standing at the window looking in to the office, that I would be another three or four minutes. He shook his head in disbelief and outrage and started to pace up and down outside the window. After about a minute, he started to knock frantically on the window and started tapping on his watch. I don't know what his rush was as he is unemployed and has all week to walk around gormlessly. Anyway, he had arrived late for his meeting so he had no right to be indignant as far as I was concerned. However, I decided to end the call with the council and have stern words with Jerry. I called him in to the office and before I could get a word in he was venting his frustrations.

"I shouldn't be kept waiting I have things to do and we had a meeting arranged. Anyway, what's this latest letter threatening me with eviction for? I have a rent repayment plan and have been paying it so you lot need to get off my back!" lectured Jerry.

"First of all Jerry, you were late for your meeting with me so I don't have to justify or apologise to you for having to wait. Now, whilst we are on the subject of tardiness let's talk about the issue of rent, something you are almost always late with and frequently avoid paying all together. Now, the thing with a rent repayment plan Jerry is that in having one you are suppoused to comply with it. You, in fact, have had three over the past four months and have not abided with any of them consistently. Even when you were working (he was recently sacked for constantly arriving late and being absent) you didn't pay all your rent. When I would try to talk to you about it you would become rude, dismiss me with a wave of your hand and would walk off. When I did manage to pin you down you would try to haggle with me on how much rent you felt was reasonable for you to pay (I did try to explain to him that rent was not a haggable commodity but I did admire his persistence in this delusion). This latest warning letter will be your last and the next letter you get will be your notice so we need to sit down and work out how you are going to sort out your rent arrears. At the end of the day I will take no pleasure in seeing you evicted and am disappointed that you recently lost your job. However, the first thing you need to do is apply for Housing Benefit, which you should have done a few weeks ago when you were sacked. We have already had this conversation twice...."

And so ended another frustrating keywork session and like so many others I have worked with Jerry failed to even manage to get his Housing Benefit sorted and we eventually evicted him. He returned to live with his Mother who like Old Mother Hubbard had so many kids she didn't know what to do. I wish that we had effective policies to assist the likes of Jerry to make progress in their lives. Young men like Jerry exist because as a society we have failed to inculcate them with the very basic of lifeskills. Supported Housing is supposed to ameliorate these problems but it so often just entrenches and perpetuates fecklessness and dependency.

On a more positive note, the nice people at the Orwell Prize have awarded me with this year's blog prize. To say I am honoured is an understatement. I started this blog initially as a form of catharsis and never imagined it would receive such prestigious recognition.

47 comments:

cheeky chappy said...

CONGRATULATIONS Winston. Couldn't have gone to a more deserving writer. Fantastic blog and well justified. Really really chuffed for you mate. Nice one! All the best and keep up the award winning work.

Jonathan said...

As a longtime lurker, may I be the first to congratulate you on the award. It is richly deserved.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on winning the Orwell Prize, Winston - it's well deserved.

Another great post. People like Jerry are unbelievable. Like you say, they cannot even be bothered to claim free money and when things go wrong someone always picks up the pieces for them.

Alex

P.S Can you please blog more regularly?

Anonymous said...

A well-deserved win.

I have sent a link to your blog to my new MP. Let's hope it gets read by people who can get things changed for the better and enable people like you to do their jobs effectively without copping it from all sides.

Anna

Georgina said...

Many congratulations on the Orwell win. It's well deserved.

Fishpaste said...

Congratulations! That is excellent news and very well deserved. Your cathartic efforts have an impact far beyond any white paper, consultation or review. Please keep this blog going. We need to know what actually happens in our name with our money.
Thank you for shedding a light on your world.

jester. said...

jestured

You gestured but in a witty, jokey, pranky way?

Anonymous said...

Wonderful news on your award. Can we hope that it might encourage the new guvmint to pay a bit more attention to the view from the front line?

Best,

Ray.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations!

Nelly said...

Well done Winston. I'm always pleased to see a new post from you. I did the job myself for seven years. Three years out of it now with no regrets.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on the prize Winston, it's well deserved. You have a fascinating and informative blog.

Anonymous said...

WELL DONE WINSTON!!!! Fully deserved..

I check every day to see if you have updated your blog and always find it interesting to read. Please keep writing it..

Bonny

Anonymous said...

WELL DONE WINSTON!!!! Fully deserved..

I check every day to see if you have updated your blog and always find it interesting to read. Please keep writing it..

Bonny

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Congratulations! Your blog is excellent, I hope you carry on writing
Bendy Girl

SadButMadLad said...

Congratulations. It's what you deserve for all the hard work you do both in trying to help your charges as well in letting the wider world learn about the hidden world of social work.

Oswald Bastable said...

Congratulations and well-deserved!

TonyF said...

Well Done! Thanks too for the huge insights into your work.

VanDee said...

Congratulations Winston! About someone got some acclaim for telling the painful truth.

Put me down for a paper copy of your book when it appears; there's a space next to Gadget's and Copperfield's all ready for it!

novelist said...

Winston, first, congrats on your award.
Now, I have been reading this blog, and am truly appalled by the totally useless state of the system.
You'll probably find me reactionary. I come from what was a small village near Liverpool, and in it used to be a "special" school. For naughty boys. And it was nothing like your environment.
The boys wore canvas clothes and wooden clogs and did a lot of manual labour.
I often think of that school when I read your blog and have a tendency to think that it would be a better solution than what you do.
Secondly, where I now live - Mexico - there is a national youth service scheme. Basically ALL youths have to perform one year of social service amounting to about 5 weeks of actual work. This is usually painting schools in poor areas, visiting old persons homes, etc etc.
And IT WORKS.
Without completing social service a person does not legally become an adult, is not permitted to marry or buy a house.
Are you in favour?

Anonymous said...

Congratulations!

Roue le Jour said...

Congratulations, well deserved.

It is a basic principle of socialism that it rewards failure and punishes success. Yours is the only blog that spells out the inevitable consequences of such a policy.

ray said...

Congratulations. I just hope that your anonymity remains intact.

GM said...

I came over here when I read about your winning the Orwell Prize (for which many congratulations). I was hooked straight away, as only a middle class man with no experience of that other nation which you are seeking to help can be. You, Frank Chalk, Theodore Dalrymple - you are the under-valued giants of a society governed by people from a class that would rather not know what is going on elsewhere. We are indeed Two Nations. Perhaps that is why the systems created by one nation, and which you have to implement, are so hopeless in dealing with the other one?

Anyway, this may provide you with catharsis; it provides us with invaluable insight that I think might just make us appreciate our own circumstances rather more, even while we despair about others.

Anonymous said...

It would have been easy to make big fun at Jerry's expense, but instead you chose to illuminate the gaps that exist in our society.
Social commentary often doesn't "finish the story" as you have. Well done.

Shawn Anthony

Jess said...

Interesting enough to see the view from the "front line" although I can't help but think Winston ought to put himself in his clients' shoes. For a perspective from the "underclass" take a look at www.inmyshoesnorthlondon.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on winning Winston, I hold the same views and outlooks as yourself. As I have posted before I am a product of a care system that was allowed to discipline and expect certain standards to be upheld. The fact I am a good citizen now with a career, family and a balanced outlook is testament that way does indeed work.

Keep fighting the good fight, without people like you in the system there is no hope for those who want, and can be, helped.

Anonymous said...

Well done Winston - I'm a new reader, drawn by your winning this award and I can immediately see why you've won. Ace stuff.

Jobbing Doctor said...

Dear Winston,

Many congratulations on the blog award.

Richly deserved and one of the few "must read" blogs.

The Jobbing Doctor

Uncle Nick said...

Congratulations on winning the prize - don't spend the brass all at once, but do spend it on beer.

Novelist, I am writing this from England but Mexico DF has been my home since 1992. If you believe that the social work programme is anything other than a scam then you are living in a dream. You can get out of it as my son just has by paying the right amount of pesos.

The TEFL Tradesman said...

Well done, and well-deserved, Winston. I would add you to my blog roll, but we're not in the same game - and I do like to keep things nice and tidily pigeon-holed!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations. It's the least you deserve!

John said...

Congratulations on your award. Also, I would like to thank you for sharing your writings.

In this blog you wrote "Young men like Jerry exist because as a society we have failed to inculcate them with the very basic of lifeskills."

I'm curious, do you think "society" has any responsibility to teach basic lifeskills? Please don't take me wrong, I would like to just start a healthy discussion on this point.

Ambulance Amateur said...

BIG congrats Winston

TheBinarySurfer said...

Found your blog via PC Blogg's notes on the orwell prize. Very interesting and more than a touch reaffirming of my beliefs regarding the paddlers in the gene pool.

Anonymous said...

Go on then. I'll join everyone and say it was a victory for us all when u got this. But I'd like to ask a question of anyone. If I email this blog to eveyone in my company obviously I expect another meeting with bosses and HR but how bad can they get on me for that? Sebastian dangerfield.

Lilliput said...

Well done Winston!!!!

Eddie Willers said...

Heartfelt congratulations on winning the Orwell Prize, Winston. A double-plus-good blog with nary a sign of duckspeak!

Lilyofthefield said...

"as a society we have failed to inculcate them with the very basic of lifeskills"
I prefer to place the blame on his parents.

JuliaM said...

Congrats! You were the best candidate in a very strong field, which makes the victory all the more sweet.

Anonymous said...

This is fantastic news, Winston!

I've been reading your blog since extracts appeared in the Daily Mail and would like to echo earlier sentiments that you post more regularly. As a regular reader, I find your posts both cathartic and inspirational.

I was homeless at the age of 16 and whilst I tried to get help from social services, no-one lifted a finger. Left on my own I managed to claw my way through college; into University and into a career that will enable me to pay back the taxpayers who anonymously and unknowingly helped me through. Whilst I was resentful of a social care system that didn't care for me when I needed it, your blog has provided me with the hindsight to now be incredibly glad to have dodged that particular bullet!

Thank you and please do keep it up.
A Trenchard

Rob said...

As a long time lurker and reader, I just wished to add my congratulations. The award is richly deserved.

Ostendaise said...

OH!! Congratulations Winston!!! You really deserve it. So, are you rich now?
;-)

statusviatoris said...

I have just today been pointed in the direction of your blog, so I would first like to congratulate you on the well-deserved accolade. The subject matter you address is a revelation, and seems to underline yet again the fact that building up peoples' sense of responsibility (rather than their sense of entitlement) is the only way that we can save generations of young people who have been let down by the breakdown in the family unit and a welfare state that is an enabler of sloth and degradation. Keep up the good work. I will definitely be keeping up with your posts!

rogh said...

Firstly, congratulations on Orwell Prize - well earned, you work in a truly Orwellian line of business.

Respectfully, I pick up a hint of authoritarianism in your approach to 'Jerry'. I guess you need to gas with the council for minutes on end and be locked up in an office, but that all feels a bit heavy managerial to me and I have done management, but not in your line of trade.

'Jerry' does not seem so different from many 19 year old males. Most middle-class 19 year old males get to cut the apron-strings at uni and on the 'gap-year'. After which time they are fairly human.

Am I guessing when I think 'Jerry' does not read and write so well. Who has taught Jerry to drive a car? Who has held his hand down at the Job Centre? Who has had a chat with Jerry to say - "look mate, you're not in the position of most lads your age, your going to have to grow up real fast, or you'll be in complete s**t". Who has sent Jerry on a gap year? No-one, because it costs money and the Daily Mail would be screaming from now till doomsday if the public purse paid.

Not your problem, but we have to ask "what is social care meant to achieve?".

Pip said...

I also work in this field and have for many years, reading your blog is like a day at work. The most problematic young people are mainly from Children's homes and Social Services as they do not seem to understand what is or isnt acceptable. Empowerment comes from enabling them to do things for themselves not doing it for them. Which idiot in Social Services decided that the young in care would have a goffer that they call personal assistants, no wonder they have not developed the independance needed to progress and grow. I am sure that they could have given this role more credence by coming up with a more suitable title instead of certain individuals thinking that they had their own servant. I believe in the choices and consequences approach I also will not deal with a client who is being abusive, aggressive or violent until they have clamed down - frustrating to many but I believe in straight talking, manners and boudaries, the clients job to kick against them and my job to keep them in place.
Keep up the good work

Louise said...

However, it is still a human tragedy when any individual is driven to suicide or overdoses. Granted humanity probably hasn't lost any potential nobel prize winners but I still find it very tragic.

How could you possibly know that? Ever heard of Ernest Hemingway? I live in a university town and psychiatric break downs are common. Some of these highly intelligent people are driven to suicide. I don't think you know what you're talking about.

Dick the Prick said...

Bravo!