When Gerry, the project manager, was informed of Jim’s attempted assault and verbal abuse of an elderly woman he decided to issue Jim with one week’s notice to vacate the premises. I would have also liked to have issued him with a size ten boot up the arse, but I bet if I checked with the policy department it would not be in line with our “anti-oppressive” policy. Gerry summoned Jim to the office and asked him to explain his actions of the previous day. Needless to say Jim denied all knowledge of the incident, so we showed him the video evidence of his thuggery. Gerry then handed him written notice, which he was unable to read, that he had one week with which to vacate the premises. Jim now having nothing to lose felt no need to contain or regulate his behaviour to any degree, not that he had much previous success in this regards in the first place. He erupted in a tirade of verbal abuse infused with self pity and an attempt at emotional blackmail.
“You fucking bastards, you have no idea how hard it is for me. My bloody parents don’t want me either. If Im kicked out of here Im going to kill myself.”
Well Jim I have no idea of how hard it is being you, but if it’s anything like working with you I can imagine it’s no picnic. The sad and unfortunate thing is we could help young men like Jim if we were able to use discipline and authority to put them on the right path.
Neither myself or Gerry responded to Jim’s attempt at emotional blackmail. Just another idle threat from the idle minded as far as I was concerned. Even if I thought he were to do it I would still want him evicted. Suicide would be his choice and not our fault. Threats of his imminent demise having not rescinded his eviction required more direct and immediate efforts to get what he wanted. He continued to shout and swear at us and at several points raised his mobile phone above his head as if to throw it at me or Gerry. Thankfully, instead of lashing out at us, he began to repeatedly punch himself very hard in the face. And they say corporal punishment doesn’t work? Who knows? Perhaps this lad needed some of it so bad and having never had it in a more civilized and restrained manner when he needed it, now in his adult years he is willing to inflict it on himself. I hope one or two of those punches he directed at himself is in retribution for his abuse of that old woman. Jim’s losing battle with his own fists led Gerry to offer a glimmer of hope to the young hooded weasel.
“Well Jim, you can always appeal my decision, as is your right, to the Area Business Manager. In fact, she will be here later today and if you get your Support Worker to help you write the letter of appeal she might rescind your eviction and put you back on the ABC.”
Here we go again I thought. Jim’s support worker, Neil, a nice kind soul, who tends to give everyone the benefit of the doubt was about to once again be complicit in making excuses for Jim’s loutish behaviour. Although an ignorant semi-literate rogue, Jim knew exactly the kinds of buzz words to drop in his appeal letter. He instructed his secretary, I mean support worker, to write that due to his ‘drug problem’ he had ‘anger management’ problems and that he had been told he would have counselling arranged to help him with these issues and that as it wasn’t forthcoming he continued to have problems with his behaviour. In other words, his anti-social behaviour was not his own fault, but that of the project for not having acquired him the right kind of support. In fact, Jim had actually never proactively sought counselling, but had merely agreed to it if it were arranged for him as he used his weed habit as an excuse for why he never paid the extra rent of ten pounds from his Jobseeker's Allowance not covered by housing benefit. He agreed because he knew that as part of the conditions of his accommodation he is required to engage with support. In other words, he was merely telling us what he thought we wanted to hear to ensure he could have a roof over his head to take drugs in the evening.Neil seemed to concur with Jim’s abdication of personal responsibility as he explained to me.
“Well, he has a point we did offer to get him counselling months ago in relation to his drug use and anger management issues and then failed to get it sorted for him,” Neil stated.
“Well, in the first instance we suggested that to him he never sought it. Did he ask about it again or has he only brought it up now that he is faced with consequences for his actions? Surely if it was something he wanted sorted he would have asked about it since? Instead he has continually taken drugs on a daily basis and has regularly been aggressive in his dealing with staff and his peers,” I pointed out.
“No, he never got back to us again about it now that you mention it,” perhaps Neil was beginning to see the true picture.
“This is how I see it, he’s terrified of getting kicked out and is telling us exactly what he thinks we want to hear in order to get us off his back. His anger and aggressive outbursts are not due to his cannabis habit, but due to the fact that he is a lout and has never suffered serious consequences for aggressive behaviour. Anyone, who knows anything about cannabis, knows that it subdues and chills people out and doesn’t fuel aggression,” I reply.
All of a sudden, Jim’s fellow recipient of an ABC and partner in roguery, Kyle, strolls in to the office without knocking to offer his opinion on his friend’s hopefully imminent eviction.
“I hear you lot are evicting Jim? You are all a bunch of cunts! I want a complaint form.”
As it’s his right, obviously, Gerry gets him one and hands it to him and informs him of the Area Business Manager’s address to post it to. I challenge Gerry for not having dealt with allowing both himself and his staff to be verbally abused in such a way.
“Gerry, one of the clauses of Kyle’s ABC that you signed is that he must not be verbally abusive to any members of staff and that to do so will lead to notice. Therefore, he should now be getting marching orders.”
“If we give Kyle an eviction notice it will only exacerbate problems with the other residents who will think it harsh and are already being quite boisterous in their objection to Jim’s eviction. Besides Kyle wasn’t threatening in his verbal abuse,” responded Gerry.
I didn’t know that verbal abuse was only considered verbal abuse when imbued with violent undertones. So is it ok for me to be called a c*nt by someone I help and support as long as they are not holding a knife or the leg of a chair when they are doing it?
“What’s the point then in having ABCs if we don’t back them up with the consequences stated within them? They are just meaningless pieces of paper. Besides, it’s not fair or consistent to give Jim notice for violating his ABC and ignore Kyle’s transgression for the sake of expediency. I say we make sacrificial lambs of Kyle and Jim and get rid of them so as to send out the message that we will not tolerate any kind of verbal abuse or threatening behaviour towards staff, fellow residents or in the neighbourhood. Their example will be a deterrent to the others and act as a bulwark against any such future behaviour. We need to be tough to protect the decent residents and staff against anti-social behaviour.”
Gerry heedlessly dismisses my suggestion that he be consistent in carrying out his stated consequences for violation of the ABCs. He has became slightly irate with me and changed the subject. The voice of reason and common sense is often dealt with by ignoring or suppressing it or not offering a counter argument. Why? Well the idealistic, ultra-liberal approach to anti-social behaviour is the one currently espoused by policy makers and as we can see all around us in the wider society it is failing.
The Area Business Manager came and heard Jim’s appeal and as I suspected her heart bled and she rescinded his notice when she read the eloquent letter of appeal written by his Support Worker documenting how both drugs and anger are issues for Jim causing him problems in his life and how he now wishes to have support to deal with them. The people that work with Jim talk to him as if his heavy drug use and anger were forces outside of himself as opposed to behaviours over which he has some choice in whether he indulges in or not. Anyway, the ABM gave him a stay of execution. His ABC was updated and a new clause stated that a counsellor would be arranged for him to help him with his drug and anger problems. A week later Jim had his first session with the counsellor, at the project of course, we couldn’t expect Jim to make his way to the counselling centre only a twenty minute walk away. We also had to wake him to remind him the counsellor had arrived. The session was so successful that to celebrate afterwards Jim went out and got very stoned as I could tell from the stink of skunk weed off his clothes and breath when he returned.
A week later, I had Jim down in the office to talk to him about sneaking in several teenage girls in to the building after visiting hours. He could have booked one of them in as an overnight guest, but then that would have been doing things by the book, an alien concept to Jim. As usual, and despite now being counseled for his anger problems, he was defensive, stubborn and argumentative as I explained to him that he had broken the house rules whilst still on an ABC which could lead to immediate eviction. As he has heard this several times before whilst on his previous ABC and before that his final warning, Jim failed to be perturbed by the threat of eviction. His recent experiences having led him to believe that we say one thing and do another.
Whilst he was in the office, Terry reminded him that he was behind in his rent repayment plan. Jim had been failing to pay thirty pounds every two weeks from the ironically entitled Job Seeker’s allowance of which he was in receipt. Jim is more of a cannabis and ketamine seeker than a pursuer of employment. Jim has to pay ten pound and ten pence a week from this benefit towards his rent. As he is in arrears of over three hundred pounds due to the purchase of illicit substances a repayment plan was drawn up several months ago. Why does he need a plan to pay rent? Does anyone in the real world plan the paying of bills? Despite the plan and several personal assistants to remind him of the plan, Jim didn’t keep to the plan as he had a plan to get off his head that clashed with the plan to pay his rent. Terry’s reminding him that spiraling arrears and non-payment of his share of the rent will eventually lead to eviction evoked indignation in Jim as opposed to self reflection.
“It’s not fair, having to pay that thirty pounds for rent that only leaves me with seventy quid to have a life for the rest of the two weeks.”
‘To have a life’ as Jim sees it, is much different from the many varied but accepted standards of what a life of quality should consist.
“What do you mean by ‘have a life’ Jim?”
“Well, I want to go out with my mates and stuff. Like next weekend I’m going out to a rave with my mates and I’ll need lots of money for that as I’m going to get off my head.”
‘Stuff’ is Jim’s euphemism for stealing, robbing, assault, verbal abuse, threats and all manner of anti-social behaviour just in case you were confused and thought it meant perhaps learning to read properly or volunteering in the community.
“That’s not really part of the support we are meant to give you by helping you budget for partying (although a rookie support worker had done a budget plan with Jim where 20 quid a week was allocated towards cannabis). Mainly, we are here to help you become independent in managing with day to day life skills and paying your rent is the top of that list. Continue not to pay it and you will be evicted.”
“For fuck sakes, between paying rent and court fines you lot would be happy for me to be stuck up in my room day and night with nothing to do and no life,” barked Jim.
“Your recreational and chemical pursuits are of no concern of mine Jim. Im merely here to support you maintain accommodation access benefits as well as educational or employment opportunities.”
I refrained from telling him that the only place I’d be happy with Jim being stuck was behind bars or in a dundgeon with Joseph Fritzel, or with his head and hands in the stocks and his bare arse exposed to the elements as well as to the footwear of all those decent people he has aggrieved. I’d be at the top of that queue with a size ten winkle picker. You may dismiss this approach as medieval but I would bet any money it would work a lot better than all the ABCs and counselors which have so far failed to eliminate Jim’s anti-social behaviour.
Unequal even unto death | @guardianletters
51 minutes ago