The phone rings and I find myself talking for almost an hour to a friend; just at the time when I need to be making calls to people who, in turn, will make phone calls that will enable me to accomplish some constructive goals. I don’t want to be on the phone talking to this person though they’re an old friend. But I’m stuck on the phone anyway, listening to them trying desperately not to panic about the challenges they face, most of which centre around money. And that’s when it occurs to me that although my friend is stressed out beyond belief, her fear and panic are only temporary; she’s a mature woman, well-established in an essential caring profession (Yep! There’s such a thing), these money worries will inevitably be resolved.
So then I think how a single mother under the age of twenty-five, with an addiction to drugs or alcohol would cope if she were in my friend’s place. Oh she might have the requisite five GCSEs (who could possibly hope to obtain employment in this global economy without them?) but be unable to translate that into career success. Think that’s far-fetched? KIds in abusive homes can excel at school and can appear on the surface to be doing quite well. It’s only when they’ve left school and have to fend for themselves in the outside world that the cracks begin to show. So let’s say, having gone from an abuse home, to an abusive relationship, she finds herself alone with a child to take care of and a heroin addiction to battle. Then as if that were not enough, she is also living in a hostel and having to claim benefits.
No worrying about bedroom tax here, she had her housing benefit capped in 2013, and has been relocated out of London to cheaper housing by her local council as a result. But there are other worries like how to access drug rehabilitation, how to afford the weekly travel to the jobcentre in order to sign on; and the lifestyle of the other tenants in the hostel which makes it hard for her and her child to feel safe where they’ve been put. Although her son is three, he’s still in pampers and she’s still immersed in the process of weaning him off milk and onto baby food, money is short, in other words. She’s needs to smoke (cigarettes have taken the place of the heroin), and from time to time she also needs a drink (lets call it self-medication). But like I say, money is very short, and well, what about her social worker? How will he or she keep in touch?
The land of opportunity, yeah I get it, this young mother should view her circumstances as an opportunity to pull herself up by the bootstraps, and get on with the business of turning her life around, all by herself. Except that is not what people do initially when, having ticked every legal, moral and political box, the politicians kick back and sigh with satisfaction. Nope what ordinary people do when they experience this kind of upheaval, and these kinds of challenges is panic.