Women, Hats and the Kitchen Sink Thrown In

A day in the life of a CASS worker is pretty varied. You need many hats to pull out your bag at any given time. You may have an idea of what is in your diary for that day, but that doesn’t always reflect the reality of how your time is spent.

Monday morning.

First off today was my ‘raising awareness’ hat.

Today I met with Allerdale MP Sue Hayman who, when I contacted her just as the General Election was announced promised she would be back in touch (post-election and if elected) to discuss a subject you’ll know if you’ve read my previous blog is close to my heart or at least my nervous system - Universal Credit!

Yes, I am am still campaigning like a tenacious dog with a chewy toy, on behalf of my clients for a fairer system that works.

Sue had heard some of the issues before, and entertained me long enough that I could rattle off my list of complaints and explain all about the impracticalities and high demands of claiming UC.

Alongside this we now have vulnerable clients who just won’t claim as it is too hard - one of whom has resorted to eating out of bins instead. My rantings on the subject seemed to be warmly received and Sue took the content of the blog with her to Parliament, saying she would use it to raise concerns about the plight of those struggling with the process. 

Change hat - Finance and debt advice hat.

Off to visit to a lady in her 50’s, living with Mum and struggling with large amounts of debt. She has been diagnosed with personality disorder and depression. She knows she has debt, she knows how much it is, she’s not sure what to do about it. I advise her on her options for sources of help - I can get appointments for her and reassure her that I can attend with her. Is that enough? Will it stop debts recurring in the future? Does she know why or what prompts her to spend?

Change hat - Counselling skills hat.

A few gentle probing questions in this area and I can see a little lightbulb moment when she suggests that spending in the moment on impulse results in a short lived buzz that temporarily makes her feel good. Could this buzz be replaced with something else? It’s a possibility she agrees, and I introduce the idea of a Health and Wellbeing Coach to support her longer term with this and address, and hopefully, improve her mental health. Mop up a few tears, (no you can keep the tissue I have plenty more) book an appointment with CAB and agree to take her and it’s time to move on.

Phone goes off, dip in my bag, pull out my phone and a different hat!

Wonder Woman hat!

I had a prison release on Friday and her Offender Manager is ringing to say my client didn’t manage to get from HMP Low Newton in Durham to Workington in time for the assessment for Supported Accommodation or her appointment at the Jobcentre. Can I re-arrange everything please from Jobcentre appointment, Supported Accommodation assessment, Unity appointments, she could really do with a Doctor’s surgery, she’s been evicted from her flat TODAY, can I take her to Allerdale Housing Options Team please? Not a problem (maybe it’s not a hat I need for this one, more a cape?). She’s also 20 miles away from where I am currently stood, so best get to it!

I get a call from one of my clients telling me she has got the keys to a new house.

Hat’s off to that hat!

But she doesn’t have any furniture, can I get hold of three beds and a sofa please? Absolutely I can! Does she need me to come round tomorrow, roll my sleeves up, clean the kitchen whilst she uses my phone to ring several different agencies? Of course she does, I’m not sure what hat that is, but I’ve got it in my bag somewhere.

Ten Gallon Hat

These are just some of the women I am working with. Some stronger than others, some struggling more than others, some with more issues than others. Some are perpetrators, some are victims, many are both. They all have something in common, which happens to be me and whatever hat I have on for them that day.

These ‘hats’ could do with all being under one roof for our clients, with easy access and inclusive in all ways. This happens in other areas, and the model works, it’s proven and it’s helpful. It’s what we know we can do and do well. Our strength lies in our knowledge about services in our areas we cover and our good relationships with other agencies and of course with our clients and just as importantly, our ability to wear many hats.

One last thought….maybe it’s not how many different pairs of shoes a woman has that you need to beware of, but more, how many different hats she wears you need to be aware of!

Anna Todd