social skirmishes

Rosie Warlock, a senior practitioner in children’s social services, tells us what’s on her mind in her weekly column

● As MPs debate the 10p tax rate, the team is having to deal with the effects on the ground.

Losing a few pounds a week doesn’t sound much, but when you are already cash-strapped every day, even a few pounds can make the difference between more debt or rows with spouses or children wanting something. And once debt is on the horizon, the loan sharks gather on estates, circling families with offers of cash – at huge interest rates.

I visit one young couple with three children who are at school. They both have jobs, rent a house and manage to get their children to different schools and pick them up in the evenings. They claim tax credits but have to fill out several completed forms that can take the Inland Revenue ages to process, and are intrusive. The children are lovely, and the parents do their best, but life is a grind for them. No holidays, no designer gear for the kids, and trips to the library to use the computer for school work.

This family isn’t unique: everyone in the office has several cases like it.

I listened to a radio show where one of the comedians, who has left-wing credentials, had a rant about lazy, ugly working-class people, “chavs”, who spend all their money on crisps and fags.

The parents in my family rarely drink, crisps are a cheap treat for the children and the mother smokes a packet a day. I see her outside lighting up: “Yeah, I know it’s bad for me and it’s a waste of money. But look at my nerves.” She shows me her shaking hand. “It makes me calm for five minutes.”

Could the comedian or an MP live like this?

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