A diary of a social policy researcher

Monday I am interviewing families with children who have life-limiting illnesses about their experiences of transition to adulthood. Because of my desire to be early, I often wait in lay-bys and out-of-town supermarket cafés killing time before the interview. So the first thing I do when arriving at a families’ house is to ask to use their toilet, which must make for an odd first impression.

Tuesday A visit to a family with a very ill son. They want to take him on holiday and are saving up hard (even though it’s obvious that money is tight). They remark about their not very effective social worker who they thought earned about £25,000 – and are wide-eyed at the wage. I am paid a lot more and am glad they don’t ask me. I think about how much they need for this holiday and wonder if my labour is really worth it.

Wednesday I’ve been “on the road” for months as I traverse the UK doing interviews and trying to keep in touch with the office via e-mail. The ins and outs of university life irritate me when I’m talking to people about life and death issues. But I have to remember that my colleagues are not in my shoes and the “time allocation survey” still needs to be completed along with comments on what we should do with our library.

Thursday The sun is out, the sky is blue and I am in a seaside town to interview. In between families I read my novel while sitting on the beach watching the sea. The interview in the morning is very uplifting. The young person with a life-limiting illness is funny and engaging. There is talk of a helpful occupational therapist and the young person has been supported to pursue his hobbies and social life which, unsurprisingly, is much more important to him than whether he sees a consultant. The afternoon interview has a different feel and the young man is angry that he has not been given the information that would have helped him attend university. He has been at home since finishing college for four years and done very little.

Friday I am back in the office and doing my expenses and sending “thank you” letters to the people I’ve interviewed. I’d like to deal with all the emotion and energy that the week has entailed by getting drunk. But I resist this urge. Bath, bed and a weekend in which I will try – and mostly fail – not to think about the week gone by.

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