Social work diary: ‘The family can’t repay the ‘pay day loan’ used for xmas presents’

It's the week after Christmas and the financial fallout is hitting families and food banks hard, writes this anonymous social worker.

Image: Flickr (rinkjustice)


It’s the week after Christmas. The team talk about their new year resolutions, including dieting, joining gyms, and not eating at desks.

Several of our families have needed emergency financial help over Christmas. The first family I visit have taken out a large “pay day loan” despite being on benefits, so as to fund their Christmas. It has a gigantic interest rate. They tell me all that mattered was that the children were happy with their presents.


I visit a family with an overweight teenage boy who eats non-stop at home. Parents complain that he managed to eat three Christmas dinners at different relatives’ houses. He is a smart, but unhappy, young man and well able to play off family members.

I have referred them to the eating disorder clinic but the family haven’t responded to an invitation to make an appointment. I point out that it’s up to them and let them use my mobile to make an appointment. I wonder if they will keep it or carry on complaining while the boy gets more unhappy and overweight.


I visit a single parent father whose son has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and is on a child protection plan.

Dad claims he has ADHD too and goes to medical experts to prove it. The mail has brought him a date for an interview at the Department for Work and Pensions about his fitness to work. He protests his disabilities loudly and how his “nerves” prevent him from working.

Meantime the child runs around annoying the dog and swearing, copying his dad. I observe that dad’s habit of drinking 20 cans of energy drink daily make some of his “nerves” self-inflicted. He disagrees and sees benefits as a birth right.

I sympathise with the view that such people are avoiding work, but wonder who would employ him?


I go with an eastern European family to sort out their finances. The interpreter is one we got in at short notice and appears ill at ease sometimes. During the visit to a bank she and the client disagree and the eight-year-old child joins in to defend her mother. What they are saying I don’t know.

Afterwards the little girl talks for her mother and tells me the interpreter was speaking half in their language and half in Russian! I let the interpreter’s agency know and hope they don’t bill us for two languages.


The family I saw on Monday come into the office for help. They can’t afford to pay for food, electricity and the loan repayments. The children don’t look happy now, presents or not.

Money is given for four weeks and they are referred to a local food bank. We are funding the worst aspects of money lending and poverty.

Ironically, in the team room Christmas chocolates and biscuits are being passed around and eaten at desks. No one has been to the gym; the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

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