Social work diary: ‘The family are struggling with exploitative payday loan fees’

The first week back at work in 2015 brings everything from IT problems to family feuds for this anonymous social worker

Image: Flickr (rinkjustice)


I see a girl who is on a child protection plan and we talk about Christmas. She is studying science, and is convinced that grown-ups are required to argue at Christmas as it’s in their DNA. Her parents are separated. They all got together for Christmas this year but it erupted into arguments which needed police intervention.

We talk about how Christmas is full of unrealistically high expectations, so it’s unsurprising that on the day itself people give way to their feelings.


Team members are still gossiping about their Christmases, their New Year resolutions and how much they ate and drank. Meanwhile the office’s computer system has stopped working, so all our case recording has to wait until it’s fixed.

We get hourly bulletins relayed through our admin staff that they are still having technical problems. At 4pm we are told it won’t get repaired till tomorrow at the earliest. People joke about the IT system having a post-Christmas hangover!


On a visit to a family, the parents show me their latest bank statement. There is a large sum taken out by an agency they asked to find them a payday loan. We look at the agreement showing they consented to a fee and are now burdened with that and the high interest on the loan. This year will be a struggle. I feel anger and sadness at the way people like them are exploited.

Later I see an advert for a council’s children’s services department. The ad boasts that everyone from the director down feels the same team spirit and works towards a common end. I wonder what happens when things appear to go wrong? I am not sure if this is a late Christmas present or early warning of April the 1st.


The computer system is repaired but has “lost” 24 hours, so all new recordings appear out of time and a day late; a tricky start to the year for the IT department!

Visiting a boy in school, he tells me that over Christmas his mum threatened to send back his presents to Father Christmas when he was naughty. As he speaks, his saddened face and anxious voice show he is reliving what was clearly a very traumatic for him. I am sure he’ll remember this all of his life.

In this family the parents often misunderstand the power of their words; things improved after some parenting classes, but under pressure they’ve resumed their old ways.


This morning I visit a family whose house is perpetually dirty; the children are teased mercilessly in school because of it. The family have made good efforts to improve things and Dad has got a new job too.

Back at the office, colleagues talk about the overdrafts from Christmas and how they’ll repay them. I think back to Wednesday’s family, who have little hope of paying off their debts.

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