I remember as a child, watching on a Sunday afternoon the sitcom Bread on the BBC. The part I remember most is the depiction of the DSS as a cruel, cold heartless institution summed up by the counter opening at exactly 9.00am and a cruel bureaucrat shouting “next!” Often the Boswell family member had turned up on the wrong day, the wrong time or was asking about the wrong issue.
Like many in our sector, I have watched ‘I, Daniel Blake’ many times.
Whilst a memorable polemic about an uncaring welfare benefits system,
the part that stood out for me as someone who works for an advice agency,
was the funeral speech at the end. The words that Daniel had planned to say
at his tribunal. “I am not a client, a customer, nor a service user . . . I demand
my rights, I demand you treat me with respect . . . I, Daniel Blake, am a citizen,
nothing more, nothing less”
The reason these words resonate with me, and many of my colleagues who
watched the film, I think is because they represent how we all feel.
We are all Daniel Blake!
When we access a service, go shopping, go the cinema we want to be treated as the individuals we are. We want to be treated with respect and we want to leave feeling that the effort we put in to access what we did, was worth it. We want our lives to be better for the experience.
Isn’t this the same for people who access our advice services?
Maybe the example in Bread is slightly over the top, maybe even extreme, but it could provide a useful baseline as to where we don’t want to go in terms of how our services treat those needing help and support.
Would we as citizens want to be processed when we accessed services or entertainment activities? How would we feel if when we went to the dentist, we had to explain to four different people how much pain we were in? How would we feel if we turned up to a supermarket to do our weekly shopping and we were told that the maximum number of shoppers had already gone in and we couldn’t do our shopping. How would we feel if when went to the next supermarket we were told we had to go to another office first to pick up a voucher saying we could shop here?
Imagine, if we had to cope with all of this, whilst worrying whether we could feed our children? whilst not having a secure roof over our heads? It’s difficult to imagine.
Sometimes all we can do, is help people to tackle the effects of poverty, to mitigate the impact of debt, to cope with the housing crisis and to try and secure paid employment. We often see people after they are in crisis and we do our best to work with them to find solutions.
What we can do though, is think about we treat people. We can think about what matters to people in our community when they access our services. We can base our services on what matters to people. We can offer our services in a manner that fits in with the needs of the community rather than ourselves.
We can view the people who need our help as citizens, with the same needs and aspirations as ourselves. Citizens who have rights and who should be treated with respect and dignity.
The ‘future of advice’ framework, developed by Citizens Advice gives us an opportunity to put this vision into practice. To be able to offer people advice in a way that suits them through a multitude of channels. To be able to focus our services on what people want. To be guided by the needs of the local community and most importantly to see citizens of the local community as partners.
We will be launching our brand-new Business strategy in September 2019. We will be setting out our vision to help people in Haringey in a strategic way. We will be focussing on delivering a community wide offer to help people with issues across a wide variety of areas including immigration, debt, welfare benefits, housing, employment, health and social care. We will be working in partnership with other agencies across the borough and will be focussing on the impact we make.
We will be opening our office more and ensuring our services are seamless and connected with everything we do. We will be developing our phones and online services.
Most of all, we will be more Daniel Blake than Bread!
Daniel Blake, CEO of Citizens Advice Haringey pens his first blog since joining the service. In this edition he looks at how the service can deliver in the best possible way for it's community.