The Tipping Point by Steve Goodlad

“But you promised me” 

“Mrs Jones, I did no such thing. I am an advisor in the Citizens Advice Bureau. A volunteer. I am impartial. You asked me to help you write a letter of complaint to the Local Authority about removing the court order on your five children. We sat together in this room for over two hours and you dictated your issues to me. I would never promise to bring you your children, that is a legal matter for the courts to decide. I also spoke about how to get legal aid to pay for legal advice which to date you haven’t followed up”. She makes it clear that I am useless, that I don’t know my job. When she returns next week, hopefully a different advisor will “help”. 

The next client wants to know the process for transferring ownership of a grave from his mother who has recently died, to himself so that he can change the inscription on the gravestone from “Loving Husband and Father” to something like “Evil Bastard, Wife and child basher.” There is a legal process which I talk him through, my calm instructions eventually stilling his vehemence. 

A cross-section of life visits these offices. The debt ridden, grieving, starving and homeless, the domestic violence victims, of scams and rip-offs, the asylum seekers, the jobless, those applying for benefits, bankruptcy, the rogue landlords, bailiffs and traders, you hear it all. I remain impassive, professional without being judgemental. 

The last client of the day asks if he still needs to pay child support if his minor child has been sentenced to murder. I hesitate before telling him that I am not a child support or family law expert and I refer him to a solicitor who is. 

Then I went home and cried. 

Published in Issue #18

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