Catherine to the rescue - by Richard Carr

Joined up services with people at the centre - ought to be simple but this story is more sophisticated than it might seem- thanks to Richard Carr.


Catherine to the rescue

I felt I was drowning... in both booze and forms.

Both my partner and I had just turned 24, but our lives felt over already. Two screaming kids under five, squeezed into my mother-in-law’s small terraced house with barely a penny to our name.

Out of the blue I got a call from Catherine at the council. She explained she had been going through my customer account. I didn’t even know I had one or what it was.
Middle-aged, Catherine knew a thing or two about life and took no prisoners. She was somehow different from the rest. Pushy, but empathetic; nothing I said to her seemed to faze her.

She seemed to know a lot about me, including that we had money problems and had been kicked off the housing register, because I was out of work. She spent time with me exploring what I was good at; that was a novel experience. I had always fancied myself as a bit of a cook – it was my homemade lasagne that had hooked Joyce, my partner, in the first place – but had no idea how to get myself properly trained or to present myself to a prospective employer.

Catherine got me into a work club at the library. It was good to go somewhere which felt neutral and free from the stigma that oozes from the very fabric of the job centre.
The club helped me put together a CV, set up an email account and search the web for opportunities. They encouraged me to approach a company that the council had persuaded to come to the area to develop a new leisure complex. I was given a trial with one of the restaurants in the complex. Because I turned up on time and did my best, they took me on as a trainee chef.

It’s still tough. But I feel better about myself; we seem to be getting our life under control. If I can make a go of the job, we may be able to get a home of our own. That prospect gives me something to hold on to.

Richard Carr is Chief Executive of Central Bedfordshire Council.

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