The lawyer sits in the warmth of the high street coffee shop, watching a waify girl cross the road. It’s the middle of winter but the girl is dressed in jeans and a hoody, her hands in her pockets, hunched against the cold. She reaches the door of the coffee shop but hesitates, she doesn’t enter, this sort of place is alien to her, full of nicely dressed women holding toddlers, and grey haired women and bald men – pensioners chatting over their frothy coffees.
The lawyer bekons to the waify girl, waving her inside. She already has a latte and chocolate muffin on the table waiting for her.
The waify girl sits down, so obviously out of her comfort in the surroundings. The lawyer isn’t sure if the tears in the girl’s eyes are from the cold or something more.
The lawyer pushes the coffee and muffin across the table towards the girl “eat… you look cold and hungry..”
The girl starts to speak but it ends up in a sob “I can’t do this anymore, I’ve tried to get help but no one will listen to me. The Doctor can’t see me for the next 3 weeks, my probation officer just tells me to ring once a week and can’t wait to get me off of the phone, I’ve got nowhere to live, I’m not sleeping.. I’ve tried the job centre but they called the police on me last week, I was going there every day asking for help, but they kept refusing to see me without an appointment, saying I have to make an appointment online.. I haven’t got a fucking pot to piss in, how am I going to get on the Internet, if I can’t get in the building?..’
The lawyer remembers the girl from last year when she was full of optimism on being released from prison. Off of drugs and alcohol, and ready to start afresh. The lawyer can smell the alcohol on the girls breath at 11am and guesses that the girl is back self medicating with amphetamines and alcohol.. The black market version of anti depressants.
The girl sees the lawyer as her someone who helped her, listened to her in prison, arranged for a psychiatrist to assess her and give her a few counselling sessions and got her released from prison.
The lawyer sees it differently, a girl remanded in custody on a charge on which someone else had already accepted a caution. The CPS had been so busy, the file wasn’t reviewed. The lawyer had tried to get the girl released from custody sooner but the court was too busy to list the case as cuts had meant court rooms had been closed. Only after threatening High Court action had the lawyer managed to get the girl’s case listed at court. The cps had dropped the charges that day, and the girl released from the court cells with nothing. Her only possessions were in the prison. The girl had walked out of the court house in the clothes she was wearing and nothing more.
The girl kept her eyes on the table as she whispered that she was OK as she was doing ‘favours’ for some blokes and in return they had let her sleep on their floor the last couple of nights. She’d been beaten last week and spent 6 hours at A&E in the warm, but they stitched her up and released her back on the street. She’d asked to see a mental health nurse, and was asked if she had suicidal thoughts, she’d said ‘No’ and was told the nurse was over subscribed, and she wasn’t in immediate need.
The lawyer made the girl look at her.. “And are you suicidal? Because it’s often nothing to do with mental health, it’s to do with the feeling that you can’t fight anymore”
The girl nods and gets up. “I’m not sure how much fight I’ve got left.”
The lawyer watches the waify figure hunch against the cold as the door slams behind her. She’s annoyed and frustrated, the girl is trying so hard to turn her life around but no one seems to care. She wonders whether the next time she hears about the girl it’s because she’s been found dead in a ditch.. No longer useful for those ‘favours’ to men twice her age, and overdosed on tablets which aren’t what her dealer has told her they are. One of the forgotten ones, who had been exited and overwhelmed to have been given a chocolate muffin!
So what do you think? A too dramatic piece of fiction? Well here is the kicker… I’m not really writing a novel, this is not fiction. This is the real account of my meeting with an ex client today. A girl trying to turn her life around, but knocked back every step of the way by the cuts and privatisation which has hit the public services on which so many vulnerable people rely.