2007 - 2021

Confessions of a Caseworker – Life behind the scenes in Scottish Politics

Wanted: One change of heart. Who are you? You’re thinking of spoiling your ballot. You think all politicians are the same. You think the Scottish Parliament is corrupt, that your vote won’t count. Who am I? One of the workers behind the scenes. A Caseworker for a truly wonderful individual. One of the many people in this country who cares about you, who is here for you, no matter what. And, like my boss, I happen to work in politics. At least, for now.

For the last six years, I have worked for a South Scotland MSP (SNP) whose heart is full, whose work is never done, whose empathy is boundless, and whose hands, like those of all Scottish MSP’s, are tied by Westminster 

These are my personal, not professional, opinions. I want to make them known, not as an employee of the Scottish Parliament, but as a person who has tried her best to help the many hundreds of people who have walked into my workplace at their wit’s end due the draconian Tory policies that have torn their families in two, ruined their relationships, wrecked their health, left them without money, without homes, without support, without dignity, without dreams.  

My colleagues and I, past and present, have shed tears alongside them. Held their hands as they spoke about losing what little hope they had left. Closed the office blinds to give them the privacy they needed to break down in a safe space, stayed behind as long as we needed to until they felt betterWe have visited their homes when they didn’t have the strength to walk, spent hours on the phone with them until they felt safe enough to be alone again. We have stayed behind late to sort out places for them to live, people to speak to, refuges to retreat to, urgent GP appointments for those too weary with life to feel like they can go through another day of it 

This isn’t just the work of political staffers, but of the many charities and organisations who network with each other tirelessly on behalf of the weakest, poorest, most marginalised people in Scotland, to try to make what difference we can, given the restrictions we face as part of this unequal union. For us, politics isn’t about personalities, point scoring or gimmicks. It’s about hard work. About working with one arm tied behind your back, courtesy of Westminster.    

The South of Scotland is Tory territory. And the polls are telling me I may lose my job next week. I have blocked this out until today. And I have spent most of the day in tears. My eyes are stinging. My heart aches. My mind is numb at the thought that this might be the end of my career. My power to help people in need might come to an end in just a few days’ timeAnd every day, I log-in to Twitter, to hear that our people are cynical, that our politicians are corrupt, our votes are wasted, our hearts are without hope. Trust is integral to my job. People come to us at their weakest, and they trust us to do our best for them. And we do. But God, it’s hard to see so much needless suffering as a matter of course, no matter how good the outcomes we manage to achieve for them can be. 

 I have spent so much of my six years in politics utterly furious and sickened with Westminster policies. Seeing the real-life fallout, 5 days a week, year in, year out, of the human carnage the Tories in Westminster are leaving behind them. The bereaved, the homeless, the hungry, the suicidal, the dying, the deadIt never gets easier. There have been many days I have come home from work in tears. Some of rage, some of despair, at the nightmares people are being forced to live, through no fault of their own, NOT because of the SNP, NOT because of the First Minister or my absolutely wonderful boss, but SPECIFICALLY due to the cruel and dehumanising Tory austerity policies which we have ZERO control over. Because our hands are tied by Westminster. 

People trust us to help them through all this, and we do, not just because it’s our jobs but because we care, desperatelyThat’s as true of the MSP’s I’ve met as it is of their Caseworkers. I can’t imagine doing anything else for a living, and I don’t ever want to because it’s so important that we are here to fight for the people of South Scotland, with its Tory council, and all that comes with it.  

Discretion is important when you work for an MSP, and I have always kept quiet about what I do out of respect for the constituents we are trying to help. But I see people saying they have given up on what they believed in, in WHO they believed in, and I despair. And I can’t keep quiet anymore.

I have learnt more about the inherent goodness of human beings through these six years working for an MSP than I ever thought possible, met the kindest people I have ever known. And next week, if the polls are right, and I pray that they aren’t, I stand to lose my job, to lose my power to help these people. The thought of my boss losing his seat is utterly sickening to me, having seen how deeply he cares, how hard he works. It’s easy to feel disillusioned with politics, to think that there’s no hope, that the whole system is corrupt, that you might as well spoil your ballot. But I promise you it’s not true. 

 Behind the office doors of your MSPs, we have seen thousands of people pulled out of the deepest holes of their lives. Holes they have been KICKED into by Westminster. And we have worked so hard to help them. Our souls have ached, our hearts have sank, our tears have run dry for them, and we have fought like all hell to help them. And it has paid off tenfold. And it has been worth it. But nothing is a given and we can’t be complacent.  

 Caseworkers have to fight for their jobs come every election, so it’s not a career you can stick at for long without a lot of belief in the person you work for, and a lot of hope for the people you serve. Tonight, I’ll be out posting leaflets, and every night this week, if my legs hold out. Living in the long blue streak along the Border, we are fighting for every vote. If you live in South Scotland, you will know that your current list MSPs are longstanding supporters of your communities. They remember your names, your problems, your ambitions. They fight, come every election, for the right to serve you further. Their staff are skilled, trained, experienced members of the communities they serve. We care about you. We suffer with you. We ARE you, and we are here. Please don’t give up on us just yet. We want, so badly, to keep on being able to help you. My heart is close to breaking today, but you can help heal it by sharing my message of hope:   

Wanted: One change of heart. Please apply within.   

 

  

 

Comments (32)

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  1. Colin Kirkwood says:

    Bravo!

    The south of Scotland is not Toryland. It is a zone of Scotland with a long history of self-government and independent mindedness. These are qualities we need to generalise across the country.

    1. Sara Clark says:

      Thank you Colin, it does me good to hear this!

    2. Colin Robinson says:

      I agree with the first sentence: the Marches were one of the last parts of the country to be nationalised and were, quite literally, a law unto themselves. I disagree with the second sentence, however, and would say rather that resistance to the ongoing nationalisation of civil society is something people everywhere need to emulate.

      1. Colin Kirkwood says:

        Thanks, Colin Robinson. Could you please explain what exactly you mean by the second part of your second sentence. With the best will in the world, I don’t understand it. Colin K.

      2. Colin Robinson says:

        Certainly. The Marchlands (‘Borders’) was one of the last areas of Scotland to be fully settled as part of a unified nation centred on the Scottish crown. Until the early 17th century, these Debatable Lands were known for its ‘lawlessness’ and independence; although they had, of course, their own ‘March law’. This tradition of localism, and resistance to being part of a ‘nationalised’ Scotland rather than its own more or less independent localities, is still observable in the ‘Deep Borders’.

        1. Colin Kirkwood says:

          Thanks Colin. My main concern is this idea of nationalisation. Could this be a code for centralisation? I favour radical decentralisation within Scotland, but not as opposed to strong central vision and leadership. Congregation, presbytery, general assembly, as it were. I don’t want a Scottish version of Westminster.

          1. Colin Robinson says:

            That’s my concern too. The ecclesiastical principle of subsidiarity is indeed apt. Subsidiarity, as I’m sure you know, is a principle of social organisation that holds that social and political issues should be dealt with at the most immediate level consistent with their resolution. According to this principle, central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks that can’t be performed at a more local level but require more concerted action. It’s a democratic principle that aims at keeping in check the power central authority can exercise over society.

  2. TorryJoe says:

    Beautifully said, Sara. Here’s hoping our side wins (and you won’t lose your job). Chin up and keep up the good work, lass. Joe

    1. Sara Clark says:

      Joe, thank you so much, I will!

  3. Malcolm Kerr says:

    Thank you for this sincere and heartfelt post, Sara, at such a difficult time. I’m certain you’ll know this too, but it is a crucial, perhaps sacred, aspect of the democratic process that politicians should be at risk of losing their jobs at intervals. The best politicians don’t always win through, sadly. As you point out, caseworkers are by no means the only ones supporting the casualties of modern society. If you are unlucky enough to lose your employment, I suspect you will find you have the transferable skills to find other work helping people. And your new employers will be fortunate to recruit you. Where does independence fit in all this, however?

    1. Sara Clark says:

      Thanks Malcolm. Sure you’ll appreciate I can’t put my heart into a discussion about the points raised while I’m feeling so down x

  4. Tom Ultuous says:

    Well put Sara and good luck on the 6th. As a result of the pandemic and Brexit many of the “I’m all right Jack” working class Tories are going to discover exactly what they’ve been cheerleading for the last 11 years.

    If Scotland votes NO and Ireland votes YES disgruntled loyalists will be offered generous packages to relocate to the British colony of Scotland thus ensuring a unionist majority there until 1691. THE HORDES ARE COMING.

    1. Sara Clark says:

      Thanks, Tom x

  5. Colin Robinson says:

    You’re indeed in an invidious position , having to compete for your job against the potential caseworkers who’d be employed by other candidates.

    Maybe you should look for employment in the third sector instead.

  6. Winston says:

    Great piece of writing. Your community are honoured to have you and the MSP in their area. I know others try to do the same elsewhere. Best wishes and I hope next week is favourable for you.

    1. Sara Clark says:

      Thank you so much, Winston, that’s such a wonderful thing for you to say! All the best! X

  7. Irene Crichton says:

    Beautifully written , who could resist this plea ?it wont cost anything ,just a trip out to give your vote to someone who obviously cares an awful lot ! I spent a few nights in a hotel in the borders a very expensive one, but was amazed how badly the owner spoke of Nicola Sturgeon .. I wouldn’t go back ! When a lot of world leaders have such a good opinion of her and how she has helped fight against laws westminster has imposed on Scotland ie the poll tax , the bedroom tax , etc, Polaris, the recent proposed increase of nuclear warheads so close to the largest city in Scotland, and the fact they are driven through Glasgow during the night ! Can you imagine that happening in London !! I watched these submarines , from Arran on holiday in beautiful scenery on the Clyde, the outright theft of North sea oil , and Tony Blair and Donald Dewars secret moving of the Maritime border and theft of 6thousand miles of North Sea, kept secret for years ! Including 7 oil platforms ! Now owned by England ! Not satisfied with the Scottish oil they had to steal the sea, nothing like that happens the other way round , Scotland stealing parts of England !! I could go on , so close to the election I worry if another VOW will appear to tempt Scots who haven’t made up their minds yet. Like Andrew Neil promoted to head of the BBC ,who was a neighbour of mine in the next close in Paisley , during the war. Where Boris is an idiot , Andrew Neil is very dangerous . I hope i have reminded Scots of just a few of the ways Scotland has been treated over the years by Waste monster. By rights every man ,woman and child in Scotland should be rich , Scotland won a referendum in the seventies but it was disallowed by Westminster. Please vote wisely with all these facts in mind , enough is enough!

    1. Sara Clark says:

      Irene, thanks for such a thoughtful reply, I really appreciate it X

    2. Tom Ultuous says:

      “I worry if another VOW will appear to tempt Scots who haven’t made up their minds yet”

      It’s already started Irene. Close to an election that will have a large say in the possibility of Scottish independence a “British Super league” rears its lying head to try and tempt football supporters away from the separation route. Of course, once independence is ruled out the English will go back to saying they don’t want a Manchester type rampage every second week.

    3. Irene Crichton says:

      When Andrew Neil asks one question over and over ask him WHY ARE YOU
      SO DESPERATE TO KEEP SCOTLAND AS PART OF THE UK ?OVER AND OVER AND OVER !!DO NOT ANSWER HIM !!! SAME WHEN ANY CONSERVATIVE ASKS YOU ANYTHING! THROW THAT BACK!!!

      1. Tom Ultuous says:

        This is a valid question that is not aired \anything like enough.

  8. Irene Crichton says:

    BEWARE it has all taken off ! BY ALL I MEAN WASTE MONSTER throwing everything it can at the last minute, lies , dangerous , determined , BAAD people like Andrew Neil etc ! Have you ever wondered why they are so determined to hold on to Scotland that they hate ?why do they want to save Scotland from bankruptcy, if Scotland costs Westminster so much would it not be in their interest to leave Scotland to their fate ? The answer is obvious Westminster needs all it takes from Scotland to survive ! DONOT BE FOOLED SCOTLAND , THEY KEEP SAYING HOW POOR WE ARE , THE REASON IS WESTMINSTER HAVE BEEN STEALING FROM US fOR CENTURIES AND THEY ARE NOW GOING ALL OUT TO LIE, STEAL AND INTHE END OWN ALL OF THE MANY RESOURSES THEY DENY SCOTLAND OWNS! THINK CAREFULLY BEFORE YOU PUT PEN TO PAPER PLEASE !!!
    !!!

  9. Irene Crichton says:

    Two of the benefits i can think of Scotland has managed to hold on to despite westminster.!English universities charge pupils £9,000 per term despite the fact pupils don’t get a full weeks tuition . Payable when they start to earn a decent wage! To have an old relative who needs to go into a home it can cost £1000 per week in England.

  10. IreneCrichton says:

    Back again ! Each single item of a doctors prescription in England costs £9.00 unless you are exempt ! If you have a lot of items on prescription regularly you can then pay annuallyh!

  11. John Lewis says:

    This just seems like an article to kick the Tory Party. Blame Westminster for everything but does not go to the root of the issue – the Scottish Government has powers to change things.

    Yes, some powers are reserved to Westminster but health, education, transport, local government etc is devolved. Stop bashing Westminster and start looking within!

    I am sure you’ll be fine. The SNP has many MSPs. I am sure one of them can take you on. Cushy position.

    Plus you are not an employee of the Scottish Parliament. You are the employee of whatever MSP employed you. If you can’t get your employer right I am puzzled how you assist anyone.

    1. Malcolm Kerr says:

      John Lewis. Difficult to see just how this was an attack on the Tories. Not that they don’t deserve it. Your approach to a sincere and heartfelt statement from a well-motivated rural SP caseworker who has just lost her job within in the last 24hours, is harsh and entirely inappropriate. Have you always been a cvnt, or is it just an aspect of your personality you are developing?

    2. Tom Ultuous says:

      A bitter post. It’s not Sara’s fault Carrie Antoinette thinks your wallpaper’s sh1te.

      1. John Lewis says:

        Believe me I am no supporter of that numpty Boris or his bit on the side. They are vile the pair of them.

        However, the article posts several comments about the Tory Party. It was just an opportunity to use it as a Tory bashing article.

        That is politics. Office staff and the elected politician knows they may be kicked out at each election.

        As I say I am sure she’ll be fine and another MSP will hire her. Not to mention that the staff and the MSP will get a very good redundancy package.

        Whilst you may not agree with my views be respectful. No need for foul language.

      2. Sara Clark says:

        Thanks, Tom x

    3. Sara Clark says:

      Really not in a place to even start to reply to this, John, but needless to say it has made me feel even worse at one of the lowest times of my life.

  12. Pamela Mitchell says:

    WOW, …. what a beautiful and moving story of your work. I can only applaud you which seems inadequate in itself. Thank you so much for sharing and for caring about the constituents, I truly hope you will be back some day, preferably in an independent Scotland. Bravo Sara!

    1. Sara Clark says:

      Pamela, thank you so much.

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