As we near the end of a rather challenging January, us interns are starting to look forward to the sunnier, more cheerful climes of springtime. The half term parliamentary recess is just over a week away now, so we're certainly looking forward to a bit of a break from the challenges of the internship - I am particularly chuffed at the moment on a couple of counts. One is my ability to get a bit of a bargain train ticket home to Weymouth for the end of next week - making me a saving of over £11 - which will certainly come in handy for the months ahead!
The second is an email I received from a constituent yesterday thanking me personally for all the help I had given her in resolving a very longstanding dispute with the Tax Credit Office. I shalnt bore you all with the details of the casework, but suffice it to say that MPs are often approached by people who have run into severe difficulties and delays with various government agencies, whose vastly complicated and enlarged bureaucratic systems mean that many cases - eg chasing up maintenance payments through the CSA or obtaining benefits from HMRC - are simply shunted from one office to another without resolution, or are simply lost somewhere in the system. Needless to say these delays are usually very frustrating for those affected, and can lead in many cases to acute distress, especially for those living on or close to the poverty line - £40 or so a week really can be the difference between affording school uniform, decent food, and furnishings for one's home.
This "casework" MPs or their staff undertake can also be very frustrating as it usually takes a while to get the case prioritised - it requires a lot of patience, attention to detail, and a determination to keep the pressure on to see the case resolved. But eventually, after many phonecalls, emails and plenty of delays, these cases can be cracked, and receiving the thanks from those you have helped really does give an immense feeling of satisfaction and achievement.
Team Intern is off to Brixton Prison on Friday, the oldest gaol in the country, and currently serving as a remand prison for the area. Let's hope none of us are detained at Her Majesty's Pleasure... more details to follow.