Between human being and procedure

By Misch Pautsch Switch to German for original article

Social workers are the face of an often opaque system. Those who come to them are looking for help – and for someone who cares to listen. The Lëtzebuerger Journal spoke with three of them about their very different functions.

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The path through the Grand Rue-Beaumont gallery must be a strange one for many people. Here, between jewellery shops, restaurants and boutiques, they find the entrance to one of the offices of the Social Office of the City of Luxembourg (OSVdL). It is one of 30 "Offices Sociaux" (social offices) in the Grand Duchy. Almost all the people who take the small lift to the first floor of the building have fallen through one of the many holes in the system in one way or another – and hope to be caught here by another arm of the same system to find their way back to independence. For many, this process begins here at the social welfare office with a conversation. Three of the 48 employees of the office, Silvia Fernandes, Michel Thorn and Sabine Mayer, tell the Lëtzebuerger Journal about their work, where they have their finger right on the pulse of social reality. Sandy Lopes, responsible of management, and Vronny Krieps, President of the Board of Directors, accompany the interview. Just like the social workers of the office, they know that every small social or economic change has a potentially greater impact on their visitors than on the rest of society.

That's why they are already preparing for winter, because with the skyrocketing energy prices, says Silvia Fernandes, they expect an increase in requests for quick help. Fernandes works in the "Service Suivi" (follow-up service), which accompanies affected people over a period of time to get back on their feet. But while they can already see the surge on the horizon, there is not much they can do: The energy bills will not flutter into the letterboxes until the end of the year, until then it is a matter of trepidation and preparation: "We know that landlords won't bat an eyelid at putting tenants out the door. There will probably be a whole series of notices. So people will need quick help from us."

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