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Scottish Librarian’s Fiery Thread Describing Why She Defied COVID Restrictions To Help Desperate People Get Benefits

"F*** anyone who would deny these desperate, starving people."
Bookcase with books, library in Abbotsford House, home of the writer Sir Walter Scott, Melrose, Scotland, United Kingdom.
DeAgostini/Getty Images

On Wednesday, a Scottish librarian spoke out about getting caught defying coronavirus restrictions that had prevented her from helping people who had lost everything or were suffering and could not navigate the system to apply for benefits.

Allie Morgan began her lengthy Twitter thread by writing that she freely admitted what she had done: “I got pulled up by my direct manager yesterday for contravening some of our COVID safety rules. I fully admit that I did do that and will probably continue to do it every now and again because the specific rule is, quite frankly, inhumane.”

“We are not allowed to provide ANY help at the computers,” she explained. “None. We have a sh***y ‘FAQ’ sheet which explains nothing that we are meant to hand out. We must not stand behind IT users to view their screens. We must not provide assistance. I got caught, of course, and we all had a sit down. I explained to the manager that I fully understand the reason for the rules but at least once a day now I am comforting sobbing adults, grown bloody adults who have never navigated the benefit system and are now destitute.”

“Another colleague confirmed that this is a daily occurance (sic),” she continued. “Maybe they can’t read for various reasons. Maybe they are simply burnt out. Most haven’t eaten in days. Some struggle to get out of the chairs because they’re so weak. We’re seeing this every. Day. I cannot and will not look at a man my dad’s age, who’s fighting back tears or trying not to faint from hunger and tell him that nah, sorry, you’re on your own when all that’s standing between him and his emergency payment is a couple of printed bank statements. I will not idly stand as a young woman who will become homeless this week, with bruises on her face from her abusive partner, begs me to show her how to print off the text messages he sent her so she can get emergency help for domestic violence victims.”

She spoke of the poignant instance that led to her being caught: “Yesterday, I helped a woman with severe dyslexia print of photos of her battered child to take to a court case so that she could get sole custody of her tiny daughter. My manager caught me helping transfer the photos from the phone to the printer and I was pulled up. I simply do not know how any person, any human being could have turned their back on that situation. That’s not why I’m in this job. That’s not why any of us are in this job. We’re all on warnings for it. Every single one of us.”

“But the alternative, the mere idea that I would be that person behind the desk saying no over and over to someone who will be rendered homeless or worse by my refusal to help is honestly too horrendous to contemplate,” she wrote furiously. “No. F*** that. None of us should be in this situation. And it’s all well and good to say ‘call the police, refer them to social work, refer them to xyz’ when they’ve already been shunted around the system and they are starving NOW and are homeless NOW. The system is slow and unforgiving and god, all they need are prints or a form.”

“Nah,” she demurred. “No. Nope. We have the facilities and the knowledge. F*** anyone who would deny these desperate, starving people any of it. F*** that. I don’t normally speak about specific incidences like this but I have seen so much human misery these last few weeks in such a short time space that I can’t help but be specific. We are all traumatized and trying our best.”

“I have begged for alternatives, by the way,” she pointed out. “Easier, direct printing for privacy. Bluetooth printer access. Remote computer access so we can help from a safe distance. We have all begged and have been shot down. So we help the only ways we can. One colleague has a laser pointer. P. S. Please don’t use this thread as an argument against COVID precautions! I myself have had to test and isolate because I broke the ‘no help at computers’ rule with someone who turned out to be COVID positive. Like I said, I understand the reasoning for the rules.”

She concluded, “The crime here is that these are our only options! We should not be in this position! Nobody should end up this desperate and library staff should be empowered and equipped to help people safely.”

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