In a town not far away, there is a street, a very long street with a variety of houses, flats and shops. It’s a street just like any other street which is why Magnolia Street could be a street that you have walked down many times before.
At one end of Magnolia Street there is a railway bridge which is not far from number 81 where Brenda and Amy share a house together. Then if you cross the road and walk past a row of shops, you will come to a block of flats and this is where their friend Gary lives.
Walking right to the other end of the street, across the road from the park and right next door to the pub, is the house where Jack lives with his mum, dad and sister Bella.
This week Brenda and Amy were sent a letter from the Countdown Housing Association.
Standing in front of the window, Brenda watches as Amy walks along Magnolia Street on this cold Monday morning. The street is quiet now that the children have gone to school. Amy doesn’t like it when it’s noisy. Sometimes the children shout at Amy and call her rude names if she is on her own. They never do this when Brenda is with her.
Looking at Amy as she walks across the road, Brenda watches as she sometimes stops to touch a wall. Amy likes touching walls.
When Amy is out of sight, Brenda picks up the thick brown envelope the postman has just put through the door. She sits down on her favourite chair, rips the envelope open and stares at the letter.
Brenda knows straight away that this is from Countdown Housing, because she can read this at the top of the letter on the first page. The letters and information they send are not easy to read because there are always lots of difficult words. Jackie, their support worker helps them with this but Brenda doesn’t like her reading their letters.
As Brenda starts to read the first page she stops and then starts to read again. This is not just a letter. There are lots of pages with writing and Brenda can’t read it. She sits and looks at all the pages for a long time before finally she stands up and throws them all in the bin in the kitchen.
As she walks back to her chair, Brenda hears the front door opening and is surprised that Amy is back home so soon. Amy starts to take her coat off as she walks towards Brenda.
“No, why would there be? Who would write to you anyway?” Brenda says as she picks up her bag and walks back towards the kitchen.
Amy looks at Brenda and follows her. Lying on the floor by the side of the bin, Amy sees the torn brown envelope.
Brenda stands and watches as Amy puts her hand into the bin and takes out the letter from Countdown Housing.
“It’s rubbish,” Brenda tells her, before Amy can say anything. She doesn’t want Amy asking her what it says when Brenda can’t read it or understand it.
“It’s not rubbish. It’s from Countdown Housing, why are they writing to us, what does it say?” Amy asks her. What do they want, are we in trouble? There’s lots of paper here.”
“Stop asking me questions,” Brenda shouts at her.
Amy sits down at the table and looks at the letter. Even though Brenda can sometimes be bossy and shout at her, Brenda is Amy’s best friend.
Amy sits looking at it for a long time and Brenda wishes she would just throw it away.
“Jackie will be here tomorrow, why don’t we show it to her and ask her what it says,” Amy says quietly.
“I don’t want to show it to Jackie. I don’t like anyone reading our letters!” Brenda tells her.
Amy looks down at the floor again and is surprised when Brenda stands up and says “I know what we should do. We should ask Gary and Jack.”
Before Amy can say anything, Brenda picks up the phone and speaks to Gary.
When Brenda tells Gary about the letter from Countdown Housing, Gary tells her that he has one too. Then he tells Brenda that when he showed this to his friend Jack, he told him the letter is about a consultation.
“What’s a consultation?” Brenda asks him.
“Jack says we need to speak to them because it says you can ask for this in large print.” Gary says.
“Where does it say that?” Brenda asks him.
Gary says he thinks it is on the bottom of the letter because this is what Jack told him.
“How do I know to ask for that if I can’t read it,” Brenda shouts back.
Gary doesn’t really like Brenda but she is Amy’s best friend and Gary likes Amy.
“Look Brenda,” Gary says slowly, “Jack told me this because he can read really well. He said we need to speak to Countdown Housing.”
“Why do we want to speak to them?” Brenda asks him, “I thought you were going to help me.”
Gary explains that if they speak to Countdown Housing they could ask them to make their information easy to read and understand. Then he tells Brenda that Jack said the Stronger Voices group can help Countdown Housing with this.
“The Stronger Voices group we go to made all the leaflets at the Green Gates Centre in easy read, Gary tells her “so we can ask Countdown Housing if we can do this for them too.”
Amy is still sitting at the table listening to Brenda speaking to Gary. When Brenda puts the phone down, Amy wants to know what he said.
“It’s sorted,” she tells Amy and Brenda walks out of the room.
Brenda asks you this:
What was wrong with this letter from Countdown Housing?
What do you think Countdown Housing could have done better?
What would you do if you were sent a letter like this?
What do you think will happen next?