Establishing ‘vulnerability’ in calls to a housing charity helpline
When people are in contact with organisations who have a remit to provide assistance, sometimes they are asked to disclose personal information (e.g., health concerns, addictions) in order for appropriate support to be provided. However, sometimes these sensitive topics are observably problematic to discuss (e.g., speech disfluency, tentative turn design), which may have consequences for the help offered. Drawing on a corpus of recorded telephone calls to a UK housing charity helpline, I focus on the points in calls where call-takers endeavour to establish the caller’s ‘vulnerability’ through asking a series of specific questions (e.g., “do you have any medical issues at all?”). I will show how the design of topic initiating turns by call-takers can have interactional (and potentially institutional) consequences for callers. Significantly, I will demonstrate how these findings are relevant for professionals across the social care sector.