Yesterday we held our weekly demonstration, but it felt rather special. Not just because it’s the run up to our two year anniversary which is next Thursday, but because we had been gifted five food parcels to hand out to claimants either sanctioned or awaiting decisions on their benefits. They had been donated by a fantastic lady who runs a pub nearby. She does fantastic things for the homeless community and for anyone without anything, or are down on their luck. We do communicate a lot with her and she is a vital part of our team, even though she can’t stand outside the Jobcentre.
I had no expectations about the handing out of these food parcels, but the need for them was great as I found out. Within fifteen minuites of receiving them, the first one was handed out to a young man who had been seen looking at them, and walking past twice. His clothes looked a bit unkempt and I could just tell that he needed help. He said that he was on a three month sanction and was finding it very hard to get by. The big food banks make him feel demoralised he said, because they asked too many questions. He said he was already feeling intimidated by the Jobcentre and more questioning made him feel nervous. Also he knows that he’s only allowed so many food parcels and how would that get him through three months?
It is ridiculous, nobody really admits to having nothing until they are absolutely desperate, at their lowest eb. So I handed over a food parcel, told him that we could see that he was struggling and that we would have another for him next week. I don’t think that he could really believe it, that there are folk out there that will help him. Three months is a long time to go without food, and we have been dealing with claimants who have been sanctioned for three years.
I spoke to someone who helps to run a trussell trust food bank last night. A lovely chap. He said that they can only help short term, I replied that I think that the trussell trust really need to reasses their strategy. That we are dealing with three year sanctions now, people are starving and three food parcels does not help enough. I also said that I would give when I see someone struggling, because after hearing of three suicides in the first year of our demonstrations I. Would like to prevent more, no questions asked. People don’t want judgement they want compassion and positive help. They want to become empowered. So how can three food parcels keep someone alive for three years? It beggars belief.
I know that food parcels are not the answer. The real answer is to stop the sanctioning of people, mostly innocent people. To take a persons every means of survival away from them breaches every human rights act that exists. And I will continue to do so. This is a pure reflection of how this Tory government feels about the most vulnerable in society. And I only fear that it will get worse.
It took us less than two hours to hand out all five food parcels, each one going to someone in need, either sanctioned or awaiting a WCA decision, and also a benefit decision. Can you imagine how many we would have handed out if we had been stood there all day? I can confidently say that we could have tripled that number.
Other issues yesterday. A new G4s security guard, clearly wanting to flex his G4S muscles decided that he had to tell us to move away from the door. We weren’t in front of the door, there was a clear path for claimants going in and out. So we stayed where we were. I do feel that it is somewhat like a badge if honour amongst the G4S security guards there to ask us to move on. But we shall not be moved.
Next week is our two year anniversary, and it will be a rather special morning. We will have food, food parcels and maybe some cake to cheer the team up. For anyone wanting to criticise this it’s hard work and every now and then we need a good morale boost. Two years is a fantastic achievement and we are the longest running Jobcentre protest in the country. We would love a bit of live music and maybe a bit of street theatre, so anyone reading this if you can contribute then we could really appreciate this.
Please come and join us next Thursday between 10-12 next Thursday and every Thursday. 101 old street Ashton under Lyne.
Im placing my donate button on here again. Many thanks folks for donations given. It’s a full time job running this campaign. And most days. I’m very busy with a related activity. Such as taking a claimant to the Jobcentre to ensure that they are treated correctly, to helping and advising with other benefit related enquirers and of course the dreaded ESA medicals.