Thursdays weekly demonstration. We shall overcome!

Yesterday was a rather special demonstration. The fantastic team from The We Shall Overcome campaign came along and joined us. This was fantastic, having another local organisation standing side by side in solidarity with us. Its the first time that they have done so and I and the team felt honoured that they did so.

Its taken a long time to gain support and solidarity, probably because the community and claimants have to build up the trust, and it has taken time for the public to see the reality of the situation. The whole DWP regime is beyond cruel and is punishing the poor for their poverty. How can people find jobs if there isn’t that many jobs out there? The jobs that are available are mainly zero hour contracts and are very poorly paid.

When we first started the main issue that we had to contend with was the evil sanctioning regime. Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre has an awful reputation of being one of the worst Jobcentres in the country and its certainly living up to its reputation.

We are unlucky enough to be one of the main trial areas for anything new that the DWP wants to try out on the claimants. They dont see them as people, they are the equivalent of a lab rat, having no apparent choice in what happens to them.

We set about to change this, if we cant change something then I have no qualms about exposing their cruel practices. Then we empower the claimants to enable them to fight back, to take a stand against the DWP. You see once they are inside the Jobcentre they are told by their ‘advisor’ that they have no rights, and they certainly aren’t informed about anything, and in most cases they aren’t even told that they have the right to appeal decisions. I know that there are some ok advisors there, but they are few and far between, and if they dont comply with the rules given to them then they themselves get punished and put on disciplinaries. There is an awful culture of bullying towards DWP workers, but I also do know that some advisors actually like their job and what they do.

On the whole we have been very successful, despite numerous bullying incidences from the DWP and G4S we haven’t moved. Ive toughened up, and have become very aware of the tactics employed by them.

We’ve seen some awful things, you can read about these if you scroll down through the blog, but lately we’ve also seen some great things. It really helps when something positive happens.

Yesterday the We Shall Overcome team came down with nine foodparcels, they were all taken within two hours. There just wasn’t enough to hand out. Demand was high yesterday mainly due to ESA payments not being received either due to failed medicals where the claimant hadn’t been informed or the payment hadn’t gone into their bank because the DWP demanded a new sick note, but they hadn’t had the decency to inform the claimant. We also have claimants that are sanctioned and rely on a food parcel to keep them going. We’ve become their lifeline, and they stand and chat with us. They are amazing.

Yesterday wasn’t just spent standing around doing nothing and shouting. We dont have the time to shout, our time is spent helping people for the whole two hours. Here are some examples.

A gentleman asked for a quiet word enquiring about a housing situation.

Time spent updating on a homeless persons situation, making sure that they were ok and ensuring a food parcel with suitable food was given. They are living at the Travellodge at the moment and cant cook. But we can make sure that food is given that can be cooked via a kettle.

Time spent with a claimant that I hadn’t seen last week. They had been in hospital again, they aren’t well and are a nervous wreck because of the situation that they are in. I love talking to them and ensuring that they are ok, even if its just for the hour that they are with us.

I advised a new mother on her rights regarding the DWP and checked to see if she was being treated ok, and wasn’t in need of anything.

Reassuring a claimant that is on the awful Universal Credit. They have now lost their temporary job and are a bag of nerves. They don’t know where they stand and aren’t being treated well by their advisor. Help and advice given, also a foodparcel.

Saying hi to a claimant that has been forced to go into the Jobcentre everyday to do their Job search. He struggles with the English language, but they aren’t helping. Nor will they allow him to use another computer anywhere else or do a paper search.

A claimant came and said hi and wanted to thank me for helping them and for listening to them via here and social media. I will never turn anyone away, but there was no need to thank me. Knowledge is meant to be shared and helping others is in my eyes the most precious thing that anyone can ever do. 

Advising a claimant who was going to the local library everyday to do their job search. Their advisor has told them that the library isn’t good enough now even though they were doing their job search perfectly. They are now forced to attend the Jobcentre everyday to use their computers. Ive informed them of their rights, and as they are homeless living in the local Travellodge they are especially vulnerable.

Signposting a claimant to where they can get a warm coat from. They are homeless and have no warm coat or change of trousers. Hopefully they would have found both yesterday evening. Many thanks to my friend Pauline for this.

Its getting colder now, so the winter worries are starting to set in. It was freezing yesterday and im desperately needing new thermals!

Then I get home eventually and carry on with the campaigning. Its hard work and rarely do I get a break. But I will not stop because the claimants need our help, support and solidarity. Having someone there that understands their problems and listens without judgement is so important.

I am worried, claimants will soon be stopped from appealing ESA decisions effectively and that is very worrying. ESA claimants are already being turned down for the money that they rightly deserve at an alarming rate. These are sick, ill and disabled people. It makes me extremely angry that the government is happy to punish the most vulnerable in society like this.

A MASSIVE thank you to everyone who joined us yesterday. It means so much. It was mentioned yesterday that we need to build a resistance against this awful system. My answe was simple. We already are. Its now become a movement. Its amazing. 

For those that can make it, there’s a march planned especially for the Tory Party conference in Birmingham on Sunday. If you are a member of unite community transport is being provided but you must contact your local community branch for details. I have always found that its a useful trip, you can vent your frustration but also they need to see how unhappy we are. We did a very good job in Manchester last year and I have heard rumours that they wont be returning. By the way the last day is usually worth hanging around for.

Please if you can donate to help me keep this campaigning going. Its a full time job now and is hard work. If you cant donate then thats great, just be nice to folk, listen to their problems. We are all one step away from being in the same situation as the claimants that we speak to.
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