ESA medical assessments, the reality. My experience this week. 

Apologises for the extra blog, I meant to post it yesterday but I have been far too busy to do so. Such is life it seems these days. 
A lady that comes to speak to me at our demo every week had an appointment to attend her ESA assessment. I asked her if she had a family member or a friend that could take her but she said that she didn’t, and the reason why I asked this is because it’s always best if a person that knows them well attends the medical with them. This is because they know the person far better than any person from an outside organisation can ever do. However, we do offer very good advice on how to handle the so called medical etc. This is essential. 

Because this wasn’t possible, I volunteered myself to accompany her. I didn’t have the money to do so, but at the time her needs came first. Shes very vulnerable and I certainly didnt want her to go into the lions den so to speak alone. She is also a very quiet, shy person and has refused to access other local organisations. So I accompanied her, much to her relief. 

I met her to start our journey which wasn’t a short one. She was understandably nervous and anxious so I did my best to reassure her that I would look after her to the best of my abilities, which I did. 

I’m sure that my readers are aware of how horrible these so called medicals are. It’s not just having the medical, its also the journey there and the building itself. The DWP like to choose places that can look intimidating and sparsely furnished. 

Albert Bridge House, the assessment centre that we had the misfortune to have to visit. The entrance itself is round the corner, but they don’t make it easy to find. But I suspect that’s the intention isn’t it. 

Upon attending a medical like this, the assessment process often starts before you enter the building. As in the case of the Manchester assessment centre, there are cameras outside watching you arrive and leave. They say that they don’t but whilst waiting with the lady in the waiting area, I clearly heard the receptionist say to a man “Well, we saw you arrive in a taxi”. Unless they had seen this on a screen inside, this wouldn’t have been possible. 

So beware of this, make a note and remember. 

Upon entering we were met by two G4S security guards, this adds to the feeling of oppression and intimidation and does nothing to give a person confidence. The reception desk is behind clear plastic, and the staff quite rude. 
A person isn’t greeted, or asked if they are ok. Considering that they are dealing with sick and disabled people, they should show a glimmer of concern. Instead a clipboard is thrusted into your hands through a gap in the plastic, and they say with no understanding “Fill this in”. It states that they want to see a persons proof of identity, although nothing is said about this on the letter that the person receives. I pointed this out to them and they said fill it in anyway. I did this for the lady, but they offered no help, or even asked if she was able to do so. 

The building itself is old, shabby and harks back to a time, probably the 1960’s and 1970’s. There’s lines of chairs in poor condition, one water fountain (which is a new edition, it wasn’t there the last time that I visited) and basic toilets. Everything is dark wood and shabby carpets long past their best. The only nice thing about the room is that it has big windows, looking out across the road where upper class housing is being built. This is tragic, rubbing their noses in it I thought. 
We found a spot in a corner at the back of the room, I was trying to make the whole awful experience less daunting for her. She struggles in crowded spaces and felt more at ease there. 

As soon as we sat down, a young man stormed out of his assessment. He was shouting and was angry, which was very understandable. He told the room full of people that he has a mental health illness, that he struggles. He went into his assessment and was asked to move his arms and legs. He was asked NOTHING about his mental health. He knew that they were going to fail him and as he stated, and as we know, he wasn’t given a medical relevant to his condition. They saw him and decided that they would fail him. He went on to tell everyone sat in the room to challenge everything, to appeal and to do what I do. Expose every wrongdoing that they are guilty of. He was then walked out of the building by the security guards. 

I don’t want to scare anyone, but this is how easy it is for a person to loose everything. A so called medical ‘nurse’ deciding that they are going to wrongly assess a person. This is why it is very important to take the assesors name, qualification and the medical body on which they operate under. These are all vital details needed to make a complaint and appeal. Also, if you are able, write a transcript of the medical when you arrive back home. 

Whilst waiting, I heard a woman complaining that she had waited for over a hour, had travelled 45 minutes to get there and she couldn’t stay any longer because she couldn’t cope anymore. She made another appointment and left. 
In front of us a woman was half sat, half lying down on a couple of chairs. She was curled up in a ball and was obviously unable to cope with being there. 
An 81 year old woman was wheeled into the room by her carer. I had no idea of her circumstances but theres no way on this earth that an 81 year old woman should have to attend a medical. No one should have to attend a medical like this. 
Towards the right to us, there was a lady clutching hold of her carer, rocking back and forth talking to herself. Her carer was furious that she had to attend and told me that it will take her weeks, if not a month to get over this experience. 
Further down, there was a woman sat with her partner. She looked very nervous and wasn’t talking to anyone. When her name was called, she refused the offer of help from her partner to go in the assessment with her. I really hope that they didn’t fail her but the odds were stacked against her. 
Sat at the front, near the reception a woman was sat silently looking at the ground, bewildered, unsure of why she was there and what was going to happen. She was also on her own. 
A lady was sat with her carer to the right of us, asleep. She had to be woke up to attend her assessment. 
All of these people were clearly too ill and disabled to attend this so called medical. They clearly shouldn’t have to attend, no one should. Their consultants or doctors assessment and diagnoses of their conditions should enough, it always used to be. This process is designed purposely to humiliate and degrade a person, to make them feel unworthy and to question their illness or disability. I’m sure that most people leaving these assessments leave under a dark cloud of depression, stress and worry. 
As for the lady that I accompanied, we waited two hours, she had a panic attack and I had to rearrange the appointment. 
This folks is the reality of this cruel system, and this is exactly why I will continue to fight it. No one deserves to be treated like this. The whole DWP system in the form that it exists in now kills people. How many more deaths is it going to take before people take notice. This needs to become a priority, and soon. 
Footnote; This is not the first time that I have attended a medical with someone, and it won’t be the last time either. I just wanted to share this experience. It is not my intention to scare anyone, but reality is reality and it needs sharing. 

I do this at my own expense, and this week I have had to make the decision of heat or eat myself. I had to choose eat, the emergency gas will have to last. If I don’t blog tomorrow, it means that my internet has been disconnected due to non payment, and I have no credit on my telephone either. I will access free wifi at Ikea on Friday if this is the case. Once again I’m just stating the reality of the situation, and the situation is the same for thousands of people. 

Be the kindness that you want to see in this world. 

I featured on the Adrian Chiles show on Radio 5 Live on monday. Here is the link. This was recorded outside Ashton Jobcentre last Tuesday.

Please share, and talk about my blog. Also please donate if possible. Every penny helps. Thank you, and thank you to everyone that supports my blog already.

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Today’s demo. Tuesdays extra demo.

I arrived for our weekly demo a few minutes late, I unexpectedly met a friend of mine who wanted to join us this morning. I was so happy to see her because she has been a tremendous support to myself regarding my personal life.

I had a tough few years and both her and her brother who has sadly passed away were a tremendous support to both myself and my daughter. It cheered me up no end seeing her.
As we approached the Jobcentre out of nowhere Gordon had appeared and there was a small crowd of people waiting for help, advice and food parcels.  My first job was to talk to them all individually and assess what their situation is and what help that they can access locally.

Some don’t want to approach local organisations for whatever reason but I do talk to them every week and one day I will succeed in getting them there. This can be hard work and I’ve built up a rapour with them so I’m keeping everything crossed.


Today seemed very hard, the requests for help and also just conversation was very high.

We now have people that used to attend Stalybridge Jobcentre requiring advice and solidarity. Most of them commented once again that they couldn’t believe the difference between Ashton Jobcentre and Stalybridge, there were also numerous complaints about the security guards. It is very daunting walking in that building.

I spoke to a young man whom I had helped a while ago. When I first met him he was down on his luck and having a very hard time. This was also compounded with the fact that he had addiction issues. He wasn’t getting the support that he needed and was like a fish out of water. Being homeless as well made his life unbearable, but we stood with him, didn’t judge him and ensured that he received the help that he needed and also gave him the strength and support to do so.

This is why we do these demos, and it also gives us hope..

He is an amazing young man. He gave me full permission to record the video below. I’m so proud of him.

Today was extremely busy and I don’t think that we had handed so many leaflets out for a long time. It’s a good job that we had arranged for a re print with some edits made to the back page to make them clearer to read. I think that we might use these up in record time at this rate.

I’m taking a lady to her ESA medical on Wednesday next week so she came to meet me to have a chat. She’s quite understandably very nervous. I will ensure that she gets the support that she needs on that day.

It’s taken me a long time to build up her trust also. I’m really hoping that she passes her medical but we know how hard that is don’t we.

I spoke to two very young girls that were having to use the Jobcentre, one of them had an appointment the other wanted to go in with her friend for support but was sent out of the Jobcentre by the security guards. She was informed of her right to do so and was given a copy of this in writing so that she could show them next time.
I spoke to an older lady who was leaving the Jobcentre out of breath and obviously in poor health. I informed her that given her circumstances she could apply to claim ESA and she should do so with the upmost urgency. She has to now travel miles to get to Ashton Jobcentre and I am very worried about her ability to do this, and also the cost. She is struggling so I handed her a food parcel and explained that we are there every week if she wants to talk to us. I also handed her a leaflet with details of other local organisations that might be able to help her.

Every person that we spoke to today that had previously been using Stalybridge Jobcentre were struggling in some way. I did alert people that this would cause immense suffering but it fell on deaf ears.

We also didn’t see any DWP staff members protesting about this. Not one. Maybe they were deployed elsewhere so weren’t that concerned with loosing their jobs there. This will be remembered if the same staff ever approach us to support one of their picket lines. I doubt that this will ever happen though.

I spoke to a young lady who was with her mother and her baby. They looked stressed and muttered something about how their benefits always being changed. They didn’t go into any details though they were in a rush to attend their appointment. We did however inform her of  her right to have her mother with her for support.

I also had to do a very short notice demo for Radio 5 Live on Tuesday. So I went down armed with leaflets to do so.

It’s always a different atmosphere when I do impromptu demos. The Jobcentre immediately turned off their automatic door opening system as soon as they saw me. I’m no threat to them at all, I really am not. I’m a middle aged lady with a bad back and their behaviour sometimes strikes me as ridiculous.

That morning I spoke to a woman who was struggling with being on Universal Credit whilst her husband works on a zero hour contract. The Jobcentre are demanding that she also finds work, but with two children and never knowing what hours he is working its near impossible to find childcare. She also has no family in England to help her.

I spoke to a man who was in obvious distress and quite rightly so. His Jobcentre advisor was giving him the runaround, and trying every trick in the book to sanction him. He had done his job search, showed her but his advisor still told him that he was going to be sanctioned. This man was very vulnerable and his advisor knew this, which makes it even worse. He became angry which is also very understandable, so I did my best to calm him down and thankfully it worked.

I also spoke to a man who had previously had a struggle with his advisor who had tried to make him claim Universal credit instead of the JSA that he is entitled to claim under his circumstances. Not only would he have been much worse off financially, it wouldn’t have done his mental health much good either. Luckily he had stood his ground and won.



I spoke to lots of people that morning, and all were thankful for the advice and leaflets given to them.

I was freezing cold and extremely tired that evening but it was worth it because more people recieved the help that they needed.
This is just a few of the people that have been helped this week, can you imagine how many people are desperate for help up and down the country every day? This is an issue that certainly isnt being spoken about enough and it does feel like no one cares about them. Are they not worthy enough to make their issues become a priority?

I stand in solidarity with DPAC and agree that one and a half questions at PMQs this week in parliament is not enough, not by a long shot. I fully support Jeremy Corbyn, don’t misunderstand me, but people are dying every day as a result of these punitive measures being directed towards the disabled and the poor. Their voices need to be heard.

How many deaths will it take?

I’m sorry for the short blog, I’m tired and it feels like I never stop.


I’ve also started a regular vlog on YouTube to coincide with my blog. This week will be my first vlog and here is the link if you would like to watch it.

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Four year demo anniversary, man sanctioned for 96 days, food parcels handed out. 

Today was the day of our yearly anniversary and we had decided on a theme… Prisoners of the DWP. Claimants are treated by the DWP like criminals and every aspect of their life is effectively controlled by them. If you don’t believe me just ask someone who is a victim of this regime. It’s cruel and horrible and has the ability to destroy a persons life at the push of a button. Hence our demo theme.
I arrived slightly early awaiting the delivery of the pasting table that we were using today, the big flask donated by Ray Woolford when he visited, and also tea, coffee etc.

I arrived early, I was expecting Roy early, but I wasn’t expecting anyone else to be but they proved me wrong, everyone was either early or on time which was amazing. Thank you folks it is appreciated it really is, you guys are my rock.


As I was setting up for our demo I was busy handing out food parcels, asking folk how they were and signposted to local organisations that are able to sit down and talk to them. We need to do this, but we offer lots of help, support compassion and solidarity. We also receive no funding from any large organisations and rely on donations.
A man stopped me and he was very angry. He told me that he was fed up of being sanctioned. He was a young man who had previously had to use Stalybridge Jobcentre to sign on but it’s been shut down so has to now use Ashton. He also wasn’t very complimentary about the staff either.

A homeless chap raced over to me and told me that his money had been stopped because he had applied for his ESA before the six month time limit so he was refused. He told me that he didn’t want to speak to any official organisation at the moment but I will keep trying. I also gave him details of the local organisations that he can access to get help.
Then we were joined by Paula Peters and Keith Walker from from the inspiring group DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts), we always offer solidarity and they do to us. We have links to a lot of the national campaigning groups throughout the country.

I was so happy to see them, and they had travelled from London to see us and some other groups. The last time that I had met Paula was at a Unite/PCS conference two years ago. She, and DPAC are amongst my heroes, they literally put their life’s on the line to protest about the way that disabled people are being treated in the UK.

We were then stopped by a man who told us that he had been sanctioned for 96 days. We wern’t clear about the reasons for the lengthy sanction but I can say this. Sanctions are mostly being given as a first option of ‘punishment’ by the DWP, it’s their first line of attack and they shouldn’t be. No one deserves to have their lifeline taken away from them by anyone and these cruel methods employed by the DWP certainly do not encourage people into work. They do the opposite, sanctions do result in deaths and that is a fact highlighted by UN reports. It’s going to become a whole lot worse, infact horrific when universal credit is rolled out universally. The impact that this will have on disabled people will certainly result in many, many deaths. The suffering will be on such a scale that it will be unpresedented. But we will continue to help people the best that we can, and I will also continue to lobby MPS, attend meetings, speak at meetings, help with tv companies that are only making positive programmes about the reality of living within this system, and of course I will contuinue to write my blog. I have also started to write my book at last.

I brought the megaphone to the demo today because it was our fourth anniversary, but we wern’t celebrating, far from it. A few of us made some speeches, mine was awful I’m afraid, but Paula’s, John’s and Christine’s speeches were amazing. Christine poem brought tears to my eyes.

There is so much more that I could write about, but I don’t want to bore you. It was a fantastic day for solidarity and support, we gave out lots and lots of help, handed out food parcels, provided hot drinks and biscuits and leaflets. We listened whilst people told us about their problems and then helped them. We showed them a kindness that hadn’t been shown to them by the Jobcentre staff. I got hugs from some people as a thank you for helping them because believe me the campaign doesn’t start and end on a Thursday. It’s more or less a full time job.

We do make a massive difference to people’s life’s and that is what we are there for, that and to campaign.

I would also like to say thank you to our supporters for all the support that you have given me and for sharing this blog. I also want to thank all of the team for just being amazing I love you all. And a special thank you for John and Christine who have been there from the start. They’ve put up with me for years and that in itself deserves a medal.
I’m tired so I’m going to end it there, and if any of the gang from Wigan Diggers read this I cannot attend because funds don’t allow but I will be watching all of the videos and supporting you from home.

Please share this blog widely, the government really don’t like people sharing information such as this, it damages their credibility, that’s if they have any left anymore.

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Important updates share widely. 

Please read and share widely. If you arent angry upon reading this then I don’t know how bad it has to become before you become angry. 

As we know the DWP and the government like to stitch everything up so it goes in their favour. Many thanks to the people over at Benefits And Work for all their hard work in challenging these decisions and wrongful treatment. 

To put it simply, we mean nothing to the DWP. Remember that. 
From benefits and Work a very reliable source of information. 
Entirely unlawfully, the DWP has been blocking people from appealing if they miss the one month deadline for asking for a mandatory reconsideration. In truth, the deadline can be extended by a further year where the claimant has good cause for being late. But the DWP had decided that it was up to them to be the judge of whether the claimant had a good reason for missing the deadline and that tribunals shouldn’t be allowed any say in whether they could hear the case.
Happily, a panel of three upper tribunal judges have now said that the DWP must stop preventing claimants from exercising their lawful right to appeal. The case involved ESA, but will apply to all other benefits too.

The Independent, meanwhile, has managed to get the DWP to hand over details of how much they have spent on trying to stop people getting ESA. And, in particular, on fighting appeals against sanctions of sick and disabled claimants ESA.
The cost to the taxpayer has been a staggering £39 million. And that’s just the DWP’s costs. It doesn’t include to cost of the tribunals themselves.
The fact that the DWP has been losing over two thirds of these cases doesn’t discourage them in the slightest.
Far from it. According to the Independent, spending on ESA appeals has increased by 77% in 2017.

We also have news of the DWP refusing to accept the ruling of the Information Commissioner that they must publish a report that shows how well Maximus, and Atos before them, carry out work capability assessments.
The reason the DWP have given for the refusal?
Publication of the report could‘give a perception of under-performance’ which could ‘damage the reputation and standing of the companies involved’.
In other words, they don’t want anyone to know how bad things are, so they are trying to use commercial confidentiality as a reason for withholding the truth.
The matter will now be decided by an information tribunal.

Then there’s the fight that Benefits and Work is having with the DWP, which is currently on its way to the Information Commissioner.
We’ve asked to see guidance and training materials used by Atos in relation to PIP assessments.
One of the things we want to discover is whether Atos and Capita are following the same procedures or whether the outcome of your assessment depends in part on what area of the country you are living in.
The DWP are fighting to withhold the documents, however.
Their reason?
You’ve probably guessed it: the information is, in some unexplained way, commercially confidential.
The matter is now going to the Information Commissioner and then, quite possibly, to an information tribunal.

Apple Pie. Cooking on the cheap again. 

Sorry post yet another recipe, but I did think that this could be useful to some of my readers out there. 

I don’t know about you, but cooking on a budget is always on my mind, most of us can’t afford to do anything else. If I can cook it myself for a lot cheaper than it would be to buy I will do. Also home made food is also of a much better quality and nutritional value which is equally as important. 

I must state that I’m not what you could call a cook. If I manage to cook something and it tastes nice then it’s a result in my eyes and the following dish was ate very enthusiastically by my friends at a gathering yesterday. 
I’m very lucky to have a neighbour that likes to give me any fruit that she doesn’t want or has been given too much of. This time it was apples that had been picked of her friends tree in her back garden and my daughter brought a carrier bag full of them home to me. 

The first thing that I thought of cooking was a nice apple pie. I hadn’t made one for years and I had recently bought some pre rolled pastry for a quid and already had purchased some Apple Pie seasoning from Aldi the other week. Aldi are really good at selling seasonal spices like this and they are really cheap. 

Here goes. 

Ingredients needed; apples raisins or sultanas, sugar, spice mix or cinnnamon and nutmeg although not essential they do enhance the taste of the apples and pastry. Milk or egg to glaze. 

Here are the apples. They are a bit battered looking but don’t be put off. They were good apples and once peeled you couldnt tell the difference between one of these and a perfect shop bought one. 

Peel the apples. Use your own judgement about how many you will need based upon the size of the pie dish you are using. I don’t have a pie dish so I improvised. 

When peeled, cut into smaller pieces and place in a bowl of water to prevent the apples from becoming brown. 

Cut and peel as many as are required and put them in a pan of water along with the raisins or sultanas. Don’t worry if you don’t have these, just apples will be ok. 

Place on a moderate heat and cook for around ten minutes just to allow them to soften a little and to release a little flavour, This is a trick that my friend Debbie informed me of and it really makes a difference to the flavour and softness of the apples. 

Drain and leave to cool whilst you attend to the pastry. 

This is the ready rolled pastry that I already had in the fridge. Making your own pastry is far more cheaper and is fun to make when you have children. But I had to use this because it was close to the use by date so I did. 

Because this pastry is ready rolled, you don’t have to roll it out. This saves a lot of time. 

Then get your dish of choice. This is the one that I used. 

Grease and flour the dish and now it’s ready for the pastry. 

Place the dish top down upon your pastry and cut round it, leaving some extra pasty to ensure that its deep enough. 

Put your drained apples into the dish on top of the pastry inside it. Sprinkle the sugar and seasoning to taste. I don’t like an apple pie to be too sweet but not sour either. Use your own judgement on this. 

If you can get hold of this seasoning its amazing. 

I chose to make a lattice top. Mainly because I had to improvise due to not having enough pastry to put a full top on. Excuse the not straight lines. I call it rustic. I don’t believe in perfection all of the time anyway. 

Place in a criss cross pattern on the top, sticking down with either an egg wash or milk. I used milk because thats what I had more of. Sprinkle with sugar also it really does look and taste better if you do this. 

Place in the oven at gas mark 4, 180c, 350f. 

I’m not sure about exact timing, but keep checking until it looks to your taste, the top is nice and browned and the pastry is golden. 

Here’s the finished result. 

Not perfect but it cost a quid to make, the apples were free and I already had the other ingrediants. 

It was eaten  by friends in minutes and the feedback was good. 

Bon appetit!

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Back to school worries, school uniforms how can we afford to buy them? 

It’s that time of year again, just over a week before the children go back to school and it seems that we have to have endless pots of money to provide our children with the expensive uniforms that many schools, especially secondary schools expect them to wear. Compounded with that, there is also the added pressure of all the extras that are also demanded. 

Admitting to others that the cost of buying school uniform is also very stigmatising and it prevents parents from admitting that they are struggling to cope. 

As regular reader will already know, I live on a very low income and every year I’m confronted with this problem. Luckily my daughter is still at primary school, but believe me I used to have sleepless nights about this. I don’t anymore but I expect I might have next year when she will start secondary school. 

In the past with my older children I used to be of the belief that because it was September and the start of a new school year, that they needed a full, completely new school uniform and accesories. I would go over the top in the uniform shop and supermarkets, buying everything new. That’s a habit that I had to stop out of necessity. I couldn’t afford it, so what was I going to do? 

I then decided to assess what actually needed replacing. Clothes that didn’t fit anymore were put to one side, as were any ripped clothes etc. This still left me with a good, solid base of school uniform that could be easily worn once again when the school year started again.  I would use white material brighteners (not bleach it leaves a yellow tone) on any dull shirts and then iron them well. They looked great. No one would know that they wern’t new. 

So that left me with the uniform that I needed to replace. I like to buy two cheap shirts from a supermarket etc. Avoid uniform shops like the plague if you can. Often the quality of the uniform isn’t that good and the prices are expensive. My daughter likes to wear a new shirt on the first day, after that as long as it’s clean she isn’t that bothered as long as it fits. 

I don’t know how I’ve managed this, but she had managed to fit into the same school skirt for two years. This is the first year that I’ve had to replace it and I found a plain skirt that actually fitted with room at a charity shop for a couple of pounds. I took it home, washed it, ironed it and it looks new. She also has some plain trousers that she wears when it gets cold and they still fit her and are in very good condition so they aren’t being replaced either. 

The same applies to sports kit. I always buy an oversized t shirt, and stretchy legging material shorts. I often find these in places like Aldi and Asda. School pumps as well. If the previous terms uniform still fits then don’t buy new! There is no need. 

I was then left with the task of sourcing new school socks, although only a few pairs because she still has her old socks that are in good condition. Instead of going to the local brand clothes shops, and a trip to Manchester was too expensive I decided to source her some from my local indoor market. I did this very easily, and found three pairs of knee length socks that actually reach the knees for a few pounds. Result. I saved on bus fares and complaints from the daughter that they aren’t long enough. Headaches spared as well then. 

Buying underware, well she wears what she already has. There’s no need for new underware for school. That is unless it’s too small. 

Always put names on your child’s school uniform. There is no need to buy expensive name tags etc either. Buy a set of Sharpies form the Poundshop, take the black or blue one and write their name inside their uniform. This also works better because labels can be taken off, Sharpie marks can’t so it might make the retrieval of lost school uniform easier. 

School shoes. If your child’s school shoes are ruined beyond repair or don’t fit anymore then there is no reason why they can’t wear them again. Buy some cheap shoe polish, polish them and they will look like new. If their shoes still fit but are needing repair then go to a local cobblers and have them repaired. They will make them look like new again and your child will be happy because they fit and are comfy. I always repair shoes and it has saved me a fortune throughout the years, and is often much cheaper than buying new shoes. If new shoes are needed then look on Ebay, Amazon etc. You can find some really good bargains there. If you can’t do this then try a supermarket. Go for the better constructed ones with good soles because they will last longer. 

Sandwich bags and boxes don’t need to be bought again unless their old ones are unusable. Its an unecessary expense. 

School bags. Yes I know that it looks nice to have a new school bag, but when money is low have a think. Do they really need a new school bag? I only buy new ones when its necessary because I can’t afford to otherwise. Some bags can be washed in a washing machine or wiped down. This can really improve their appearance also. 
School coat. If their coat still fits them and is in good repair then they can wear it again. It’s likely that a thick winter coat isn’t needed as soon as the new term starts anyway, so if a new coat is needed you could well find a good one in a charity shop or reduced in a shop. Expensive coats really aren’t needed, a warm cheaper coat is equally as good and if it gets damaged its easier to repair. Never buy expensive unless its a bargain in a charity shop. 

I know that the pressure for children to wear expensive uniform at secondary school is unreal. Schools are demanding too much from parents, who are already struggling to afford to feed their children. 

This is wrong and I totally disagree with it. Wearing posh logos on everything does not make a child study harder, behave better or pass exams. All I can suggest for this is to try and put a couple of quid away every week to buy this uniform. Also buy secondhand. 

Ask at the school if there are any school uniform exchanges etc. If there isn’t any suggest it to the school. Also lobby your local MP and highlight the cost of school uniforms. Talk to other parents about it also, maybe putting pressure on the school will help them to change their policies. There is nothing wrong with a plain uniform that is cheap and easy to buy.

I always replace bits of school uniform as my daughter grows. I now never buy a full set every September, and I don’t loose any sleep over it. Children can and do look smart wearing a previous terms uniform and we can hardly afford to do anything else can we. 

Enquire if there are any clothing banks local to yourself. If there aren’t then maybe start one. Check the local Facebook pages also I’ve had lot’s of bargains from these pages. 

Apologies to anyone that might already be aware of these tips, I’m not wanting to preach to the converted so to speak. If anyone has any more suggestions please write them in the comments section. Thanks .” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow noopener noreferrer”>

Type 1 diabetic left without food and income. New people requesting food parcels. The struggle continues.

My daughter and I arrived at our weekly demo a few minutes early, it’s always good to get everything set up first so that we aren’t too rushed. Unfortunately my plan was thwarted, because I was busy from the minute that I arrived. It’s like this most weeks sadly.


I’m sure that some people might think that we really aren’t that busy and it’s quite easy going. They have the misconception that we just stand around protesting and handing a few leaflets out. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Anyone that has attended our weekly demos can attest that we are busy, that we don’t just stand there and we do a lot of  work on foot. This is also hampered by the fact that we are outside, in a public space which is where we are supposed to be, but it isn’t easy to give advice on a busy street and at times we do get a fair bit of verbal abuse. You know the type, folk shouting “Get a job, scroungers” etc etc. This does happen and it really is pot luck if it doesn’t happen every week.



We now have had a new struggle on our hands. Stalybridge Jobcentre has been shut down, and the claimants are now being sent to Ashton Jobcentre. They don’t know us, haven’t a clue what we are doing and we will have to build trust up with them. From what I could gather today most people were happy to see us and all took a survival guide leaflet from us. Hopefully they will act upon the information on it.

I’m also very worried about how claimants will be able to travel to Ashton Jobcentre from their homes in Stalybridge. Having no money prevents expensive bus travel and the walk is a very long one. Failing to attend the Jobcentre for any appointment results in a sanction, because the DWP show claimants no sympathy at all, and many of the Jobcentre staff are also unsympathetic. I could write about the politics of this for forever.

Here’s an article that I wrote in February about the jobcentre closures.




As soon as I arrived and Gordon and my daughter handed over the food parcels over, I was inundated with requests for help. There were some new faces and at one point I was trying to hold a conversation with three people at once.

Whenever anyone comes over to ask for help, I have to enquire about their circumstances and to what their problems are. It’s not easy doing this but I have to ensure that as well as offering immediate help I can also refer them to any local organisations that have more facilities and the offices to help people. Some people like to talk about their struggle though, we might be the only people that they have spoken to for a long time that is sympathetic and we totally  understand that. Sympathy, solidarity, help and advice is what is needed. Not like the arrogance and hate metered towards them from the Jobcentre staff and the DWP. Not all Jobcentre staff are like this though, but the nicer ones are finding it tougher and tougher to deal with their work situation. No one wins with the DWP, and the staff that are enforcing and creating unrealistic and unfair targets will realise this in the near future.


Every person was referred to local organisations and helped, food parcels were given to those that desperately needed them and those in desperate need were informed that they could go to a local organisation straight away. Some readily accepted this advice and informed me that they would go straight away, some told me that they weren’t ready yet. I understand that completely and I am working on that.



I spoke to a man who is a recovering addict who is successfully overcoming his addiction. This is such a hard thing to do, and we gave him an open invitation to come and chat to us every week, conversation and positive engagement are both very important when overcoming any type of addiction.


I was stopped by a lady and her boyfriend, her story was awful and for anyone saying that ‘lefties’ make these stories up, need to stand with us and communicate with the people that are suffering.

The lady went on to tell me her story. She had previously lived a fairly peaceful life she said. She had children, had got divorced and managed to send her children to university. However, she had suffered from mental health issues rendering her unable to work since the birth of her last child. This can happen to anyone, but she coped the best that she could doing the best for her children, and she did a good job.

One of her children, a daughter however has type 1 diabetes, and she lives with her mother. Both caring for each other.

Her life completely changed when she met her boyfriend. He used to visit her at her house twice a week, she was aware about the rules that exist about having a partner stay over whilst living in social housing, or private let housing and claiming benefits. She told me that he never stayed over than the permitted amount of times and I believe her.

She stood in front of myself, and Roy who had then joined in the conversation clutching a bundle of letters. She told us that somebody had informed her that her partner was living with her and that her ESA and other benefits were stopped. She told us that she wasn’t well, didn’t know what to do so was now trying to get everything reinstated. Her boyfriend is also ill, and very mistakenly, she thought that because they had made this decision that he had to move in with her. Since then she is finding it very stressful looking after him and herself.

This left them with no income at all, and their diabetic daughter was without food. Not having been in a situation like this before, she started the struggle to regain her ESA benefit. I also gave her a food parcel because my immediate concern was that her daughter needs to eat. If she accessed the other help available she could receive more regular help and support, but a food parcel was given straight away with the advice being, go and keep your appointment at the council offices to sort your housing benefit out, take the food parcel home then please access the other help that is available straight away. I’m hoping that she managed all this, and I also hope that she can now see some sort of light at the end of the tunnel.

Advice was also given about claiming other benefits whilst waiting for her ESA claim to be accepted and we gave her the much needed signposting that she needed.


This is how easy someone’s life can be totally changed for the worst. One telephone call and her lifeline was taken away. I really don’t know what kind of sick kick that people who make false claims against vulnerable people get. Some people are just plain nasty and I’m never shocked at how low some people will go to enable another person’s suffering. Society should help each other, not punish others whom they deem not worthy of anything. Our government and the mainstream media, bar a couple of news organisations are guilty of this.


Without our help today I dread to think what could have happened to this lady. Thank goodness we were there to help.

I also helped another lady who wants to keep her details private. She waits round the corner from the Jobcentre and signals me to come over and talk to her. She’s terrified of the Jobcentre, and what they could do to her if they saw her talking to us.

Yes folks, people are scared, very scared of the DWP. We cannot become complacent about their fear, because it’s real, and it’s the reason why many people take themselves off the system then become hesitant in engaging with any help offered. The system has broken them, and they are afraid that different organisations will do the same.


This week was very busy, and I apologise if I have missed anything out. We handed out six food parcels, lots of help and leaflets. The solidarity was never ending and our compassion was self evident.

It’s very hard work both attending the demos and organising them. I work very hard at both, and being a single parent on a very low income this isn’t easy. It really isn’t. I can’t count how many sleepless nights that I’ve had because of this and the issues that we deal with on a weekly basis. I don’t have a magic wand either, even though I wish that I did.


Many thanks to everyone that came along today, you really don’t realise how much this does mean to me. Attendance has been low lately which saddens me, but I’m hoping that our delayed 4th anniversary demo will give us a moral boost. It’s going to be good. I will share more details of this nearer the time.


For anyone complaining about the adverts on this blog, I cannot change this. There’s no way that I can afford to pay for the paid version, but I can officially state that I don’t endorse these adverts.


There’s a Red Flag walk this Sunday in Ashton Under Lyne. Please come along, any proceeds that are made are being put straight into leaflet production because we are very low on them. I can thoroughly recommend these walks, and the link is here for further details.


Please share my blog, talk about it with your friends, tweet it and share it on Facebook. There’s also a donate button below for anyone that would like to contribute. Thank you.

I cannot thank everyone that does the above enough. This keeps me going, as does the team who are pretty damn amazing.

Also please donate if you can. Every penny helps thank you!” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow noopener noreferrer”>