Today’s demo. A two minute silence for the victims of the terrorist attack, Avon reps recruiting inside the Jobcentre and a lady scared to take her medication because she’s scared of missing an appointment.

This week has been awful. The terrorist attack which killed 22 young people and their family members has devastated Manchester and the surrounding areas, also I’m sure the whole country feels this way.

We had to do our weekly demo because people still need help, the DWP doesn’t stop their persecution of claimants even in the event of a terrorist attack. One lady I spoke to was told that she had to go to Manchester for an appointment even though the area that they wanted her to go to was still cordoned off. You really couldn’t make this up could you.

Out of respect to the victims and their families we held a 2 minute silence, and we lit a candle to remember the people that were lost.

We did approach Ashton Jobcentre and asked if we could stand united with them for this silence. They refused. Says it all doesn’t it.



I was five minutes late today because I was advising a lady in the café that I frequent before the demo about the benefit cap. She’s just had a baby and now her rent payments have been stopped. This is a scenario echoed up and down the country. I advised her then arrived at the Jobcentre.

There was once again a queue of people outside the Jobcentre waiting for a food parcel. Some of those waiting are affected by the benefit cap. We were very lucky today because as well as the food parcels we had been given a big bag of bread to hand out! Fresh bread feels like a luxury when you have nothing.
As we were handing food parcels out I noticed a few women enter the Jobcentre carrying Avon bags, booklets and order forms. Now, Avon to put it simply is pyramid selling and no one ever really can make a living from it. The Jobcentre won’t see it like that though. They will most likely expect a person to be able to live off the meagre amount earned. Besides this Ashton and the surrounding areas are poor areas and most people don’t have the money to buy their products anyway.

My heart went out to the people inside the Jobcentre who would have been forced to sit through a lecture on the virtues of selling Avon. Not only is it building false hope up, it’s shameful of this company to want to exploit the poor like this.

Slimming World reps were also entering the building with the Avon reps.

Let’s look at this realistically. Anyone who has the misfortune of being unemployed are very short of extra money. Certainly they have no spare money for fancy diets and slimming world subs. So were they trying to recruit members? Were they trying to sell their diet plans?

Either way, this didn’t sit well with me. It’s hard enough being unemployed without someone dressed up to the nines insult you on how overweight you may or may not be. People are struggling to survive and that is there priority.

I and others felt disgusted about the representatives from both companies approaching claimants like this. I might have sworn a bit.



We spoke to a lady who had missed out on her pension. this lady should be retired, and we see this a lot. It really does make my heart break when I see older women stressed out and certainly not enjoying the latter years of their life.

As I was taking to a lady outside the Jobcentre another well turned out lady went to walk past me. I asked her if she would like a leaflet. She then asked what the leaflets were for.

I stated that these leaflets are to help people survive their Jobcentre experience, that they are a step by step guide and are very helpful. She laughed and said that people should just get a job. It’s easy. Yes she said its easy.

So I asked her what company she works for and she stated New Charter, one of our local housing associations. No surprise there really. From experience I can say that some staff members attitudes have a lot to be desired.

I then quoted a few facts, and her reply was ‘well you seem to know a lot don’t you’. I replied yes I do, and by the looks of it a damn sight more than you do. She then waltzed off muttering to herself.



I spoke to a lady who suffers from tinnitus and a an inner ear illness which causes her to loose her balance. She is in constant pain due to headaches and failed her ESA medical. She is appealing though.

She said that she should take her medication, but can’t because she is too scared of missing her Jobcentre appointment. How awful is this. Of course the Jobcentre don’t care at all. Instead they sent her to a place locally where they gave her a booklet on stress relief. Yes they actually did that. To add insult to injury every  suggestion on that list had some amount of financial cost applicable to it.

Here’s an idea. Why not start treating people like humans, showing compassion and understanding. But that would be too easy wouldn’t it.


As we were packing up to go, we spoke to a man who is at his own admission an alcoholic. He had recently lost his father and the terrorist attack was just too much for him. He had a drink to steady his nerves before he went to the Jobcentre. He also suffers from anxiety.

He arrived at the Jobcentre not overly drunk and sober enough to have a decent conversation with. He told us that his advisor had refused to see him and they escorted him out of the building.

They didn’t advise him that he should be claiming ESA nor did they offer him any sympathy. I swore again I think. Today has been a bit stressful.

Today was hard for many reasons, it was hard going despite the hot weather. My friend who came to keep me company tried to cheer me up but it wasn’t happening. Time after time we are seeing suffering that shouldn’t be happening.

Today was a bad day hopefully next week will be better but I doubt it.
Many thanks to everyone who came along to help and provide support. The team are amazing.
Today we handed out six food parcels, extra bread, help, advice, a shoulder to cry on a listening  ear for anyone wanting to have a rant about their ill treatment. The list goes on. I just wish that we didn’t have to do this but we do.



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Today’s demo. Tears, anger and frustration.

I always start writing this blog by telling you how I feel that today’s demo has been. Well today felt somewhat similar to our early demos, when Universal Credit was being introduced and neither the claimants nor the Jobcentre staff had a clue as to what to do. The Jobcentre staff however at times took full advantage of this and tried to pull the wool over most claimants eyes. Today the frustration of a system and staff that are constantly working against them was very apparent.

As soon as I arrived so did the food parcels. I have a dislike of being late so I always make sure that I am on time. Gordon was on the ball with picking up the food parcels so this was brilliant.

The queue had already started to form across the road. There is a handy place to sit and keep an eye out for my arrival. It’s so sad that people have to queue like this though.

As we were taking the food parcels out of the car, they started walking over one by one, most likely because they didn’t want to draw attention to themselves. It’s bad enough that they have to collect a food parcel isn’t it.

I had a chat with two regulars in particular , and once again reminded them that it would be a good thing if they could access local services. They aren’t ready yet, and I can’t force them, nor can I attempt to. I really don’t want to scare them away. Engaging with me is a massive hurdle for them in itself.

Most of the food parcels were handed out within 25 minutes, leaving one waiting to be claimed. I’m so glad that we had this one left over because it was badly needed.

A man whom I estimated to be in his 40’s stormed out of the Jobcentre, tears streaming out of his eyes. At the same time he was furious, It was obvious to see that he needed help. Members of the team tried to ask him how he was, but he stormed off. Quickly I chased after him. It’s important never to let anyone walk off whilst they are this upset. it’s important that they are listened to. In fact it’s vital.

I caught up with him and I asked him if he was ok, he could see that I could relate to him. He said that he had enough, he didn’t know if he could carry on. I asked why.

He had failed his ESA medical, which is very commonplace, however the attitude of the staff in the Jobcentre was the thing that upset him the most he said. His ESA had been stopped and he had no money. To say he was distraught was an understatement.

I explained to him that he can appeal, and he must do so. He said that he would do. He’s had to do it before, so he knows the score. He said that he had no food, and had spent the last of his money on a bag of sugar so he can make a cup of tea. From experience, drinking tea and coffee does tend to keep the hunger pains away, so I totally understood this.

I went through our leaflet with him and then gave him the last food parcel and told him that he can contact me at any time. His mood lifted, and he said that he was glad that I had chased after him because it had given him hope.

We said goodbye, and he walked over to the council offices to inform the council of his housing benefit change.

From past experience its vital that we intervene in circumstances like this, to put it honestly a person can feel like there’s nothing to live for when they have been treated like this. A kind word can and does prevent anything awful happening, and over the 3 1/2 years of doing these demos, I really don’t want anyone to suffer like this. We’ve seen too many awful things happen.

I regained my composure and started to  talk to a woman who is being hounded by the Jobcentre to find work even though she is on Income Support and her youngest child isn’t five until December. I informed her of her legal rights, and she went inside to tell them.

We spoke to a lady who had failed her ESA medical three months ago, but hadn’t put in an appeal. She wasn’t advised as she should have been, nor had we spoken to her before.

She told us that she had been forced to attend a training programme interview in Middleton, not local at all if you don’t drive. She suffers from COPD and cannot travel long distances on public transport. They said that she had to attend or be sanctioned. So she paid £30 for a taxi to get there.

The Jobcentre staff know she’s disabled, but her advisor is one know to be an awful one. Lets just say her reputation proceeds her. She refuses to recognise her disability and knowingly sent her for an training course interview to drive a fork lift truck. This lady isn’t capable of doing this job and the advisor knows this. She’s setting her up to fail and is doing this on purpose.

Advice was given and she then started to chat to the lady previously mentioned. By the looks of it they have formed a good friendship.

Today we noticed far too many ladies using the Jobcentre who should be retired, but the government changed the rules. This always makes me angry.

We spoke to many people with many different problems, but the one common element was that everyone was frustrated and angry.

Most of the people that we spoke to should be claiming ESA, but have been disallowed, so they are forced to appeal. They have to do this far too often.

I spoke to a young lady who was dropping her sick note off, she was supposed to be going into hospital that afternoon. She’s bi-polar and is going through a bad patch. I persuaded her to go, to reclaim her ESA and told her that she shouldn’t have to be forced to use the Jobcentre. She’s ill but the government will not make any allowance for illness will they.

We had run out of food parcels when a man that we help from time to time asked me for one. He too isn’t well, so I gave my leaflets to a comrade and went to buy him food. My heart went out to him, because he is desperate, and only asks for help when he is.

Today was stressful, but it was also good. We did a lot of positive work this morning, which isn’t easy when you are on the frontline. It was also nice to see a new member of the team arrive. Full of knowledge, I’m certain that he will be a brilliant asset to the team.

I’m tired now, so I’m going to have a cuppa. But I’ll leave this with you.

One kind word or action can make a massive difference to a strangers life. Pass a kindness on, say hello to someone, anything. It costs nothing.


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Sanctioned for missing an appointment when the Jobcentre was shut. today’s demo.

I was thankful this morning of having sunshine, yes sunshine for a change and warmer temperatures. It cant be underestimated how much better a day of sunshine can actually make to a person. I just wish that every day could have these temperatures etc for the rough sleepers that I know and for the ones that I don’t. I am thinking of you.

I started my day by buying breakfast for a homeless bloke that I know. Lovely fella and its always nice to say hello to him. I then had a quick cuppa and headed off to the Jobcentre with Roy, a member of the team. I’ve mentioned him before.

As we arrived, the food parcels did. Gordon was dead on time and it was a pleasant surprise because it prevented a queue forming.

We handed a food parcel to a chap who is struggling, but has asked to keep his identity and details confidential. But he’s got a lot of personal issues to deal with so I let him know of all of the local support out there that is there to help him.

One of our regular attendees arrived. We supply food parcels for both him and his girlfriend. He didn’t turn up last week and I was half worried and half thinking that his situation had changed. It hadn’t they had both been ill and were unable to go out. So we helped them with their food parcels. He was very happy to see us and stated that even if his financial situation does improve he will still come and say hello.

He’s a lovely fella and it was nice to see him, not so nice that his situation hasn’t changed though. He is getting help with this though.

As we were handing leaflets out a man approached me, he looked stressed and nervous. He was also looking at the remaining food parcels. I could see that he needed help.

I asked him if he was ok, he said no. His story wasn’t unusual, but that doesn’t make it less important does it. He had received a letter for an appointment at the Jobcentre, and had missed it because the Jobcentre was shut. Yes shut folks. Obviously the DWP either have no idea of their opening times and days, or this was purposely done. Take your guess. I know which option that I would choose.

He said that he has put in his appeal, which is good but he was hungry. Obviously he hasn’t got money for food. We handed a food parcel to him and he couldn’t believe that we were going to help him without asking him lots of questions and judging him. We just wanted to feed him and offer solidarity and advice.

After a lovely conversation, he walked away knowing that at least we care about him. I’m sure that he will be back next week.

We spoke to a man that has had his ESA stopped, he is very clued up, but that’s thanks to people like ourselves putting the information out there for people to read. He is now going for tribunal and he has got representation. He said that if he could he would be stood outside the Jobcentre every week with us.

They are b******s he said, the system is designed to fail us and he was clearly angry with the system. Quite rightly so. He went on to say that he will be voting because he wants to get that lot out (his words).

We spoke to a young mum forced to attend her six monthly single parent interview. The DWP likes to target single parents as if they are useless, have zero intelligence at all and to put pressure on them to return to work. She said that she had always worked, but has fallen on hard times. This can happen to anyone can’t it. Luckily she is on income support so is not getting as much pressure as the single parents on Universal Credit.

I spoke to a young couple that we have been helping for a while now with various matters. If there was a bad luck fairy waving a magic wand it has landed on their doorstep. They’ve had the worst run of bad luck that I’ve seen in a long while. It even rivals mine.

They were in desperate need of a proof of address and income letter from the DWP for their housing benefit claim, this was urgent. They had spent all their phone credit phoning a DWP department from inside the Jobcentre. Why on earth the Jobcentre couldn’t do this for them is beyond me. Their rulings are designed to make people suffer. Instead they were given a number to phone.

They phoned the number given, and was told by a rather snooty person that this can’t be done, they won’t provide a proof of address etc by fax (yes the DWP still uses the fax system) instead it will be posted to them. We know that this is untrue so I let them use my phone. After around 15 minutes on the phone and a long rendition of Vivaldi they got the correct answer. Yes it can be done, yes it will be done and if they gave it a few minutes it would be faxed over.

This highlighted to us all that the system is flawed in more ways than we can mention, and also that some DWP members of staff either haven’t got a clue what they are doing or they choose to give out the wrong information. Take your choice out of the two suggestions. Personally I think that it’s a mixture of the two scenarios.

I got a hug, a big thank you and we all got a massive sigh of relief that they could actually go and sort out their housing benefit.

We spoke to many people today. Some were angry, some complacent and resigned to the fact that it would always be like this. But we told them otherwise. We advised people to use their vote, and to vote the Tory party out because it is they who are making them suffer. We had to explain this though, because many people just don’t understand the connection between government and the DWP. But once explained, we persuaded at least four people to vote. I also have been doing this in shops etc, strike up a conversation with  people because it’s the only real way that we are going to change things.

Tia the dog came to say hello. We do have doggy members of the team! Zelda the dog we really miss you!

It’s awful to see a child’s toy found on the floor in the entrance of the Jobcentre. No child and their parent should have to use the Jobcentre. We really hope that it was reunited with it’s owner who was probably missing it.

As for me, its been a bit of a rubbish week, apart from seeing Jeremy Corbyn when he visited Ashton Under Lyne. He’s fab and I’m lucky enough to have seen him a few times already. He’s my daughters hero.

I was promised payment for some work that I did. The payment never materialised so that has put myself out enormously. I don’t know how people can do that to other people. So understandably I’m fed up and annoyed.

Please be patient if I take a while getting back to you though. My credit on my mobile is about to run out and my internet bill might not get paid. Such is life.

Many thanks to everyone that supports my blog, both online and face to face. It’s really important that we do get these stories out there because they highlight the struggles that people are facing. How can we change things otherwise?

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