Friday. A bottle of cordial and Gills tin of beans.  

This is somewhat different to the usual weekly blog that I write. I don’t often write about events outside the weekly demo, to be honest I wasn’t sure that my readers would want to read it. But I thought I’d tell you anyway. Some might want to listen. 

I was awoken quite early by a crank call, made by someone for reasons known only to themselves. They appeared to find it humorous to make fun of what we do, and the help that we give to people. Some people are very strange, and sadly this isn’t unusual its become par of the course. I don’t take it to heart and I did report it. 

You see, in the over 3 1/2 years that I’ve been doing this I have encountered many negative things. Name calling, swearing, being told by G4S that they were going to knock myself and a friend out, criticism that was unfounded, a death threat, trolling and the like. It seems the more that we help people, the more people object. There’s an old saying “There’s nothing as strange as folk” and I think that its very accurate.

Anyway, the phone rang again. I answered, half thinking that it would be another crank call but it wasn’t. It was a lady asking for help. 

Once again I was told that she had reached her three food parcel limit with the Trussell Trust. She sounded very anxious and I agreed to meet her to chat, and to buy her some bits to tide her over. 

She was waiting for me at our agreed meeting spot. She went on to say that she is autistic and finds it hard to access some of the local help, she admitted herself that she can sometimes say inapropriate things, and act aggressively. She said that people just don’t understand her and that she does try. I went on to say that they should be understanding of her situation, but sometimes its not easy when in certain situations. 

She said that she had had her three food parcel limit from the Trussell Trust, so I gave her a list of independent food banks. I then took her shopping. 

We went into the local cheap food shop, it sells some very good stuff in there at a discount. We chose the basics, you know, bread, milk etc. I asked her what else would she like. She said some cordial. She hadn’t had any for ages she said and it would be a treat. 

A bottle of cordial a treat. Just hold that thought there. Local to myself we can buy a bottle of cordial for a £1 or less. It’s certainly not a luxury, but she was very excited about having a bottle. So I bought her the biggest bottle that I could find. Her smile said it all she was overjoyed. 

We were chatting on the way round the shop, about her future, what she would like to do etc. She said she just wants to be happy and secure and that she would be accessing the help available locally. Because I had taken the time to talk with her and listen to her she felt like she was ready to engage with some of these agencies. She hadn’t felt able to do this before because she hadn’t felt listened to previously. 

She went home happy, and more optimistic than she had done in a while. Later on that evening she phoned me to tell me thank you and of the things that are being set in place for her now. 

This showed me a few things. Compassion costs nothing. We really need to be listening to each other and be patient. Please don’t dismiss someone because they might appear awkward or a bit uptight. Often there is a reason for this. It can take time to build up trust between people and organisations, and sometimes they have to be a bit patient. 

I have a friend Gill Watson, who also blogs. Shes done some amazing things to help people, and shes a very strong person. But this week it got to her. She was helping someone and had a emotional breakdown in a shop whilst buying some shopping for someone in a similar situation to the lady that I was helping. 

Sometimes it does get to us, her tipping point was a tin of beans, mine was the family with children sat over the road eating food out of tins that we had just given them in a food parcel.

Tinned food has become in my eyes symbolic of Tory Britain. We are forced to eat from them because the government chooses to make us suffer. They get richer whilst we get poorer. 

Tinned beans and a bottle of juice. Luxuries to many, they mean nothing to most people. 

Today’s demo. Busy, cold when will the suffering end? Man refused any more food parcels because hes already had 3. This rule is obscene. 

Today’s demo felt a bit strange. It’s the Manchester Mayoral elections today and everyone is so busy campaigning for that. Also it’s one of those weeks where members are called away. It’s important that they deal with their personal issues. As a result numbers were expected to be low. 

I arrived and the lady delivering the food parcels was waiting for me. I walked over with her to collect them. As I did I noticed a gang of people gathered across the road waiting for food parcels. We make no judgement, but we do make sure that they are accessing the local help available to them. They can get a tad aggressive so I’m so glad that I wasn’t on my own. It was a clear reminder that Jobcentre demos shouldn’t be done alone. We gave them all the help that we could and a sympathetic ear.  

The three regular people that have been dependent on our food parcels didn’t arrive this week. I hope that this is a sign of good news coming their way and actually some money in their pockets. But I will still be worrying about them. 

One thing that is very concerning though. There is an increasing amount of people approaching me that have had their three food parcels from the Trussell Trust and are no longer allowed any more. I’ve just had a phone call from a chap saying that he’s not allowed another one until October. 

How on earth is he going to survive? This is an awful ruling made by them, and they so far are refusing to change it. We will give him a food parcel every week, and the non Trussell Trust food banks will help him. It’s just awful isn’t it. 

I spoke to quite a few people today. One man was too angry to speak, obviously upset but he took a leaflet. Poor man no one should have to feel like that. 

I spoke to a man that has only just been released from prison. He’s got no where to live at the moment but is waiting for a place to be available at the local homeless hostel. He told me that the Jobcentre won’t leave him alone. He was quite agitated and I totally understand that. He needs time to become adjusted to life outside prison and to get his accommodation sorted out. I gave him some advice and a leaflet. 

I spoke to a lady who should have been claiming her pension, but due to government changes she can’t. So she now has to sign on and be actively looking for work. Poor woman. She should be retired and enjoying life. Yes, I’m very aware of the waspi campaign. 

I spoke to a young man who had had his esa stopped and he is appealing that. In the meantime the DWP have taken full advantage and have made him sign up to Universal Credit. He’s really feeling the strain and he didn’t know what to do. I gave him a leaflet, a listening ear and the details for the greater Manchester law centres free advice sessions. They will help him free of charge to get back what is rightfully his. 

Today was cold, the wind was blowing round the corner but we helped lots of people and all the food parcels werw given out. 

But I am so disgusted that we are still having to do this over 3 1/2 years later. It gets me so angry that people are suffering like this. I am aware of the politics of it all, check out my Morning Star reports out, but it doesn’t stop me from getting angry and frustrated. 

Today is local elections day up and down the country, and I urge you to all use your vote. We fought hard to get it and it’s so important that we use it. It’s the only way to effectively change things. And we urgently need to do this. Too many people are suffering and dying and it both breaks my heart and angers me. 

Many thanks to everyone that came along today. Without your support I would find it extremely difficult. 

I’ve had a busy week, rather stressful and it’s been a tad tough. But one thing is certain. We shall overcome! 

Please share, support, talk about this with your friends and neighbours. Please donate if you can! Thank you. It’s hard work and it’s become a full time job for me sadly 
http://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=K47PHPHS5XYRC” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow noopener noreferrer”>.

Today’s demo. Refused a food parcel (not by us) and other happenings outside Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre.

I’ve said before that I can never predict what will happen outside Ashton Jobcentre whilst we hold our weekly demo, and it would be very wise never to attempt this. We never know what to expect, and this week did not disappoint.

I arrived in Ashton at around 9am after dropping my daughter off at school and I use the hour before the demo to prepare myself the best that I can, to have a chat to my friend and to also chat with any of the people that we meet before the demo. People know where to find me, and you know I quite like that.

I had noticed a group of people already hanging around across the road from the Jobcentre. They were in need of food parcels. But the mood wasn’t good, so I was a bit nervous.

As I arrived at the Jobcentre, one of them walked over and asked if the food parcels were there. They clearly wern’t and I advised that they would have to wait a while longer. They agreed to this.

I was soon joined by our regular food parcel users. They are a fab group of people, hoping that their situation improves. One man is hoping that his pension comes through next week so that he will be able to manage better. He said that he will be only £24 a week better off but that will make a difference.

The food parcels arrived and the queue was quite big. A lovely lady called Angie arrived with three more food parcels, so nearly all of the people waiting collected a food parcel. I did signpost a few to a local homeless organisation for a hot meal and tents.

We spoke to many people today, it was cold so understandably the mood wasn’t brilliant, combined with having to visit the Jobcentre its very understandable that spirits were low.

I must say that everyone that we speak to is important, and we do offer much needed help and advice. But this gentleman’s story really does stand out, even though it is not unusual by any means.

He had been watching us for a while from across the road, this is often the case. It’s not easy asking for help. He said hello and it was obvious to see that he did struggle to walk over. He said that he was desperate, he had had trouble with his ESA claim, he was going to be loosing his carer in the near future also because he can’t afford to pay them £20 a week. He didn’t go into great detail with this, we need to build our trust up with him. But he will be returning next week.

He told us that he was hungry, that he had ate his last pieces of bread out of the freezer. Because he had no food he went to the local Citizens Advice for a foodbank voucher. There should be no problem with this, well thats what I’m sure that most people would think.

He was refused his voucher because he had already had his allotted three around two years ago. He wasn’t specific about the date, he’s stressed and to be honest it’s not important. What is important is that there should never be a three food parcel limit. A person’s situation as to why they haven’t got any money is often very complicated and as we all know true DWP take a log time to resolve any issue. This I feel is done purposely. 

We, however handed him a food parcel and he will be given one every week for as long as is needed. 

Now I’m aware that many, mostly non Trussell Trust food banks do offer more than three food parcels, and often without many questions or judgement. I’m also aware that some Trussell Trust food banks also do this. My issue is simple. There shouldnt be a three parcel limit.

We saw this week in the news the released figures from the Trussell Trust relating to their foodbank usage.

IMG_3344

Disgusting as it is, I can safely say that we can at least double this amount. These figures do not take into account non Trussell Trust foodbanks, pop up soup kitchens and sandwich stands, and food parcel collection points like ours. For example we give out at least 300 food parcels per year.

I caused a bit of controversy this week by stating this, and for also thanking the independent food banks etc for all the hard work that they do. They don’t receive much, if any publicity, and aren’t often endorsed by well known people. They also don’t receive any funding, nor have they had to pay to become a member of the Trussell Trust organisation. They just feed people. They support people, in the way that they know best and often out of their own pockets. Often they are the backbone of the community.

We should not need food banks, and we need to challenge this.

Now I’m not saying that the Trussell Trust food banks don’t do a good job, far from it. But please let’s remember these other groups and also remember that the food bank figures are most likely double the amount that have been released.

A quick book recommendation for anyone able to afford to buy a book. I thoroughly recommend a book called Foodbank Britain. It explains everything very clearly.

Anyway, rant over and I’m sorry for going on a bit.

We also spoke to a lady trying to help her son to appeal his ESA decision. Good advice was given, and he will be ok.

We spoke to many people today like I said, we never really stop. Food parcels going straight away is the norm. It’s truly awful and I will admit that today I was a tad angry.

Massive shoutout to the guys in the BASW union. Some members walked 100 miles this week to protest about austerity. They asked me to speak at their annual conference which I did. Things do need to change and you are all a fab bunch and you will do this I’m sure. A big hi to Maggie!

A massive thanks to everyone that reads, shares and supports my blog. On days like today it really does mean a lot to me, thank you!

Please share if possible, also please donate if you can. This has turned into a full time job for myself now, and to say that it’s not easy is an understatement. Thank you!.

Today’s demo. Queue for food parcels and endless apathy. Life at Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre.

As I arrived on this cold Thursday morning I was greeted immediately by a group of people that had been gathering across the road waiting for the food parcels to arrive. They were slightly anxious, and this is why its important for myself not to be on my own.

As the food parcels arrived they took them straight away. I don’t judge anyone because their need was obvious. As they collected their food parcels other people who depend on our food parcels arrived to collect theirs. We work on a first come first serve basis, its the way that it has to be.

DSC02188.JPG

Because it was cold and miserable the mood sort of reflected that. People using the Jobcentre almost running in and out, most likely afraid of being late, afraid of being sanctioned.

The mood of apathy filled the air though. Most people forced to use the Jobcentre are resigned to the fact that they must not deserve anything at all in life. They even tell us this. Some say that they ‘shouldn’t’ have something for nothing’ even though they aren’t receiving their social security for nothing because they have already paid into the system.

Years of marginalising the poor and targeting them with every obscene cut from this Tory government has certainly taken its toil. It’s evident just about everywhere in my town Ashton Under Lyne, just as it is in many other towns up and down the country.

We, however have a slightly different angle on this though. We were one of the first to trial Universal Credit and as a result Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre is a few years ahead in both the harsh implementation of Universal Credit and the extremely harsh treatment metered out to claimants.

Here’s some of the personal stories that were told to us today. These are by no means unusual.

A lady that should be receiving her government pension, but now unable to do so thanks to the changes implemented by the government.

A  young mum with her baby, struggling on Universal Credit.

A disabled couple failed an ESA examination, but not advised on what to do next.

Several young people making their first claims.

Man still waiting for his Universal Credit payment. Is hoping that he receives it next week.

Homeless man, fallen out with his friends just wanted a chat.

A lady who’s far too ill to be signing on advised by us to make another claim for ESA.

A man who had just filled in his own PIP form, is hoping to receive his money, but in his own words isn’t hopeful because people dying can’t get their ESA.

A man forced to do workfare at B&M four days a week. He’s very frustrated and is living from our weekly food parcels.

Many people just rushing in and out heads down to the ground. Not wanting to engage with anyone.

The list goes on and on. As will our demonstrations. Our new leaflets are proving to be extremely popular and I know that they will help a great many people. I also handed some to some local groups and will be continuing with this tomorrow and next week.

DSC02193.JPG

As for me, I haven’t really stopped. I had to return home early after the demo because I was too tired to hang around like usual. I’ll hopefully feel better later.

Many thanks to everyone that attended out of their own free time. I really do appreciate this. You are amazing.

Many thanks to everyone that supports the campaign and myself personally online. You are all a massive tower of strength. I still cant believe that I’m still having to do this over three years later.

Please share if possible, also please donate if you can. This has turned into a full time job for myself now, and to say that it’s not easy is an understatement. Thank you!.

Todays demo. Cold weather yet again, new leaflets and amazing comradeship. Food parcels gone straight away again.

Today was a busy but quiet demonstration. That might not make much sense to you, but trust me, if you joined us you’d understand perfectly.

In Tameside, the area that I live in, it’s the Easter school holidays and the children have been off school for nearly two weeks already. In light of this, my daughter wanted to come along. She says that she likes the demos, and she’s already a very experienced campaigner in her own right. Today was tough for her because it was cold, so she became a tad frustrated. This was solved with the promise of a nice cheap dinner afterwards at a local cheap cafe.

The mood in the air emanating from inside the Jobcentre wasn’t a good one. There were lots of people going in and out, but all wanted to keep their heads down. It can take quite a while for new people to start to talk to us, and I think that the Jobcentre have been switching their appointments around.

wp-image-919647961jpg.jpg

We have finally, printed a batch of our new leaflets out, and we are also getting another batch printed. These leaflets are fantastic because they contain everything that a person forced to use the Jobcentre needs to job search correctly etc and it’s i a clear step by step version.

Now before anyone comments that they aren’t slick enough, they really can’t be because we had to have enough space to fit everything on and as you can see, there’s not a lot of room for fancy logos. Nor are we computer experts. Our main concern is that we enable people to help themselves through this stressful and arduous process. Once they have been able to master it themselves, they can then pass their skills along to someone else. This, my friends is how people can fight back against the government because they depend on people not being able to empower themselves. Empowering a person is the best weapon that you can hand someone ever!

Here’s the link to the PDF. All that I ask, is that you accredit us for the hard work that we have put into this.
https://lookaside.fbsbx.com/file/survival%20guides.pdf?token=AWxO43w5Nm9T5Yakso6AC2EPKWF2pprTF-9msQrQDF7E-tuFTl_HVkvvuPkokiqnS5_cuh5oLrZeKn6LvbuWJitqGyGEnetdKQnsfjwF4J_NZv8E27b4NPS6PZ1VlayzTCoD8yEeueMxbxg3MldDMzuij6XcMD96FYz-ZPyv8-IP5Wdj0joM5WZkwy0y5PJfUX8


Hopefully this link will work, if not here’s a photo of the leaflet and I will add it in my next blog which will be published straight after this one.

Not to worry. I will be posting straight afterwards.

We handed lots of these leaflets out, and also put one into each and every food parcel that we handed out.

The food parcels went almost straight away, a sad indictment of how awful this Tory government is. They simply hate the poor and will never do anything to help them. This is something that I write about regularly in The Morning Star Newspaper.

Here’s a link to my articles. Please note, I do not get paid for this. Many thanks to them for giving me a voice, its a fab newspaper and if you haven’t read it please do, its worth a read.

https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/tb472df-charlotte-hughes

Today, we were also joined by a follower of my blog and of myself on twitter. He had travelled a long way from London via Liverpool to join us. What an amazing thing to do! Hes a great fella and it was lovely meeting him at last. He also provided a food parcel which was amazing.

Next week, I hope  will be better, although i don’t think that there are any good days as Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre are they. It’s certainly earnt it’s bad reputation.

BIG SHOUTOUT to all the team that come along, week in, week out whatever the weather. They also deserve a medal for putting up with me! You all know who you are! Pauline this includes you!

Many thanks to my followers on this blog, my Twitter and Facebook account. You all keep me sane, even on my darkest days and you are all amazing. Thank you! I know that I don’t say this enough but I really mean it.

img_3162

Please share this blog, talk about it, or if you can donate. This has become a full time job for me and every penny helps! Thank you!
.

Todays demo. Food parcels gone within 30 mins, cold weather returns and a local Workprogramme organisation behaving badly… again.

Before the demo started I went for a cuppa at the local cheap cafe to both warm up and to have a chat with any antendees before we start. I was right to do so as a chap that we speak to regularly saw me there and had a chat in the warm.

More or less as soon as I arrived, so did the food parcels and other members of the group. There was already a queue of people waiting for them which is always sad to see. They all went within half an hour, all to people that genuinely need them.

We don’t judge people, nor ask too many questions that aren’t benefit related. And it’s best that way. We gain the trust of most people and that can only be a good thing.

wp-image-1501745101jpg.jpg

 

 

We were stopped by quite a few people, but it was a bit quieter than usual, probably because of the school holidays. But still too many people are forced to enter the Jobcentre, and it’s noted that far too many older people that should be claiming their pensions are having to do so.

 

Today’s mood was rather low, the cold weather didnt help. Too many people were telling us about their, or a relatives experiences of being sanctioned. We do get a lot at Ashton Jobcentre and the whole sanctioning system, is in my eyes inhumane.

 

A man that I had advised last year stopped to talk to us. Last year he had been sanctioned because he didn’t receive a letter from the DWP . This does happen a lot and I have wrote about this before in an earlier blog.

He appealed against that as advised, and after a long period managed to win his appeal. If it wasm’t for this young mans strength of character and determination I don’t think that he would have seen the process through. He had to jump over all sorts of hurdles, and it shouldnt be like this.

Anyway, this young man is now subject to attending a workprogramme scheme. These workprogramme schemes are set up by private organisations, paid very well by the Government, to supposedly help people back into work. They are also supposed to teach computer skills, and to do CV building.

Well, after experiencing the workprogramme myself, and for any readers that have had to endure this, it couldnt be further than the truth. Please scroll down to a previous blog to read about my experience of the awful workprogramme.

Anyway, this young man has been placed at a workprogramme facility in Oldham, which is a town away from Ashton, and he lives outside of Ashton so he has to get two busses there and two back. They are supposed to pay the bus fare for attendees, but they wont pay for an any bus daysaver.

For anyone living in Tameside you will realise that its very hard to find the ability to travel using just the one bus company. There are two main bus companies and they all run different routes, which makes things extremely difficult. So as a result he has to walk half of the way and then get the one bus that he is “allowed” to get.

To add to this indignity, the workprogramme provider refuses to repay the money spent on bus fares with simple pound coins and notes. For example, it costs him £8 in bus fare, he has to prove that hes bought tickets, and they then give him his money back in 10ps, 20ps, the odd 50p and pennies. I find this disgusting.

To start with there are plenty of workprogramme organisations in Ashton. There is simply no need to make him travel all that way. I’m sure thats been dine purposely just to make things difficult for him.

To hand him his money like that is appalling. It’s degrading and its their way of engraving into his psyche that he is unworthy and how dare he ask for his bus fare costs to be reimbursed.

Another issue is that to attend, he has to have the money upfront for the bus fares. If he doesn’t attend he will get sanctioned. All workprogramme facilities refer people for sanctions, the DWP simply tick the box at the other end. It’s a no win situation.

These workprogramme organisations get paid thousands by the government simply to do nothing. One thing that they are good at though, is to degrade and humiliate the people using them. It’s scandalous, and I’m certain that there is a high level of fraud occurring within these organisations.

 

We spoke to a lady that works at a local Asda store. She was enquiring about joining a union, so we advised her on how to do this. She said that people are scared of joking a union whilst working as Asda. They won’t join because the bosses don’t like it. She said that she will be joining one though. Good on her.

 

Sorry for the lack of new photos, I didnt have the time to take many sadly.

Today was hard, not only because of the weather, but because of the low spirits of the people coming in and out of the Jobcentre.

Doing this for around three and a half years sometimes takes its toll on me. But carry  on I will!

Many thanks to everyone that attended today. It was fab seeing you all, you really are fantastic.

Many thanks to everyone that reads this blog, and who supports us and myself personally. It does mean ALOT. Thank you!

Thanks to Pauline and the group We Shall Overcome for the food parcels.

Although many of us are members of unite Community, we are still an independent  group, which we like because we are open to all and we are free to do our own thing.  We do like this!

Please share, like, or donate if possible. Writing this blog, campaigning and everything that is entailed with that has certainly taken over my life to a great extent. It really is appreciated thank you!

.

Today’s demo. A national day of action against sanctions with Unite Community Union.

At last the weather was a lot warmer and more bearable, at last I didn’t have to wear my thick winter coat today. This is also a welcome change for the people that have to use the Jobcentre. I’m sure that they will be appreciating this.

I arrived with a comrade John, and we began to set up for todays special event. Like always I never knew how many people would turn up to support us, if indeed any. But I was pleasantly surprised. I think that around 15 people came to show their support which was fantastic.


As soon as we arrived, so did the food parcels. Five arrived from Pauline and four didn’t even touch the ground, literally. Within half an hour they had all gone and I took a man to the shop next door for some much needed food.


The troops then arrived from Glossop. They are amazing. On a map it might not appear to be too far away, but in reality it is quite a long drive. They had brought some big bags of food with them, I think there was around 4 and we handed them out straight away.

I really appreciate the Glossop Gang doing this, as they were going on to hold their own day of action after they had visited us. Thank you!

IMG_3175.JPG

Like I’ve said before, we never know what to expect, and the need for food parcels this week was unprecedented.
I spoke to quite a few people that had been sanctioned, or have been told that their sanction will be implemented the following week. It’s awful. These aren’t just single people, they are people with families, pregnant ladies and women that should be enjoying their retirement but are unable to due to the changes in the state pension for women. It’s appalling.

We spoke to a lady whom seemed rather confused. She said she is claiming Universal Credit, and said that it is wonderful. People, according to her, shouldn’t get something for nothing. However she has never been sanctioned yet, and she thought that it was ok for the DWP to treat people like rubbish.

Her only complaint, it seems was that the frontline staff in the Jobcentre are “Horrible”. She couldn’t see that they are part of the system created to humiliate and degrade her. She walked off, but we did tell her that we would be there to help her when she encounters any problems.

Despite all this and more, the solidarity today was amazing. We could feel it, and to know that lots of other groups of people would be protesting outside other Jobcentres and DWP related buildings up and down the country today was amazing. However, I would love it if more people did weekly demos. A big shout out to those that already do.

 

Many thanks to everyone that supports my blog and the demos. It really does mean a lot. You do make a massive difference. We will hopefully have copies of our survival guide available soon. When they are available I will share on here for anyone to use. I ask only one thing though, that you attribute our hard work. Thank you.

I feel very proud that as a group we have been able to continue our campaign for so long. I do feel that this is do to the comradeship and the determination of us to make a difference.

Thank you once again for supporting both myself and the campaign.  You are ALL amazing.

Want to support this blog? Please share as widely as possible. I run my blog on a shoestring and it can be a struggle. This campaign has become a full time job for myself. You can donate using the button below.

.

Thank you!