Today’s blog. Stress, suffering and yet more rain. 

I can understand if you are fed up of my complaining, but this is what it is like, week in, week out. Nearly four years later and after much complaining myself and my colleagues are still here, helping people. It’s a travesty that we still need to isn’t it. 
I arrived at Ashton jobcentre mid phone call. I was talking to a colleague. As usual there were people waiting for help, although it was a bit slower than usual. The DWP has a habit of changing a claimants time to sign on, just to frustrate them I think. They like to disrupt a persons routine as much as possible and to make things difficult. I’m certain that this is done to keep people on their toes, and is a constant reminder that big brother is always watching them. 

Remember, once a person is caught up in the system their life isn’t their own anymore. Their every action, thought and very being belongs to the DWP. To comply is the most important thing, and even when they give a claimant a wrongful claimant commitment they are too scared to question it. The mantra must be repeated, “I must comply, I must comply”. If they don’t they stand a good chance of loosing everything. Their health, sanity, self respect, family and their home.

 Rarely is a case straight forward to deal with because the system isn’t straightforward. It’s purposely designed to be complicated and to make people suffer. Sometimes I think that the government would like them to disappear, well everyone that isn’t of any use to them in any way. They are quick to ensure that claimants have to undergo their awful work programme and workfare (work for nothing) schemes. They profit highly from these, and so do the directors of these companies and businesses. 

Today was particularly awful for a lady and her partner that we have been helping and giving support to. They had finally, after months of waiting been allowed to claim Universal Credit that they were entitled to. Having a baby recently had complicated things, and although signposted they like to speak to us because we are trained to help, and they also trust us. Trust is a massive issue, more than you would think. The DWP sucks any trust that a person had in anyone away, so we build this trust up. And I’m proud of the work that we do. 

I saw them dash into the Jobcentre, I knew that this wasn’t their regular signing on day and they looked very rushed and stressed, so I asked them what was wrong? Could we help them in any way? 

Their problem wasn’t caused by them, the very flawed Universal Credit system had taken them off the system without their knowledge and the Jobcentre staff were far from helpful. The system does this sometimes and when it does it’s devastating. When your only source of income is taken away, your lifeline it’s the worst thing that can happen. After some advice, she went back into the building and they actually let her use a telephone to phone the Universal Credit system up and to sort it out. 

Common sense would say that an ‘advisor’ should do this for them, but like my readers will know, the DWP aren’t known for their common sense and compassion, but at least she was allowed to use a telephone. I’m sure that our presence helped with this. 

After a long telephone call, she was told that their claim will be started as a new one and they will have to wait for their first payment. It’s just not good enough. She has children to feed. But huzzah they advised her that she can get a ‘loan’ off them whilst their claim is waiting to be processed. A loan that has to be taken back upon her first payments and concurrent ones. They decide the rate. She has no choice to accept. As a result her payments will ensure that she will be forced to live on much less than she should be doing. It’s a trap that most Universal Credit claimants fall into out of necessity. 

We spoke to a WASPI lady, a 60yr old lady that has been told that she has to take part in the work programme. This lady is 60 years old, but looks much older. she’s worked all her life and has been reduced to having to do this. We sympathised with her, because there’s not a lot else that we can do. The DWP show no respect for age like we do. But she was very glad to see a friendly face. 

We spoke to a homeless chap, who is managing to get by. He has no substance or alcohol abuse issues, and as a result he keeps away from situations and places where there are these issues. I did signpost him to local organisations, but it’s up to him if he goes to these places. Some deal with the issues that he wants to steer clear of so it’s difficult for him. We can’t force anyone to engage with a certain organisation and nor should we. We get to know people, gain their trust and then maybe they can be persuaded to do so. But whatever decision that they make we will be there for them, because like I’ve said not one persons situation is straight forward, its usually complicated and we understand that. 

We spoke to a young lady who is also a carer for her mother. We had seen her briefly last week as she wheeled her mum into the Jobcentre. Once again we asked if they were ok, their response was that they wern’t ok. The young ladies advisor had told her that she has to look for full time work, even though she is a full time carer. We gave her the correct information and advice regarding this and they entered the Jobcentre. 

Thankfully they wern’t in too long. they had taken our advice and had seen a much nicer ‘advisor’ this time. Believe me some advisors can be more vindictive than others. Most likely because they are target driven. 

They left with a smile, some good advice and a food parcel because they are struggling. This isn’t because they aren’t claiming everything that they can claim, it’s because people simply aren’t given enough to live on. 

I spoke to a man who is sanctioned and who has a relative living with him who’s had failed his ESA medical. . I do signpost him every week, but he has trouble engaging with some organisations. He trusts us, Good news though, he will hopefully be receiving his first payment next week, and I’m so happy that he is. 

Today he was too scared to stand in front of the Jobcentre, he didn’t want to be seen and we get a lot of people that are like this. They feel that the DWP are watching them all the time and they aren’t wrong are they. 
We spoke to many people with many different issues. We have received training to help people through this awful system, and we have also had years of experience doing this. In my spare time I also check for legislation changes and converse with other groups such as DPAC who are a tremendous moral support to myself. 
We do signpost people, this isn’t as easy as people think. Like I’ve said before lots of people targeted by the Jobcentre find it hard to trust anybody, and certain situations can trigger anxiety etc. 

I spoke to a man leaving the Jobcentre who told me that he was from a work programme provider. I explained that I know exactly how these places are ran and what it’s like for the people forced to attend. I couldn’t let this opportunity slip, so I asked him what their employment rates are. How many actually gain decent employment after attending. He couldn’t really answer, which was no surprise because its all about the money not the person isn’t it. 
We were joined today by the gang from The Wigan pier project, this is a project ran in conjunction with the Daily Mirror, and is being done to highlight the similarities between George Orwell’s book The Road To Wigan Pier and modern times. The similarities are astounding and it was lovely to meet them. They showed great comapssion and understanding and I’m sure that their story will be really good. 
Tomorrow is the start of the summer holidays in my area and as you will have read in the newspapers, more children than ever will be going hungry. It’s abhorrent that the government quite happily ensures that children will be hungry. I’m expecting the demand on our help could well be higher, but we will be there for them. 
I was donated a kindle fire, that was donated to me  to a jobseeker to make their job searching easier. It’s not easy having to sit in Libaries and other suchlike places using their computers to do this. Having a bit of independence to complete their job searches on their own is a massive tool to empowerment. That is if they know exactly what their requirements are. I gave the kindle to D for himself and his mother to use. It will free their life up a bit, and they can now go to a cafe, or even Ikea to do this. 

Good news though! Pat a very talented member of our team has made a fantastic new banner for our four year anniversary which is coming up in the first week of September. It’s amazing and it will catch peoples attention. I will post details about this nearer the time. 

I need to apologise to the team for my rather stressed mood today. The summer holidays are looming and every now and then i feel like I’m getting nowhere quickly. Thank goodness that the campaign is going well though and that’s thanks to everyone that supports and reads my blog. Thank you all so much. 
I couldn’t take any photos today again I was far too busy. I’m going to really try next week, and I apologise. But this is a cracker isn’t it. Yes they’ve made a massive difference to the life chances of people throughout the country haven’t they… their life chances have been evaporated. 

I’ll end it on this note. A young man who had been made homeless today due to thoughtless and inconsiderate rulings made by a local social housing provider said this. ” I went in for help, they didn’t give me any. I went to housing options, they looked at me like I was a piece of rubbish, just like the Jobcentre did. I was given a piece of paper and that’s it. no one wanted to listen to me, they both just wanted rid of me. It’s wrong, I’m not a criminal, and now I’m homeless” 

This man was referred to a local homeless charity, but we did show him compassion and understanding and a food parcel to keep him going whilst he sorts everything out.

 I had to stop him and ask him what had happened though, rarely does anyone voluntarily come out with this information straight away. People feel ashamed, and they might think that no one else cares. But we do and we will always care. A lot of my time is spent asking people if they are ok, and also at times running after people who are in an angry state. I’ve mentioned this in a previous blog post. 
Keep safe out there folks, I’m thinking of you all. 

Big shoutouts to Kate Belgrave, Keith Ordinary Guy, DPAC, Unite Community, and everyone who reads and shares this blog. 

Please  donate help keep the blog and campaign going if you can. If not please share. It’s important that we keep talking about this all the time. This has become a full time job for myself, and anyone spending any time with me will attest to that.

 Thank you!

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Today’s demo. Food parcels taken immediately, anger, frustration and a visit from a French film maker. 

To say that today’s demo was busy is an understatement. It was both hectic and stressful. We also got a fair bit of verbal abuse from passers by.  Today was one of those days. 
As soon as I arrived I met the lovely man who is making a film about the awful DWP system in the UK. We had a quick discussion about what he was wanting to do. He also explained to me that the French government might be thinking of implementing a similar system. Awful. He’s against this. 
Gordon was taking the food parcels out of his car boot. As soon as he took them out they were all taken. We had none left at 10.05…. This says a lot to me. A stark reminder that far too many people are suffering. 

As soon as they had been taken a man arrived asking for a food parcel. They had all gone so I gave Gordon some money and he took him to the shop next door. Thank you Gordon. 

Then two more people arrived asking for food parcels. We had none and I was panicking slightly when I saw a member of the team, Pat arrive. She buys food from the cheap shop next door when she is able to come. Thank goodness for her because these people were able to have food. 

The need was greater than ever today.  The government and this cruel system have taken the very soul out of the people from my local town. No wonder it’s run down. Lack of funding from the government and lack of money for the basics ensures that the community suffers greatly and it breaks my heart. 
As we were talking to each other, a man stood across the way started shouting abuse at us for no reason at all. I understand his anger, he might have thought that we worked for the DWP or something. However he didn’t give us a chance to explain. I hope that he’s OK and that he’s getting the support that he needs. No one should be driven to feel that amount of anger. 
We spoke to a lovely man who has £4.50 to last him for two weeks. He took a food parcel from us last week and he was given another this week. 

He’s a lovely, polite man who had worked all his life. Seeing him in this state is awful though. His confidence has gone, he can’t wash his clothes and is struggling to keep going. He told us that we are his lifeline at the moment. We regard him as a friend. 
We spoke to a lady who had attempted to go in the Jobcentre and support her friend for her first interview with her advisor. She was wrongfully told that she wasnt allowed to do this, so we informed her friend of her right to do so. 

It might appear petty, but the breaking of these rules by the DWP sets the standard of how the claimant will be treated by that advisor. If they are aware that a person is not aware of their legal rights regarding Job searches etc then they will run roughshod over them. My advice to anyone having to make a claim is to research your legal rights and stand firm. 
Too many WASPI ladies were having to use the Jobcentre today. This always upsets me. The government has basically conned them out of their right to a decent retirement and pension. 
We had a person in a car drive past shouting “Get a job”…. As if we haven’t heard that before. Funny how they don’t get out of their cars and say it, they shout it and dive away at speed. 
I spoke to a lovely chap that I had helped in the past. He was looking much better and he wanted to say thank you. It was lovely seeing him. 
A lovely man started talking to us about the awful treatment that he had received from Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre and the DWP.  He was very vocal about it, good on him. He is in between jobs and only wanted to ask one question. He was refused that. This is how petty the Jobcentre is. 

He also went on to tell the film maker how awful it is inside the building and how the security guards are, as he described ‘like the Gestapo’. He’s not wrong there. 

He told us that his partner lives in London and her payment had been stopped for no apparent reason. She hasn’t received a letter which is usual. She’s got children, so the children might not be able to eat this week. It’s beyond disgusting. 

We gave him a leaflet which has a number for the Greater Manchester Law Centre. He is phoning them to get the details of local organisations in London that can help her. They are very pro-active there, and so is this man. 
We spoke to a man who sadly is in the belief that he will get his Esa for life. I hope that he does, but the chances of that aren’t high. 
Almost everyone that had to use the Jobcentre were rushing, looking at the ground on misery. This is what the system does to you. It stresses you out and wears you down. It literally never ends. 
Today was stressful, lots of different issues were brought to light. It’s hard work, and anyone that has attended our demos will attest to that. 
Before the demo started I bought a tent for a homeless chap that I buy a coffee for every day. His tent had been destroyed by someone and the local organisations had none. I hope that he is safe tonight. 
As for myself, I haven’t stopped and I apologise for the extra blogs. 

Please spare a thought for each and every person forced to endure this cruel system. And while Ian Duncan Smith still states that the film I, Daniel Blake is a work of fiction, I can say that it is not. The reality is even worse than the film. One day I will tell him so. 

Please share my blog, talk about it, tell your friends. Thank you
There’s also a donate button below. This has become a full time job for myself and every penny counts. Thank you so much.

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Also a MASSIVE thank you to all the team for being amazing and really going out of your way to help people. You are all fantastic. 

Thank you oncw again. 

It’s not fair. Daniel Blake died I have to live this hell. 

I promised a long time ago that I wouldnt post more than two blogs per week, it’s too much and people will get fed up. I changed my mind today though after a conversation with a man that I know. 
Recently an acquaintance of mine got sanctioned. He’s not well and had missed an appointment. Some would say that this is his own fault, but when someone isn’t well enough to work and are deemed fit then this will happen a lot. It’s inevitable and allowances should be made but they aren’t are they. 

Anyway last week both his friend who lives nearby and myself were trying to keep him going. He was very depressed and angry, not a good combination. It’s a sad fact that because of circumstances like these the suicide rates for men are continuing to rise every year. 

His friend spent a lot of time with him, I met him for a coffee and had a good chat. It seemed to help and he is now in a much better place. Thank goodness for that because I and his friend were worried. 

Today on the walk to school to pick my daughter up I saw his friend. It was pouring down with rain and he stopped to say hello. He went on to tell me his story. 

He’s an older man, and in constant pain. So much pain that he has to take large amounts of painkillers to just get by. And he’s angry, very angry. 

He had failed his medical, appealed and failed that also. He said “How the hell can I work? I’m in constant pain, I have to take painkillers that make me sleepy.” Now he has to go through the whole rigmarole of signing on and doing endless job searches. 

He told me that every day is hell. He wakes up not wanting to be here. The sooner he dies the better he says. 

He stated and quite rightly so, that how can it be fair that big corporations don’t pay their taxes, the prime minister says that we have to ensure austerity but at the same time she gives the DUP £1 billion. To day he’s angry is an understatement. And I totally agree with him. 

I asked him if he had seen the film I Daniel Blake. He said yes, he had and that it was rubbish. To be honest I was puzzled by his reply but he expanded on it. 

He told me that it’s rubbish because Daniel died, it’s not fair he said. Why couldn’t that have happened to him he wanted to know. It’s the best way out of the system and most likely the only way out for many. 

He didn’t think that the film was rubbish, far from it. But he was envious that Daniel had died. 

What kind of a society do we live in that makes a person feel envious of another person’s death, even if it was fictional? 

Every day people wake up in the sad realisation that they are still alive and they have to cope for another day. 

As the gentleman said to me, one day there will be a massive enquiry into the deaths and suffering inflicted on thousands upon thousands each day. 

One day we will hold them accountable for their actions. Some of us, including myself are brave enough to do so. Because we are angry and have nothing so have nothing anyway so have nothing to loose. 

We can do this. 

And please spare a thought for each and every person feeling disappointed that they are still alive every day when they open their eyes. Their suffering is real, but it shouldn’t be like this. 

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Universal credit. The devil’s tool.

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I wrote about this a long time ago. Some took notice most didnt. There’s this strange attitude in the UK, if it’s not happening to me then I’m not bothered. But when it does happen to me I’m going to go mad. Thankfully myself and likewise folk are not like this. We see the implications and share them as widely as possible.

Universal credit isnt there to help you find work, that I’m sure of. Most people who are claiming universal credit are already working and are forced to comply with obscene job searches on top of this. If you aren’t working 39 hours a week or more you are seen as being under employed, so therefore have to comply with their rules.

Remember the man that I wrote about a long time ago? He was a single bloke working but forced to go onto universal credit. He had a job work an agency and could never guarantee his hours. It was also a zero hour contract. Basically work when we tell you because you never know when we will give you work again.
This man had worked a full week of nights, but he still had to complete his job search. They monitored him closely, ensuring that he didn’t get any rest. He tried his best to complete the number of hours given for his job searches, but he was a hour short because he fell asleep.
Ashton jobcentre didn’t use their discretion. Nope they sanctioned him his top up. At the time this also meant his housing benefit, although thankfully this has been corrected now. 
He lost everything, he didn’t get any work for a month, so lost his home, his family and he was literally starving. We signposted him to help and fed him, gave him a hat, gloves and scarf. Ive never seen a man as bereft of everything and he was close to taking his own life.
But no one took notice… Because it wasn’t happening to them.
We are however challenging their rules. If you are already in work then you ate obviously already seeking to obtain more work. Also the attitude that a single parent should have to work full time is terrible. A child needs to see their parents. For a single parent, working is already a struggle, but faced with hardly being able to see their children, well in my eyes that is heartbreaking. Don’t be fooled by the sudden kindness of this government in providing nursery places for 2 year old children. This is to ensure that you either return to work or take part in their awful work programme activities.
It’s not kindness we are plainly a commodity to them.

You can read the original blog if you scroll down.

This is why my comrades and myself campaign every week outside Ashton under Lyne jobcentre every week. We give help and advice to others.
We are also a knowledgeable bunch if people and we know our stuff. So pop by and say hello. We are there every Thursday 10-12

Remember just because it’s not happening to you doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter!

Thursdays weekly demonstration. Desperation is a constant fiend for claimants.

It’s not easy being a claimant at the jobcentre. Before you even get past the front desk, which is adorned by G4s staff intimidation and fear seems to be the lifeblood of the place.

A claimant is met by a first set of doors. These open automatically and there you see another set of doors. There used to be glass in these doors, but they saw fit to cover them up with a mirrored covering. They don’t like people looking in. You try to open these doors and they are extremely heavy. A person without any physical disabilities struggles opening these doors. It’s been the same for years, I doubt they want to change this. They like it as it is.

When you get to the small reception desk you are greeted by one or two Dwp staff members and two or three G4s security guards. They are there I’m sure to make you feel insecure. This is a place that no one enters by choice.
You then are told either to wait in the appropriate area of if you are 10 minutes early for your appointment you are told to go outside and wait. If the staff are running late that doesn’t matter, they don’t get sanctioned do they.

There are signs everywhere telling you that you can’t have any “hot” drinks in the building indeed a claimant who had brought a warm drink inside the building had it taken off him and placed in the door entry for anyone to take. It’s ridiculous, and also he could have spent his last pennies on this drink.
Neither are you allowed to use a mobile phone or device. If you are seen using it, even to just type a job search they threaten to take it off you. There’s no point in the WiFi being set up in that building, because you aren’t allowed to use your phone inside.

You are then left waiting for your appointment. The g4S guards watching you. Jobcentre staff laughing and joking between themselves. They often run late, many have no regard for the claimants.
Single parents are told not to bring their children into the jobcentre also which is certainly not in any rule book.
There are no toilets that claimants can use, neither is there a lift available for disabled claimants to use.

It’s then down to luck. If you’ve got a nice advisor, which is getting rarer by the day, or your advisor is in a good mood then you might be OK. But if not you are left feeling belittled, intimidated and desperate. It’s no surprise that many people attempt to commit suicide either just before an appointment or just after. The stress is too much for many.
It’s not exactly easy is it? Walk a mile in a claimants shoes before you judge them.

At 10am on Thursday I was met by a disabled lady who had been declared fit by the gods of ATOS. Yes despite the Tory party trying to appease the public, they still do assessments. This lady clearly wasn’t well enough to work. I informed her of her right to appeal, and signposted her to welfare rights. She said that she was certainly going to appeal. The poor woman couldn’t even open the door of the jobcentre.

I was then approached by several working people, working part time whilst claiming universal credit. They are devastated about the changes to universal credit being introduced this month. They are also all very upset about being told to do 30 hour job searches despite working. Yes we are challenging this so expect news on that front soon. We don’t feel that it is right to be doing this. These people are already working, so why should they be penalised.

A claimant stormed out of the jobcentre after being treated very unfairly by a jobcentre advisor. This advisors name keeps popping up and they have a reputation for being awful to claimants. The claimant was furious so armed with a piece of paper and a pen a complaint was wrote out straight away. After we had informed them of their rights they felt empowered. You do have a voice and they won’t be seeing that advisor again.

Also too many women with new born babies are being called in for “benefit reviews”whilst I’m sure that all of these advisors aren’t horrible, I’ve got no doubt that the DWP do this to keep the thumb screws on so to speak. Make sure they know their place, make them feel intimidated. Just the thing you need to deal with when you have just had a baby.

We handed lots of leaflets out, offered help and guidance and provided a shoulder to cry on for any claimant that needed it. We shall continue to do this every week. Please come and join us between 10-12 every Thursday Ashton under Lyne jobcentre, old Street.

It’s getting worse folks, there’s no doubt about that, and it’s hard work. We really would like your support.
Many thanks to everyone that turned up and supported us. To our regular supporters who were too poorly to attend get well soon!

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The confiscated cup of coffee.
By the way Ashton Under lyne Jobcentre, please get your computers working properly. You expect claimants to use them everyday but they keep breaking down. It needs sorting out.
Note to G4s security guards. You have yet again forgotten that you are nor allowed, under the data protection act to handle claimants personal details or ask them for any information. We are watching you. You keep forgetting!

Sanctioned for a so called missed appointment and for another reason that they won’t declare. 

Nothing changes does it. Someone who attends Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre came to me for help. They turned up for their regular signing on date and were told that they were “possibly” going to be sanctioned for a missed appointment that they hadn’t received. Now this isn’t unusual so I set about trying to sort this out. 

No paperwork was given regarding this possible sanction and no right to appeal was given. They were just told that they had to wait for the decision. 

The first thing that I did was to email the Jobcentre manager. I stated DWP rulings in this email and that proper reason has to be given for a sanction to be applied. Also that it is DWP practice that you are given the right to appeal the sanction before it goes to the decision maker and once it gets to the decision maker. There is also a period of time given for this to happen. You are not supposed to be sanctioned straight away. 

Of course they ignored this and sanctioned them straight away (it’s a joint claim). 

To give the Jobcentre credit they did phone the people concerned upon receipt of the email. However the advisor phoning wasn’t the manager and they refused to give details of their position. They also gave different dates for the reason for the sanction. This isn’t unusual. But this is also wrong. They also refused to even conside dismissing the sanction. It would have to go to the decision maker. 

So we have several things that are wrong here. 

When you are informed of a possible sanction DWP legislation states that you should get this in writing with information included on how to appeal this decision. 

There should also be a period of time given to consider this. The decision was made in less than 2 days without a right to appeal. 

Three different dates were given. They don’t even know the actual date of the sanction! And once again no notification was given except a verbal “you might be sanctioned” 

The burden of proof goes to them to provide proof that an appointment was given and proof that they received it. This cannot be given because no appointment was received. 

Just to add this couple are completely fulfilling their job seekers agreement. Also they both have had job interviews and also have a work trial this weekend. But their advisor who had previously been nice to them suddenly and unexpectedly changed personality and said that they wernt doing enough to find a job! They have requested to change advisors but this has been refused. It is their right to do this! 
Also yet again G4S security staff are breaching the data protection act by taking clients details and national insurance numbers! They do know that they should not be doing this. They are employed as security staff only and not as advisors. 

I can also add that this is not the first time I have had to deal with a wrongful sanction case. I do this all the time. I just wanted to post a typical day (or two in this case) of just what myself and others do to try and help others. 

They have been given a hardship form to fill in which they have done. This had to be requested though. 

This case has also been referred to my local MP who has agreed to try and challenge this. Many thanks to Angela Reyners lovely secretary for agreeing to meet outside normal surgery hours. It’s very much appreciated. I do know Angela as we stood in the general elections together and our paths cross often. I’m hoping for a positive outcome on this. 

Here’s a comment made by a comrade who attends demonstrations outside Stockport Jobcentre. Terrible. 

This is happening in Stockport too. We had to arrange a foodbank voucher from the Solidarity Drop In when a young man with 3 children (one a baby) came to inform us of a situation where his JSA payment had been stopped pending an appointment at the Jobcentre to discuss a “potential sanction”. The reason for the potential sanction was that he had put a doctor’s appointment for one of his sick children ahead of a Jobcentre appointment at which the latest act in the nonsensical charade of a pretence that there are abundant jobs going-a-begging was to be acted out. At the meeting with the Jobcentre advisor (on a Monday), he had been told that the sanction was not to be proceeded with but that his payment due that day would nevertheless not be made until Friday. The DWP is acting unlawfully. This is quite simply a regime of the most gross bullying and arbitrary and inhuman treatment. I remain absolutely disgusted that the workforce carrying out these outrages is highly unionised – being members of the union, PCS, that I was a member of for 12 years and a branch secretary of, for 3 years!!Creative Commons License
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