Exclusion and life below the poverty line. 

Hi folks, I’m writing an extra blog in response to feedback given to me on my Facebook page and Twitter account. I put out the question ‘Would anyone like an extra blog per week, something a bit different to the posts about the demos’. The response was unanimous. A big yes, if I have the time so here it is. 
One subject that I am constantly reminded about is exclusion.

 I know that this will also be familiar to my readers also, but at times it can be blatantly obvious, and at other times not so obvious. 

Before I start writing further, I should explain my position to anyone that isn’t aware. I have no magic money tree, I’m just like you, like millions of people living in the uk. 

I’m a single parent, I live way below the poverty line and have had first hand experience of the DWP system and illness. LIfe isn’t easy for most of us, but I’m not complaining even though I should complain more. I have a wonderful daughter and amazing friends. At times I must try their patience. 
Exclusion comes in many forms, and anyone living in poverty wether it be relative poverty or absolute poverty will experience this, although the severity of it does differ. To put it bluntly the less money that you have, the less you can do. 

I hear friends talk about trips out, I’m sure that you do too, it’s lovely to hear about their adventures, but a the same time it serves as a reminder that apart from local free days out in reality its not an option. 
The  other week I had to pay for a school trip for my daughter. Parents will be familiar with this scenario. The children are excited about the prospect of a day out with their friends, whilst we go into a state of dread and panic worrying about how we are going to pay for this. Many children don’t go, their parents keep them at home. And the school system punishes the child for having time off school. They won’t get their 100% attendance award, a punishment on top of their missed day out. 
As an adult being poor also excludes you from trips to the nearest biggest town, clothes shopping, doing what I call ‘big shops’ yes, Peter Kay is correct in stating that we say these things. I also say ‘big light’. I’m a northern lass and proud of it. Bus fare in my area is very expensive, so the only option is to walk unless you are lucky enough to have a bike. 
Trips to the Cinema, or ‘Pictures’ as I still call it are totally out of the question, going out for a drink is also and having a meal in a restaurant is the stuff of dreams. And yes we do dream about being able to do these things. 
A trip to the Supermarket, if it’s in walking distance becomes an obstacle course in itself. For many people, especially those living in rural areas, there isn’t any choice in where they shop. So they time it for when the yellow stickers go on the food. Believe me it can be a challenge trying to get the bargains that have been reduced, but when you do you hold onto them like they are gold, afterall they can keep a family from hunger for the week. 

It’s not just about material things though, although they do matter. Alongside this comes the loneliness, the isolation and the knowledge that you are ‘different’ than others around you. Taking part in something positive to do can stop a person from spiriling down into the depths of depression. But we just have to accept that we can’t do these things even though we would like to. And small things do matter. 
Friends become fewer, opportunities become fewer and health often becomes worse. 

With a poor diet, illness often accompanies it. It’s no surprise that there has been a return of victorian illnesses such as Rickets in children because children just don’t get access to a varied diet, and the sunlight that’s needed to prevent this. 

Adults and children have to deal with illnesses such as depression, anemia, insomnia, hypothermia, malnutrition, anxiety and many more besides. Whilst the government is busy selling off the NHS to the likes of Richard Branson, the demand is getting higher. We won’t be able to afford medical insurance it’s not an option. 


Why am I writing this you may ask? Everyone must know all this? The reality is, no not everyone does know this. The Tory Party is aware of this but choose for their selfish reasons to ignore it and make it purposely worse. There’s no use in asking for them to be sympathetic. They re created this cruelty in a very conscious way. 

I’m writing this to raise awareness, for people to be a little more understanding of each other. 

The next time a child’s parent’s can’t pay a school trip, don’t criticise and moan about it, instead understand the reasons why they can’t pay. No parent actually wants to exclude them from a school trip, and if a child gets a subsidised place, good on them, don’t hold it against that child or parent. It takes a lot to admit to a school that they can’t afford to pay for a school trip. 

If a child arrives at school in a less than pristine uniform show compassion instead of criticism. Ask the school if they can start a school uniform clothes bank. Some schools already have these. 

If a friend can’t join you for a night out, or a trip to the cinema, don’t show off about it in front of them, nor should you talk about them behind their backs. Instead ask them how they are feeling and be a good friend. 

If a person is hungry show them where the nearest food bank is, or offer compassion. Compassion costs nothing. If you can buy them a sandwich then that might just make them feel human again. Giving someone hope will also do this. 

People shouldn’t be tossed aside because they supposedly dont ‘fit in’. Everyone is important, and so are their right to a decent standard of living. 

More and more people are excluded from housing, vulnerable people left on the streets to beg whilst low funded organisations try and help them, try to keep them safe and feed them. The government has completely absolved themselves from any responsibility, nor do they care about how many people die as a result. 
People are made to feel worthless, subhuman and unimportant by the DWP system of sanctioning and failed medicals which are still being conducted by the likes of Atos. People are dying everyday as a result, but the government just shrug their shoulders and look the other way. 

A WASPI lady committed suicide after the general election because she felt stressed, unworthy and unwanted. Isolated at a time when she should have been enjoying her retirement. Once again the government don’t care. 
On Friday I had to travel to Manchester, something that I don’t do as regularly as I used to. I had to use the public loos and I started a conversation with two young homeless women. They were lovely women, bright, bubbly and friendly. They told me about their life on the streets, and the difficulties they face every day. Both told me that they had been begging all morning and hadn’t got any money, they needed a pound so I gave it to them. They also needed a hairbrush so I gave them mine. I got hugs from them, and smiles that I haven’t seen for a long time. I couldn’t change their situation, but a little bit of kindness gave them hope that people do care. And thats all it takes sometimes. 
In an ideal world we would have a society that wouldn’t exclude anyone, where everyone would have a home, money in their pocket, food and have the support that they need. It’s called socialism and this country is crying out for it. 

http://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=K47PHPHS5XYRC” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow noopener noreferrer”>.

Our third Christmas demo. An invite.

Hi folks.

Every year we like to pay respect and remember those whom we have lost as a result of  this governments relentless attacks on the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

We have had several themes, and because the government are determined to send us back to mid Victorian times we have decided to go for a Dickensian Christmas/ Workhouse theme.

Very apt seeing as the Jobcentre, Work Programme and Workfare are all the modern day equivalent of the Workhouse.

Regular members will be costumed, but because we aren’t funded we cannot provide costumes for everyone. But you can bring your own. We are merging all of Dicken’s characters, and we will be having Mr Bumble visit who will be representing the DWP.

I love street theatre, it is a very effective method of getting important messages across. I would love to hear from anyone who is involved in the theatre or film making for this project, and another I would really like to start. That would be a national event.

Please come along and read the event description, all details are contained in there.

https://www.facebook.com/events/202670863509828/?ti=icl


Many thanks.

Please donate if you can, if not please continue to share. Thank you so much!

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Exhausted and Thursdays demo.

As usual I’ve been very busy this week, its been a mentally challenging week and the implementation of the new benefit cap and the american elections hasn’t helped.

We all have our own struggles, and mine have been compounded by the reminder of Christmas looming and my daughters birthday next week. Not being able to afford either is a struggle, and is a struggle for thousands of parents. We don’t normally speak about it we just muddle on and do our best. And the government have just made it a whole lot worse.

Anyway, enough about me. Thursday was an exceptionally cold day. We had wind, rain, hail and snow all in the space of a couple of hours. Not unusual for the north west of England. The cold atmosphere emanating from inside Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre certainly did not help matters.

As I was unpacking my leaflets from my trusty shopping trolley I noticed a young man stood outside the Jobcentre watching me. He looked cold and worried so I walked over to him and asked him if he would like a leaflet. At first he was hesiitant, but after I explained what the leaflet was about and who I was he opened up.

He had been sanctioned twice for non attending appointments which he never received notice about. This is not unusual and I have wrote about this before. He was not told of his right to appeal against their decision. So I informed him, of his rights and he confirmed that he would take action. We had a good chat and he went inside the Jobcentre for his appointment.

I noticed that there was alot of older people having to attend the Jobcentre this week, hardly any of them suitably dressed for the weather. We engaged in conversation and handed leaflets to them. They need to know that they aren’t alone.

We spoke to a young woman who had to attend the Jobcentre with her young baby. She’s claiming ESA and her Jobcentre advisor is treating her appallingly. She suffers extreme anxiety and was shaking when we were speaking to her. She told us that her advisor had told her to stop crying and shaking because she seems many other claimants and they don’t cry and shake. She showed a wilful ignorance of this poor ladies medical condition.

This poor woman has been made to jump constantly through hoops, the requests made upon her are unreasonable and we explained this to her. I told her that she must get help and advice asap and to see her local MP, whom luckily is very sympathetic and pro active. We gave her a food parcel which was much needed, and we let her know that we are there for her to support her. Knowing that you aren’t on your own makes a massive difference and can sometimes make that difference between life and death.

We handed out all food parcels in record time, but I must state for anyone attending our demos that they are given on a first come, first served basis. The demand for them is really high because there is so many people having to use the Jobcentre who is hungry. I just wish that there was more that I could do. Also there’s no shame in needing a food parcel. The shame is directed to the government who are knowingly and willfully allowing innocent people to starve. This is never acceptable. We also handed out portions of home made curry donated kindly by a comrade. It was very warmly welcomed and was a nice surprise.

We did so much more, and the turnout for our demo was at one point 25. I think this is amazing. Comrades braved the cold weather to support the people who are forced to use the Jobcentre, they wanted to show solidarity which is amazing. They are all wonderful.

This weeks demo was absent of the “Go and get a job” or “Scumbag” hecklers. It was a refreshing change, maybe the cold weather scared them off.

Some good news this week, which was convieniently hidden within the American election results. I’ve got to hand it to the Daily Mail, they are good at releasing news, when they know it will be hidden. The United Nations Court Of Human Rights has issued the first part of their very damning report into the way the sick and disabled are being treated by the government and the DWP. This report is very damning, and I’m sure that they would like it to be swept under the carpet. Unfortunately for them, it’s not going to be. Both myself, comrades from DPAC who are absolutely amazing and other groups will be constantly reminding them. It’s an issue close to my heart, especially after helping claimants for so long. I would say on average about 75% OF claimants that I talk to are disabled and have failed their ESA medical. Some days that figure is higher, but never lower. It’s appalling.

A big shoutout to everyone who came along this week, it was amazing to see you. A big shoutout to everyone that supports us online, it really means alot. Also a big thanks to Pauline, Rick Burgess, Dianne and everyone else that has had to put up with me this week. A massive thank you.


As you have read, this campaign is really hard work. Alot of time is involved on the streets, talking to people and attending meetings. Indeed, Ive just returned from a meeting despite feeling under the weather. The campaign comes first as always! Because one day we will have justice for everyone who has died and suffered as a result of this governments inhumane treatment of the poorset and most vulnerable in society. Austerity is a political choice not a necessity.
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My money saving tips.

If like me you are beyond skint and need to save as much money as myself you might find these tips useful.

I have been using these ideas for years now and they have really helped. I’m always looking for more ways to save money and I live a very frugal life. I must add not out of choice but out of necessity.

If you haven’t tried any of these then give them a go, but please ensure that you are safe before doing so.

Today the temperature hit below zero and snow is predicted, so I have gone into full winter mode. You can never be too well prepared.

Clothes.

First layers really do make a difference. I always wear a thermal vest and legggings under my clothes. If its extra cold then an extra layer of thermals as well. I don’t wear skirts so wearing cheap leggings isn’t a problem. They are as warm as thermals but are half the price.

Hat. 

You know the old saying? Your never properly dressed without a hat? Well in winter this really makes a difference. We loose most of our heat from our heads when outside, so wearing a hat really makes a difference. A pound shop one works really well, they sell some really good ones.

Scarf. 

I used to hate wearing a scarf but they really do keep you warm. I always wear one now. It certainly keeps the chill off.

Gloves. 

I start with fingerless and then when it gets really cold I wear my fingerless gloves over my normal gloves. Pound shop gloves are fab and mine have lasted me years. Ive been lucky this year, a comrade has knitted me a lovely pair of fingerless gloves.

Footwear. 

Wear boots if you have any, if you haven’t put insoles in your shoes and in your boots. They will make your feet much warmer. In winter wear thicker socks if you have them.

If you do all or any of the above you should be much warmer. 

Around the home. 

I find these tips invaluable. If you can give them a go, they will save you money. I’ve been doing this for years.

Flower pot heater. 

This is invaluable. It will save you money but please keep safe and out of the reach of children. It does get hot.

Here’s a link off YouTube for you to watch. It’s worth the initial outlay.

Bubble wrap on windows. 

Don’t laugh, it might not look fantastic but it will keep your house warmer. I do this every year and it’s simple and easy to do.

You will need a few rolls of bubble wrap and a plastic spray bottle with water in. If you don’t have a spray bottle you can sponge the window down.

Cut the bubble wrap to the size of the window pane, not the frame. You only need to cover the glass.

Spray the window.

Place the bubble wrap on the glass flat side down. Do not put this outside of your house it’s meant to go inside.

Continue until your windows are finished.

The bubbles trap the air inside and keep your window warm by insulating them. Your windows will now feel warm to the touch.

Here’s some photos.

Ignore the mess. My cats insist on sleeping above the fish tank that has plants growing inside it. If it makes them happy then I don’t mind.

I hope that you found this useful. I know it’s a little different than the normal blog but I feel it’s important to share ideas.

Please donate to help keep the campaign going. If you can’t then share!

Thank you!
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Claimant told to break his probation to attend Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre. 

As I arrived for our weekly demonstration I was approached by a young man who appeared a little anxious. I took my leaflets out of my shopping trolley and asked him if he would like one. I could see that he was cold and worried.

He was a pleasant young man who had just been awarded his claim for ESA after a long battle to receive it. He had been helped by his social worker and other support workers. He openly told me that he had been diagnosed with a personality disorder after a long period of diagnosis and during that time, because he wasn’t receiving any treatment he had fallen off the rails and had got into bother.

He explained to me that he was trying to get his life in order and was doing his best. He said he just wants to be able to get stable on his medication and start the long journey of getting his life back.

Unfortunately he had been placed in the work related activity group of ESA. Which does mean that he still has to comply with some job search related activities. One of these involves attending the Jobcentre for interviews and a request that he starts a course with the group invicta whom Ive spoken about before. He said that his advisor said that they will be able to help with his illness. The first appointment is voluntary but the following aren’t. This isn’t good because he isn’t stable enough to commit to anything at the moment. He wont be taking them up on their offer of attention this course for more than the first voluntary attendance. His priority is meeting up with the proffesional agencies that he is involved with. One of these being probation.

Unfortunately he has been given a curfew, and it includes the ruling that he doesn’t go anywhere in the town centre. Simple enough to understand, but the Jobcentre advisor just doesn’t seem to understand this. He was forced to attend a Jobcentre appointment last week, the police spotted him on the towns cctv camera and they pulled him up. Infact they were waiting outside the police station for him.

This week he was forced to do the same thing. He explained to the Jobcentre that he has a curfew, and they told him that its tough. Either he attends his interview, or he doesn’t and he gets sanctioned.

This has plainly put him in an impossible situation. He can’t afford to receive a sanction, no one can and his illness would get far worse. So he had to break the law because of an advisors ruling. What hope is there for him?

He is getting further advice on this and after his appointment he ran off to attend an appointment to try and sort this out. I of course advised him.

But the DWP openly telling this young man to break the law is plainly law. The DWP aren’t above the law, even though they think that they are and I really hope that he takes legal action against them and the advisor. They should not be giving advice like this. But of course in their eyes the Jobcentre comes first.

As I arrived at the Jobcentre with my trusty shopping trolley I was called a scumbag by a passer by. I’m used to awful comments like this and one day I will be able to buy a video camera to show folk what it can be like at times.

We were stopped by a lovely lady who’s brother had been failed his ESA decision. He’s a type 1 diabetic and he’s had no money for weeks. She travels all the way from Wales to help him, to make sure he has some electric on his metre and to give him food. He has an ulcer on his leg and as well as the diabetes he has many other diabetic related illnesses. I’m very sure that he would be dead by now if it wasn’t for her care. We advised her and she had made appointments with Citizens Advice to further that help.

Lots of comrades and supporters arttended our demo today. A comrade counted 25 at one point. The amazing film I, Daniel Blake has certainly played a massive part in this. Thank you so much Ken, Paul and team.

Two of my friends from the anti fracking movement the Nanas surprised me with a visit. They had travelled miles and I started to cry. Tears of happiness they are amazing women.

It was freezing today and Ive been very busy campaigning because as I said there’s alot more to this campaign than just turning up for a two hour demo every Thursday. My daughter told me this morning that obviously she comes first and then the Jobcentre. Sad but true. It’s not easy being a single parent on a very restricted income.

Please donate if you are able to, if not please share my blog etc.
Some good news though! One of the men in our video has now got a flat of his own to live in. I said last week that he had received his first ESA payment and now he has his flat. Its amazing news he was very proud to be able to tell us that he was able to cook his first meal and sleep in his own bed. I have spent time in a women’s refuge on several occasions in the past so I can totally relate to this. The feeling is amazing. I’m so happy for him I just wish that everyone had somewhere to call home for themselves. It’s not alot to ask is it.
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https://www.theguardian.com/politics/video/2016/oct/21/meet-the-real-daniel-blakes-ken-loach-video

Bad news though, the new benefit cap comes into play this week and its going to hurt alot of people. I knew that this was happening but it doesn’t stop me from getting angry and upset.

What is poverty? And does it define us?

This is a question that I get asked often. People ask me if I can define it. In reality  its very difficult to define. There are three definitions of poverty in common usage, those being absolute poverty, relative poverty and social exclusion.

Absolute poverty defined as having the lack of sufficient resources with which to meet basic needs. Relative poverty defines income or resources in relation to the average income. But how does poverty define us?

According to the Joseph Rowntree foundation there are more than a million people living in poverty in the UK. I’m sure that figure is lower than the actual figure due to the level of people finding themselves without work etc rising everyday. They say that 184,5000 households have experienced a level of poverty that has left them with no choice but to resort to charities for essential things and shelter. The Joseph Rowntree foundation also say that three quarters of people living in poverty go without meals and half cant afford to heat their homes. These are some very basic statistics, but how what does living in poverty mean to those living in poverty?

I live in poverty, I’m not ashamed to say it. I don’t think that it has ever left my side except for a very brief moment a long time ago. So I can say this out of experience. I live in an area that is one of the poorest in the country, and a lot of my neighbours live in some kind of poverty.

Poverty can be very restricting and isolating. It defines how you can travel and relate to others.   Socialisation is limited to mainly your local surroundings or your own home. Public transport is expensive and is often off limits. Walking distance is often as far as you can go. So you often only see your local area and your own home, and slowly you begin to isolate yourself. You might  stop talking to people because you feel ashamed that you are poor and you certainly don’t want to be reminded that you are. You avoid people and places, its easier that way because it numbs the pain. This very often starts a cycle of depression and illness, often from a very young age.

The media bombards the public with advertisements and television programmes promoting a richer, happier lifestyle. They also promote the scrounger rhetoric with programmes such as Benefit Street. Discrimination against the poorest in society has never been this bad. Names such as scrounger, fraudster, single parent, immigrant are thrown everywhere with such hatred and disgust. I see this a lot whist helping claimants, no one bothers to ask what their story is, they are given a label.

When you live in poverty debt becomes your worst enemy. High rents, the bedroom tax, council tax, sanctions, benefit delays, low wages all ensure this. Charity shops become your best friend that’s if you can afford them. Food and heating becomes a priority, often its a choice either heating or eating. Its a tough choice because both are equally important.

Poverty defines your every move, children grow up knowing no different but the gap becomes clearer the older they get. They will soon be growing up to accept name calling and discrimination, after all the media have done an extremely good job of turning neighbour against neighbour. People cant just snap out of it and find a job that doesn’t exist.

Everyday I’m reminded of the film Cathy come home. I have a daughter who lives with her partner and children in a privately rented house. The house is very damp, it floods all the time, but the landlord refuses to help. She cant move because she cant afford to pay the £1000 deposit upfront, she doesn’t have a guarantor and she owes rent from her previous sub standard flat which was a housing association flat. She manages, keeps the damp to a liveable level. She lives in relative poverty.  She says that she is lucky to have a home, and she is right, but no one should have to live like this. Sadly its not unusual, its commonplace but it shouldn’t be.

People are trying to get by, its not easy and the unemployed and the working are stuck in the same situation. I say that we will soon be back to the 1930s poverty levels, but I fear that it will be more like 19th century poverty levels. Poverty does indeed define us, we might try to deny this, but it has defined my life and it will continue to do so.

I urge the public to use compassion and kindness instead of hatred and discrimination. After all this can happen to anyone and everyone is three pay slips away from being in the same position.


 

 

 

Why do sick notes go missing?Aggressive G4S security amongst other issues.

Whilst I was handing leaflets out i was asked to go and speak to a man who was stood round the corner. This happens quite a lot because they feel that they can’t be seen talking to us.Why? The fear of sanction and discrimination by DWP staff members. The threat of a sanction is enough for anyone to comply with their wishes. So i went over and spoke to this man.
He was in a very agitated state, he was very articulate but also very angry. He told me that he had worked all of hi life and had had an accident requiring several painful operations on his knee.He had received a letter from the eSa department to remind him to send his sick note in, but they didn’t include an envelope. So thats what he was there for. He asked to speak to an advisor but was stopped by a G4S security guard. given an envelope and was told to leave the building. he was shocked, all he wanted to do was to speak to a front desk advisor.
He came outside with the envelope and realised that it was the wrong envelope. The G4S security guard had given him the wrong envelope.. so he questioned this and was welcomed with a tough thats all your getting response. We helped him but this left me with these questions;
G4S security guards are not trained benefit advisors and should not be handling any personal information or handing out advice. The are not fully trained security guards therefore have no right to do so. Why are they being allowed to do this?
How many sick notes go missing in this way? These payments are a lifeline for ESA claimants and it shouldn’t be happening.
Is this a tactic deployed by the DWP deliberately or is it simply the DWP allowing unqualified G4S guards dish out advice ensuring that mistakes are made and wrong advice given?
Answers on a postcard please, although I will be enquiring bout this and monitoring this situation.

A young girl with her mother stopped us. She was shaking with fear and close to having a panic attack. She is on ESA for severe anxiety and the Jobcentre have felt that it is right to force her into the Jobcentre for an interview. I looked at the letter and she did need to attend, however she was far too ill to go in on her own so we advised her mum to go in with her. She is clearly not ready for work. No one should have to feel this scared of a building and the people inside. Its disgusting and we need to stop this. The government have created two monsters. The DWP and Jobcentre plus. Both equally evil.
I hope that she managed to recover from this ordeal.

This week G4S decided to be rather aggressive and have it seems taken ten paces back in their attitude. A young woman rushed out of the building wanting to speak to us. She said that she was sat waiting for her appointment and a G4S security guard was shouting “Im going to snap the strings on that guitar if they don’t shut up” she said that he was very menacing in manner and she was scared of him. She said that she would make a complaint lets hope that she does. Threats of violence should always be taken seriously. Our crime was to be playing songs of peace on a guitar played by a woman who is no threat at all. Shocking.

Events this week.

Wednesday 5pm Market street manchester a demonstration in light of the budget. I will be speaking t this event and will be announcing my own budget.

Tomorrow (Sunday) Greek solidarity demonstration 1pm Piccadilly gardens Manchester.

11th July Manchester’s March for the homeless 12.00 Piccadilly gardens manchester.

If you would like to donate to this blog to keep it going my Paypal add is seercharlotte@gmail.com this is not just a few hours writing its become more and more full time as time has gone on and any donations are more than welcome to keep it going. Rather than have to put ads on here which Im against doing. Many thanks