Todays demo, desperate people and a visit from Ray Woolford, author of the book Food Bank Britain.

I’ve just returned home from our weekly demo feeling a bit elated instead of deflated. That makes a change these days.

To start with the weather was wonderful, not raining and a bit sunny which always makes things easier. Not only for us, but for the people having to use the Jobcentre. There’s nothing worse than the rain and cold weather, and we get lots of both.

Roy arrived early with the food parcels, which was fab because it’s nice not to be standing alone, and because they are needed straight away. People are waiting for them which is a sad indictment of the governments attitude towards the poor.

As we were setting up, I spotted a lady and her young child stood at the corner of the Jobcentre. She was looking at the food parcels, and she looked a bit lost. I walked over to her, handed her a leaflet and asked her if she was ok. She wasn’t ok, no surprise there sadly. She’s going through a traumatic time at the moment and her money had been stopped due to no fault of her own.

I had a chat with her, signposted her to relevant organisations and handed her a food parcel to keep both her and her child going. She was so happy to receive this and at least she knows that she has some food to tide her and her child over.

Two of my friends surprised me today and arrived unexpected at the demo. Karl walked over with a nice cup of coffee for myself, which I shared with Roy. How nice was that of him. Little things like that mean a lot because the work that we do is hard and it gives us hope.

My friend Lel arrived showing compassion and solidarity. She brought her little boy who is adorable and it was a joy to see them both.

I spoke to a man who to be honest had just had enough. He told me that he had total solidarity with us all because he knows that we are telling the truth. He went on to say that he had worked all his life, but sadly had become ill. He had lost part of one leg, and the toes off his other leg. He didn’t want a food parcel, he just wanted to chat.

He said that it is wrong that people are targeted because they become ill, disabled and fall on hard times. That’s what we pay our national insurance for he said, and he’s correct.

He told us how unfair he thinks the ESA medicals are and told of the struggle that his friend has recently been through. His friend had attended their medical, and despite several illnesses had been refused their ESA payments. They are appealing though and have been signposted to the relevant organisations that will help with that. We never leave anyone without the necessary information and help. Today, this gentleman just needed someone to listen to because he feels marginalised and discriminated against, which he is of course.

Then Ray Woolford arrived. What an amazing campaigner, activist, author and all round good person he is. He had travelled all the way from London but yet it felt like \I had known him for forever. We do chat on Twitter though, maybe that’s why, or maybe it’s because we take the same stance on issues.

He is the author of the book Food Bank Britain, and I will put a link to it at the bottom of the blog. It’s a must read and I urge anyone that can afford to buy it to buy it.

Ray arrived bearing gifts. He brought a big flask for keeping drinks warm which we have needed for a long time now. It gets very cold outside the Jobcentre so now we can offer a warm drink to people, so thank you Ray. Also he gifted us a hi vis vest, both are given in the memory of an amazing campaigner, Christine Archibald, who was killed in the London Bridge terror attack. She was an amazing lady, who was a support worker for the homeless and her work will never be forgotten #chrissysentus

Even though Ray is based in London, we are experiencing the same issues, although we have experienced Universal credit for a lot longer than most areas. It was amazingly good to talk about these issues, and discuss and share ideas etc.

Ray you are a legend thank you so much.

Some of the food parcels were handed out to people who wanted to remain anonymous and I respect that. They are struggling supporting themselves and family members. Some are working and suffering  because of the benefit cap. It’s a very hard position to be in, because they are working they can find it hard to find help. But they were signposted and given food.

I spoke to a couple of WASPI ladies again, this time different women, both suffering as a result of not being able to claim their rightful pension. They have been shown a massive injustice and I really hope that they get their pensions.

I spoke to a young man who is receiving help from local organisations, so we just chatted and let him know that we are there for him to chat to as well. He’s doing so well and is a lovely young man.

Another young man shouted over to us saying that what we are saying is true, and that we should keep up the good work. He went on to tell me that he had just witnessed a lady being badly treated by her Jobcentre advisor after receiving a sanction. So I waited for her to leave, gave her a food parcel and signposted her to relevant organisations. I hope that I showed her some hope on such an awful day for her.

It’s hard to describe everything that we do in the space of two hours, but we do a lot. And we do our best to help everyone.

Today we had a good morale boost, made a new friend and helped lots of people. This is what we do best and whilst people still continue to need the help we will be there for them.

Please, if you are local to the Manchester area, come and say hello. We would love to meet you.

Many thanks to everyone that came along today, and to Steph who also made a special journey today. It is appreciated.

I am furious that the government treats people like this, but it’s expected from a Tory government. They care only for themselves, and unless a poorer person is of some value to them they will deprive them of their basic needs, humiliate them and degrade them. This is because this government does not hold any value on a working class person’s life unless they can make some money out of them.

Here is the link for Ray’s book.

 

 

http://www.rochdaleonline.co.uk/news-features/138/community-news/111800/antiausterity-campaigner-charlotte-hughes-guest-speaker-at-castleton-labour-meeting

https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-e155-Mental-health-The-vulnerable-suffer-what-they-must

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A hard morning. A man crying, rain pouring. It’s supposed to be August.

I’m not going to bother you with talking about the weather, I’ve said it in today’s blog title. It was raining AGAIN. Will we ever get a break, and have some good weather for once? My heart went out to Richard, a homeless chap who I buy a cuppa for most mornings and chat to. We always put the world to rights. He deserves a medal, such a nice man who has unfortunately fallen on hard times.

Gordon, who normally drops the food parcels off is currently unwell, get well soon Gordon! We missed you today! So Roy collected them also. He’s not feeling 100% well either, nor am I but we plod on and thank you so much, Roy, for your help and dedication.

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The food parcels went to people who had no food or very little through no fault of their own. it’s extremely hard to manage on the meagre amount of money that the government provides, that is, if you haven’t been sanctioned or refused your rightful claim of ESA. People still have to pay the bedroom tax and the council tax supplement. They also might have debts to pay, gas and electric to buy. The list never ends does it?

 

 

I spoke to a man who had been made homeless due to no fault of his own. He was living in very sub standard accommodation and had complained about it. The landlord then made the decision to evict him. I’m not sure about the exact details, but I do know that he hadn’t received adequate advice regarding how to claim housing benefit etc. If we had met him previously we would have done so.

He started to cry and went on to tell me that yes he does drink, but not to get drunk. Just enough to stop getting ill. “I’m 47 years old, I never expected that I would be living like this. I had a home, a life. I worked. Now I’m treated like crap and only a few care”

He took his phone out of his pocket and showed me the photos of his previous accommodation. To say it was disgusting is a massive understatement. No one should be forced to live like this and my heart went out to him.

We did signpost him to relevant organisations, and he assured us that he will work with them the best that he can do.

 

 

I said hello to a man that I’ve seen in my local area for a few years now. He’s a refugee and has managed to get permanent residence to stay and work in the UK.  His advisor is giving him a hard time though, most likely because his English is poor and from experience, they do target people with a poor grasp of the English vocabulary.

They have had him on daily signing on appointments for a long time now, he hasn’t been told why but he has to attend or get sanctioned. When a person is put on daily signings they are given a special card that gets them into the Jobcentre quickly. I would say a get out of jail card, but it’s more like a get in jail card. They told him that he wasn’t allowed to show anyone the card but I saw it. Their excuse is that it’s the property of the DWP. No, it’s not. If the gentleman has to carry this with him every day, then it’s his property. He can show who he likes when he likes.

Look out for people having to carry these cards. They are a sign that the person carrying it has been singled out for some reason, so it’s always worth asking them.

 

 

I spoke to an older gentleman who had been refused his ESA. I offered him help, but he is a man on a mission and was adamant that he will be appealing and he has it in hand. So hopefully he has, and hopefully, he will overturn that decision, as so many rightfully do.

 

 

I spoke to a young lad who has managed to find a bed at a local homeless hostel. He’s trying his best to sort his life out and to get on top of his mental health issues. It’s not going to be easy living there, but I could tell from what he was saying that he will do it.

 

 

We saw far too many older people forced to use the Jobcentre today, one man, in particular, looked very ill but didn’t want to speak to anyone. That place does that to you. The system can make a person shy away and become wary of society. They are treated like rubbish by their so called advisors, so expect the same from everyone else.

 

 

Once again, far too many WASPI women forced to use the Jobcentre and also far too many women with very young children. This also breaks my heart.

 

 

There were only four of us there today, I and Roy were on our own for a good while. It was tough, heartbreaking and stressful, but we will always be there to help others. They need the support.

 

Today should have been our 4th anniversary, but I made the decision to postpone our special demo because we have guests from other campaigns coming to visit in several weeks and I would like it to coincide with their arrival.

 

I couldn’t take photos because I left the big camera at home due to the rain, and the phone I’m using is rubbish so please forgive me. I am trying to rectify this though.

I’m tired, a tad fed up but I won’t stop helping those in need because their journey is far harder than mine.

 

 

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Thank you!

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New targets for DWP compliance interviews.

Sometimes I’m taken by surprise. Mostly I’m not. But this is a new tactic. A new target driven tactic employed by the DWP. 

For anyone claiming JSA, ESA Income Support or universal credit you might be familiar with a local service compliance interview. They send these letters out usually on a random basis or sometimes on the say so of a suspected fraud taking place. Now these interviews are compulsory and if you don’t attend then your money will get stopped. 

Whilst attending one of these interviews you are normally treated like a criminal, guilty before being proven innocent, most likely innocent of any wrongdoing as you have been randomly picked in the first place. You are taken to a room which looks just like a police interview room. They record everything like the police do, only in this case you are most likely innocent. You are asked to bring with you all documentation and proof to say you are who you are. This is what happened to a local lady who will remain anonomous to prevent any harrasment from the DWP. Here is what happened.

 After being admitted to hospital for an operation, she returned home to a “compliance interview” letter.Now the only “crime” that this lady committed was to become ill. She is claiming ESA and was previously claiming JSA. There has been no other change in her circumstances, but she is regarded as a criminal and will be treated as such. 

The lady concerned phone up the DWP on the number provided.To ask why she has been asked for an interview (interrogation ) and to inform them that as a disabled person and therefore classed as vulnerable she will be bringing an advocate with her. Here is a summary of the conversation. 

It took her a while but she eventually got through to a real person. This chap sounded quite nice apparently but wasn’t expecting any questions. People normally just comply, they don’t question the DWPs decisions he said. He sounded compassionate for a DWP worker, that he was under great pressure to perform these interviews. He didn’t say he was under pressure but I am presuming that he is because he has been told that he’s got to claw £1000 back from innocent people, people that have been claiming the correct amount of money and have committed no benefit fraud. So she is just a person on the list of targets for this clawback. He said that the DWP had supposed to have sent her a previous letter, which surprise surprise they didn’t. He didn’t argue the case for the DWP as he believed that she was knowledgeable and it was pointless doing so. She asked him why he had given her all this information… He said that he did because she had asked lots of questions and his tone wasn’t of a person happy in his job. She also informed him that she will be taking a witness into the interview and that she wants proof of all said letters from the DWP to herself that hadn’t arrived. After all it’s a well known fact that these letters don’t get sent out in the first place and the onus is on them to prove that they sent them and not on her for not receiving them. 

There are several issues that need to be spoken about here. The first is that these compliance letters are now being used as a form of target for the DWP. Never before have I heard of this. We all have heard about sanction targets, but compliance targets? Wow. That’s an all time low.

The second is the fact that you are proven guilty before you are even seen and are even interviewed in police like surroundings. This is shocking because even in a court of law you are supposed to be innocent before being proven guilty. The DWP doesn’t see it this way. And now they have a £1000 target to aim for innocent victims are going to be fraudulently accused of committing benefit fraud and will be asked to repay money that they do not owe, and have never owed. After all the DWP will want to reach that £1000 target so the most vulnerable will be targeted for this. 

The third is that the DWP are openly committing fraud. It’s much the same as demanding money with menaces. A very vulnerable person sitting in a compliance interview hosted by usually two very hostile DWP workers will agree to anything just to get out of the building. Their money will stop and they could well loose their home. 

The fourth and the last for now because I’m sure that I could think of more is that the decent members of staff working for the DWP are being put at risk by being forced to comply to enforcing these actions. The man concerned knew it was wrong but because he most likely he knows how bad it is to be unemployed, he has had to choose to enforce it. This is very wrong. Not all DWP workers are bad but the good ones tend to be the exception to the rule these days. They end up leaving or becoming ill because they cannot stand the stress and the wrongdoings anymore. 

Please share this blog. Let the DWP know that we are aware of their latest trick. If you receive one of their compliance letters always question it and demand a witness to any interview. That is your right so use it. We cannot allow them to get away with this fraud. Making the poorest pay for the banking crisis which was created by the richest is never acceptable. 

As my comrade States “With every twist of the screw that takes place it becomes more urgent that the jobcentre workers stand shoulder to shoulder with the claimants. Each generation has to relearn what solidarity means – that what the power of capitalist ideology does to us!”

Quick note. ESA is employment and support allowance. JSA is Jobseeker’s Allowance. Universal credit is what it says on the tin. 

  
It would be wonderful if anyone could donate to keep this blog going. I’m on a very low income and I need to continue this blog. My Paypal add is seercharlotte@gmail.com thank you! 

Please note none of this is hearsay it is based on good evidence from genuine people. 

For anyone who thinks this isn’t a true account of events, it was. I was accompanying this person and I have mentioned that it is a compliance letter. I have also attended many of these meetings with claimants. Some go ok, some don’t. It’s pot luck with who you see at the interview. I will not edit it because it a truthful set of accounts. Thank you.