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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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.

Our short film with The Guardian.

Around a month or so ago we spent three weeks filming with a journalist and film maker from The guardian. Having worked with The guardian before I held  a certain level of trust with them because they have always been nothing short of brilliant. Always giving a fair and honest opinion and treating both ourselves and the claimants with the respect we all deserve.

I’m not sure that John and his team from The guardian knew what to expect. They had a remit which was to make a film that backed up Ken Loaches film I, Daniel Blake. To counteract the naysayers and the right wing that would say that its just a piece of fiction. And I was proud to have been asked. After all Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre is one of the worst in the country. A reputation very much deserved.

So for three weeks they joined us and spoke to Melvin, a man who due to redundancy and ill health found himself a victim of the DWP regime.

There was also lots of other footage taken, but they didnt make the cut.

Watch the film, its very powerful. It might make you cry. It might make you angry.
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/video/2016/oct/21/meet-the-real-daniel-blakes-ken-loach-video

But one thing is for sure, we hear many more awful stories each and every week and our work has become invaluable. This week all of our food parcels were handed out within ten minutes, which has got to be record timing.

It’s getting cold, and people are becoming more desperate. Also as we move towards the Christmas season we notice a sharp uptake in sanctioning levels. We have already noticed a far higher level of disabled and sick claimants being turned down at their ESA medicals. We know the reason for this and its awful.

We do rely on your support to keep going. At times our morale can be very low, because the stories that we hear are very harrowing.

Please donate if you can. This has become a full time job for me and it doesn’t just stop outside the Jobcentre every Thursday. I spend my time lobbying, writing, attending meetings, informing people and campaigning. As well as planning our demos.

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This week we held our special I, Daniel Blake demo which was a resounding success. The Jobcentre asked us to remove our banner. We politely declined their request.

Thursday’s weekly demo. The poor are not responsible for their own poverty.

As usual we held our weekly demo. It was well attended by people from the local area, all with the common belief that it is wrong to make people suffer in the way that the DWP do. The claimants are not to blame for their poverty, its very easy to fall upon hard times, but extremely hard to climb out of poverty. Every attempt is thwarted with yet another obstacle given to them by the DWP.

Its started to become cold now and therefore it gets harder for the claimants and ourselves. Heat or eat is a choice that has to be made and eat usually becomes the only option, that’s if they can afford to. I’m sure that many claimants and working poor claiming Universal Credit have sleepless nights worrying about how they are going to feed their families and themselves. I know that feeling well. It’s a horrible feeling and the government has no right whatsoever to punish the poor for their own poverty, whilst they languish in comfort, it’s a totally different world.

I spoke to a lady who was sent outside the Jobcentre for being ten minutes early. Now before anyone says that this happens all the time, I know it does, Ive been writing about it for two years now. But it always reminds me of the mind games that the DWP like to play. They like to keep control, a bit like an abusive partner. I know that there is room for the claimants to wait, but the G4S security guards turn them away. I inform claimants that they should wait in the lobby but most are too scared to do so. Claimants are terrified of the DWP and with good reason. The DWP in effect controls their life, where their next meal will come from and basically everything that they do.

I also noticed a few claimants runnning towards the Jobcentre, scared of being late. Your cannot be even five or ten minutes late. That will most likely result in a sanction which will take away most of their income. The DWP give no allowances at all, compassion is a quality that they are devoid of.

A woman rushed into the Jobcentre, she was very upset and panicking. “They’ve stopped my money, it wasn’t in the bank. I don’t know what I’m going to do.” She went on to say that she hadn’t received any notification either. This isn’t unusual, and I’m sure its not done by mistake. Call me a cynic but mistakes like this don’t continually occur fo three years. Everything is calculated carefully to ensure that a claimant remembers their place, so they are compliant, so they don’t argue back. A compliant society is very easy to manipulate and they count on that.

I would also like to say that claimants are not living the life of luxury. Anyone that believes this should spend a morning with us. They would be shocked.

We helped countless people. I say countless because I don’t keep a tally but maybe I should. We also spoke and gave advice to claimants whom we see on a regular basis. The Jobcentre staff tell them to ignore our advice, but our advice is correct and empowers people to fight back, to take a stand. And it works.

We handed out some warm coats, but we are needing to start stocking up for winter.

The campaign doesn’t end on a Thursday though. It’s a full time job, and anyone else campaigning like this will tell you the same. Its very hard work, both physically and emotionally. You’ve got to be very strong to undertake it and keep it up. Please donate if you can, it really helps. If you can’t then please share! Thank you!

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Next Thursday we will be holding a special I, Daniel Blake demonstration to coincide with the official release of the film. Its a fantastic, hard hitting film which touches on some of the issues that we deal with. Please come along if you can. Thursday 10-12. It’s going to be fab..

Also please support my Thunderclap timed to go out on the day that the film I, Daniel Blake is released. Let’s make it massive! That would be amazing! I\
If everyone who read this blog signed up it would take over Twitter for the day!
https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/47840-i-daniel-blake

I also apologise with the delay of writing my blog this week. My health hasn’t been brill and I’m now on antibiotics. I will be feeling bettter soon thanks to our precious NHS.

Thursdays demo. Emotional and tiring.

Thursday as you know is our weekly demonstration day. Every week for over two years we have been helping and advising claimants outside Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre and if you scroll back you can read some of the heartbreaking stories that we have heard.

Earlier this year we saw the need to hand food parcels out to claimants, its an idea that I wish we had started a long time ago. Its proven to be essential, and Ive no doubt that they have enabled claimants to keep going. When you are sanctioned or waiting for an ESA appeal to go through you become very hungry, and these food parcels contain some good nutritious food that is quickly and easily cooked. Many thanks to Pauline for helping us with these and to everyone else who has donated. We rely on your donations because I, myself am on such a low income that I’m struggling myself and the other campaigners are managing on limited incomes.

Thursday was a cold day, and it reminded me that we are heading towards winter. Its cold on the streets and in homes that people can’t afford to heat. So we will have to start stocking up on hand warmers, gloves, fingerless gloves, hats and scarfs. I’m well aware that many people die through hypothermia as well as malnutrition and hunger.

Here’s an example of the claimants that we helped. Remember this is only in the space of two hours.

Claimant sanctioned but forced to go into the Jobcentre every day. They were using the library to do this but the DWP decided that they wanted to drag him in everyday. He was completing his job search correctly. Advice, support, solidarity and a food parcel given.

Woman with a new born baby forced to go into the Jobcentre to show that she actually has a baby. The birth certificate isn’t good enough anymore and they like to remind you that they are there watching. And yes, she was already claiming and had applied for everything that she was entitled to.

ESA claimant who was appealing their failed medical decision, told by their advisor that they have to claim JSA whilst awaiting their appeal decision. By doing this they are then declaring themselves fit for work, and the advisor is knowingly committing fraud. But they need money to live on and its a no win situation. The appeal rate was taken away in April therefore claimants are left with no choice but to claim it. Food parcel given.

Universal credit claimant who had lost their job suffering from extreme anxiety due to the thought of having to go through the system again. They hate Universal Credit they feel that its taken their life away and any choices that they might have had. Food parcel given due to their income being that low that they cant afford to buy food and keep a house going at the same time. Awful.

ESA claimant who failed their medical but have been refused the option of being able to claim JSA because they are too sick. They are left with no income at all and no hope. Food parcel given and signposted to other organisations locally.

Young man sanctioned on Universal Credit. He was very quiet and I could see very depressed. He also has a girlfriend and baby at home. They get child benefit but everything else had been stopped. Advice given, a shoulder to cry on, signposted and two food parcels given. Poor lad, he’s so young and hes got no hope. The government has taken any hope that he might have had away.

Two men that we have been helping for a few weeks now. They are living at the travel lodge. They have become part of the team, they are fantastic. We sorted out kettle cook food, due to them not being allowed to cook in the travel lodge. One of these men has been struggling to get his ESA payment as described in my previous blogs. But he had some good news. He might be getting somewhere permanent to live in the near future. Hopefully we will hear some good news regarding that next week.

We saw quite a few older people having to use the Jobcentre, people that would have been retiring in the past. I find this very sad to see. How on earth will they be able to find a job? The jobs aren’t out there and this makes me angry.

These are just a few of the issues that we had to deal with on Thursday. Its shocking but I shall continue to campaign for these people and help them. They need the help because the Jobcentre doesn’t offer them any advice nor do they signpost them.

Many thanks to the new people who turned up to help. I really appreciate it. Its a tough job and its a full time job for myself.

Campaigning doesn’t just stop outside the Jobcentre on Thursdays. It involves alot of work, meetings, research and everything else that goes along with that. I am ashamed to say that I am struggling at the moment and my morale was at an all time low this week. No money and Teresa May’s speeches at the Tory Party Conference did nothing to help my morale. I fear we are heading into very dark times and its a tad scary.

I also have activities planned for later this month as well as our annual Christmas demonstration which will have a Charles Dickens theme this year.

Please donate if you can. If you cant then please share this blog.
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My March in remembrance of the Peterloo massacre.

On Sunday I, along with hundreds from around the greater Manchester area marched in commemoration of those who were injured and killed at what is now known as The Peterloo massacre. I walked nine miles wearing unsuitable footwear, but I felt that it was necessary to pay homage to those that passed away at Peterloo. Growing up in a town not far from Manchester, I have always been aware of the Peterloo Massacre and the injustices thrown at innocent people that day. 

On the 16th of August 1819 an estimated 18 people, including a woman and a child died from cuts from a sabar and trampling. 7000 men, women and children received serious injuries, many never recovered from them and they continued to suffer for the rest of their lives. 

Crowds began to gather on the morning of The 16th of August. Whole families attended from all over the north west. This was intended to be a peaceful demonstration, and many brought picnics to eat whilst sitting on what was known as petersfields Manchester. They marched great distances in protest mainly because of the disastrous corn laws which made making bread unaffordable. At that time fewer than 2% of the population had the vote, so this was their way of saying peacefully that they weren’t happy. Many were wearing their Sunday best and behaved with great dignity. They weren’t violent thugs, they were good people trying to make a peaceful stand. 

They had speakers planned, the key speaker being Henry Hunt. He stood on a cart. Not everyone could hear him due to the amount of people attending. People were holding banners which said words such as equal restoration , reform, love and universal sufferage. Many of the banners contained the red cap of Liberty, which was seen as a very powerful symbol. 

As you can imagine the authorities weren’t happy. Local magistrates were watching from a a window near the field. They panicked, even though the event was a very peaceful one. Without much thought they read the crowd the riot act, but the crowd was that large, not many were able to hear and they made no effort to tell people. 

At that moment 600 Hussars, several hundred infantrymen, an artillery unit packed with two six pounder guns, 400 men of the Cheshire cavalry and 400 special countable waited in reserve in buildings surrounding the field. The local yeomanry were given the task of arresting the speakers, so head by Captain Hugh Brieley and Major Thomas Trafford, who were essentially a parliamentary force drawn from the ranks of the local mill and shop owners. 

They then on horseback, fully armed with cutlasses and clubs proceeded to head towards the very large crowd. They were already biased against members of the crowd and wanted to settle scores this way. Issuing orders such as “There’s sexton, damn him run him through” 

They proceeded further and charged towards the crowd. The crowd had stood linking arms, trying to prevent the arrests, but it was to no avail. Their banners were struck down and they moved toward the crowd striking out at people. There are reports which state that the yeomanry were drunk which I fear only fuelled their violence. 

By 2pm,the field was a scene of carnage. Abandoned banners strewn everywhere and dead bodies lying on the field. Those injured waiting desperately for help. Journalists at the scene trying to report the event were arrested, and others who went in to report the days event were jailed. The businessman John Edwards Taylor went on to set up the guardian newspaper as a direct reaction as to what he had seen. 

The speakers and organisers were put on trial, and were first charged with high treason, which was reluctantly dropped by the prosecution. The hussars and magistrates responsible for slaying innocent people received a message of congratulations from the prince regent and were cleared of any wrong doing. 

So why do we continue to march and commemorate the day? 

The battle of Peterloo played a huge part in paving the way for ordinary people to win the right to vote. It lead to the Chartist Movement from which grew the trade union movement and it established the publishing the establishment of the Manchester guardian movement. The injustices and suffering inflicted at Peterloo played a critical part in the poorest getting the freedoms that we have today. 

It inspired the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley to write his poem The Masque of Anarchy, which due to restrictions placed on the radical press was not published until 1832, then years after the poets death. 

This is a very brief overview of events, and many thanks to The Peterloo Massacre Memorial campaign for their information which has helped me write this article.

The Peterloo massacre is as important today as it was then, because we are still fighting the same battle, the battle of injustice forced upon the poorest and most vulnerable in society. I shall always remember the victims of Peterloo. So I sit here with sore feet writing this article which I feel is a very small price to pay in remembrance of those who lost their lives. 

http://www.historyhome.co.uk/c-eight/distress/masque.htm

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peterloo_Massacre