I couldn’t believe that Thursday had arrived so quickly. I had spent all week covering the Conservative Party Conference and to say that I was tired is an understatement, but people still need help.
I was met at the cafe by a lady that we had helped a while ago. Her life is back on track now and she is doing well. She likes to come and have a chat with me, and I like it to. I regard her as a friend and we sat and put the world to rights.
I arrived at the Jobcentre and set everything up. Thank goodness I wasn’t on my own this week, last week was awful. People soon arrived, arriving at the Jobcentre for appointments many needing food parcels.
The weather is getting cold now, although it wasn’t raining. My thoughts go out to everyone living on the streets.
We spoke to a young couple who even though they are working they are struggling. Because they don’t work full time they are on Universal credit and they don’t have a penny to spare. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Universal Credit is hell on earth.
We spoke to a lady who was rushing out of the Jobcentre. I asked her what was wrong, was she ok? She told me that she was pregnant and they had sanctioned her. She couldn’t stop though because she was in a rush to collect a bank statement. I gave her a leaflet and told her that we would be here next week if she wanted to talk, and for her to read the advice on the leaflet.
We spoke to a lady who had just been informed that she had been sanctioned for not answering a telephone call from the DWP. She had already told them that her mobile phone was broken, but they ignored this fact and sanctioned her anyway. She will be appealing.
For those thinking that the DWP are lovely, are nice and they have sympathy you are very mistaken. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Apart from the odd nice advisor who never stays employed their long, its generally a soulless, heartless organisation where not a care is given to any claimant.
I spoke to an older, disabled gentleman who has to use a motorised scooter to get around. He had recieved a text to inform him that he had missed his ESA medical assessment in Huddersfield. Huddersfield is miles away, a train ride away and he would have massive problems being able to make this journey. I’m not sure if he had recieved a letter from the assessment centre informing him of this, but I told him that even though it is scary he must open the brown letters that come through his letterboxes. Many people are scared of opening them, the whole system makes you scared because they hold your future in their hands.
We gave him some good advice and helped him.
We spoke to a young couple with a young baby and a toddler. Both the children were ill, and they had a sickness bug. Even so they had to attend their appointment even if that meant that one of them had to keep running out of the building with a child that had been sick. Why can’t they just leave people alone. The mother of the children is also disabled, and in my opinion she shouldn’t have to attend a Jobcentre appointment.
I overheard a young man talking to a colleague saying that it is scary, that they have no power at all and the Jobcentre and a computer controls their life. This is the reality. A person’s life really isn’t their own is it.
I spoke to a homeless man who I like to talk to. He’s a lovely man and is looking much better this week. I really hope that he stays this way.
Thankfully I was joined by my colleagues this week, and some extra colleagues who come along when they are able to. This cheered me up no end. There was a good atmosphere outside the Jobcentre this week which was fantastic.
Remember, the DWP have no sympathy for anyone. A person might find a sympathetic advisor but the next week they can, and often are replaced with an unsympathetic one who will do their best to overturn the good work already done by their colleague.
It’s a system that is controlled by targets and figures, every person entering that Jobcentre has a value to them. If they can’t see a person having a value then they will be tossed to one side. Their life will be made very hard.
I can never, and will never condone the behaviour of the DWP. Nor will I ever sing their praises like its a celebration when they manage to treat one person nicely because this is what they should be doing to everyone all of the time. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect, a person is not responsible for their own poverty. The system is and we need to change it.
A massive thank you to everyone for coming along to support the demo today. You all cheered me up, even though we are all suffering with various aches and pains helping people makes everything worthwhile.
Please share my blog, tell your friends also. Thank you!
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MANY THANKS TO BENEFITS AND WORK FOR THIS.
Created: 03 October 2017The sanctions rate for universal credit (UC) claimants is three times higher than it is for jobseekers allowance (JSA) claimants, according to the latest report by sanctions expert Dr David Webster of the University of Glasgow.
According to a review of benefits sanctions statistics published last month by Dr Webster, the sanctions rate for JSA claimants is 2.5% per month. But for UC the rate rockets to 7.4% per month.
The rate for employment and support allowance (ESA) sanctions is much lower, at 0.32% per month.
However, the length of ESA sanctions is very concerning.
25% of ESA sanctions lasted for more than 3 months. And a shocking 16% of sick and disabled ESA claimants were sanctioned for more than 6 months, a rate that is far higher than for UC according to Dr Webster.
The harshness of the current sanctions regime is underlined by the fact that, between the years 1913 and 1986, the longest a claimant could have their unemployment benefit suspended for was 6 weeks and most sanctions were much shorter.
You can download Dr Webster’s full 22 September 2017 report from the CPAG website.
Thursday seemed very quick to arrive this week, it felt like I had only just let the Jobcentre the week before. I packed up my bag and prepared for today’s demo.
After dropping my daughter off at school, I had a cuppa with a friend at the cheap cafe and was then greeted by a lady whom we had helped previously. She was ok, didn’t need any help but just wanted a chat and some company. I bought her a cuppa and we had a chat about how she is and how her life is. I then went to the Jobcentre as it had quickly reached 10am.
As I arrived it appeared to be quiet, some days are like that and I’m sure that the Jobcentre like to switch claimants signing on days so that they don’t speak to us. No worries though, because we always get round this and our leaflets do reach lots of people. I’m nothing but persistent in the quest for fairness and justice for everyone having to use the Jobcentre, infact any Jobcentre in the country. The system stinks, isn’t fit for purpose and they know this. Those currently in power have a sadistic streak I’m sure.
Gordon arrived with the food parcels which we handed out to those who are in need. We also signposted people if appropriate, and also we can’t force them to go to other organisations for help, but we do our best and that’s all that we can do isn’t it.
Roy arrived and we had a quick chat, then Nigel arrived and a lady who occasionally joins us. This was brilliant! Seeing Nigel was a surprise because I haven’t seen him for a long time now. Anyway I distributed leaflets out amongst team members who all proceeded to hand them to claimants walking in and out of the Jobcentre.
Out of nowhere it seemed, the rain started to fall and it became slightly colder. Awful weather for anyone who is street homeless at the moment. Once a person becomes wet and can’t dry out life becomes even worse. Please spare a thought for them and maybe had them a cheap plastic poncho if you can. Keeping dry has to be a priority.
We were then stopped by a man coming out of the Jobcentre. We had previously advised him to appeal his ESA decision, and told him how to do this and where to go. We also provided support for him outside the Jobcentre. The good news is that he had won his appeal and he wanted to let us know. I was so happy, his life will be so much easier for a while now, and this is also why we help people.
We handed leaflets out to lots of claimants, and a lady stopped us and said that she had made a point of coming to speak to us. She wanted to thank us for helping her appeal against her disabled son’s failed ESA medical. She took this all the way to tribunal upon our advice, and after being in the tribunal court for less than ten minutes she was informed that she had won her case and the previous decision was overturned immediately. This is a good example of why everyone should appeal decisions even if it appears very daunting. It is worth it, but remember get help with this if you can.
More leaflets were handed out, and Roy went to buy us all a cuppa. It doesn’t seem much but a warm drink can lift our morale no end, and of course warm us up!
A lady then stopped me. When I had seen her previously she was very upset. All of her benefits had been stopped and she didn’t know what to do and where to turn. Gordon gave her a leaflet and spoke to her giving her the advice that she needed. She also had taken a food parcel because she was desperate for food. Luckily she took our advice and her benefits were reinstated. Her face was a picture, she was so happy despite being very nervous about entering the Jobcentre. I got a hug, Gordon got a hug and Roy would have too if he wasn’t off buying us all a cuppa. We all started to smile, laugh and celebrate this victory.
So folks, we don’t just stand outside the Jobcentre doing nothing. We help people when they are feeling at their lowest. We become their friend if they haven’t got a friend and if we can’t help, or they require more help than we can give we signpost to other local organisations. We do this because we care, because we know how vindictively evil this system is and how hard it is to survive it. I still can’t believe that we are still doing this four years down the line. I’ve only missed two demos, one due to my daughter being ill, and one due to being snowed in. I’m dedicated. Big thank you to Gordon who has just had his one year anniversary of joining us! He’s a very dedicated man as are the other memebers of the team.
There was also the feeling of apprehension coming from people using the Jobcentre, a man who had cycled miles to Ashton Jobcentre because Stalybridge has been shut down. He told me that the staff inside the Jobcentre are totally unsympathetic except for one advisor, whom shall remain anonymous because if their manager finds out I’m sure they will be sent for a disciplinary just for being kind and spending time with a claimant.
Other people had had to walk a long way, been given wrong appointment times, been told to come back an hour later and basically had been messed around by their advisor. Sadly this is all par of the course, because doing this is part of being in the system.
Many thanks to my friends, comrades and supporters for having the patience wit me this week and giving me a shoulder to cry on. I really do appreciate everything that you do and I love you all. Sounds corny, but it’s true. I couldn’t do this without you all.
Many thanks also to everyone who has read, shared and discussed my blog this week. I update my blog every week, sometimes more than once.
It’s important to keep a record of everything that the DWP inflicts upon people. One day, hopefully someone will be made to pay for the suffering and deaths that have happened as a result of this cruelty.
Please share my blog, talk about it etc. Also please donate if you can, every penny helps! Thank you to all the support that I have recieved already.
Apologises for the extra blog, I meant to post it yesterday but I have been far too busy to do so. Such is life it seems these days.
A lady that comes to speak to me at our demo every week had an appointment to attend her ESA assessment. I asked her if she had a family member or a friend that could take her but she said that she didn’t, and the reason why I asked this is because it’s always best if a person that knows them well attends the medical with them. This is because they know the person far better than any person from an outside organisation can ever do. However, we do offer very good advice on how to handle the so-called medical etc. This is essential.
Because this wasn’t possible, I volunteered myself to accompany her. I didn’t have the money to do so, but at the time her needs came first. She’s very vulnerable and I certainly didn’t want her to go into the lion’s den so to speak alone. She is also a very quiet, shy person and has refused to access other local organisations. So I accompanied her, much to her relief.
I met her to start our journey which wasn’t a short one. She was understandably nervous and anxious so I did my best to reassure her that I would look after her to the best of my abilities, which I did.
I’m sure that my readers are aware of how horrible these so-called medicals are. It’s not just having the medical, it’s also the journey there and the building itself. The DWP like to choose places that can look intimidating and sparsely furnished.
Albert Bridge House, the assessment centre that we had the misfortune to have to visit. The entrance itself is around the corner, but they don’t make it easy to find. But I suspect that’s the intention, isn’t it.
Upon attending a medical like this, the assessment process often starts before you enter the building. As in the case of the Manchester assessment centre, there are cameras outside watching you arrive and leave. They say that they don’t but whilst waiting with the lady in the waiting area, I clearly heard the receptionist say to a man “Well, we saw you arrive in a taxi”. Unless they had seen this on a screen inside, this wouldn’t have been possible.
So beware of this, make a note and remember.
Upon entering we were met by two G4S security guards, this adds to the feeling of oppression and intimidation and does nothing to give a person confidence. The reception desk is behind clear plastic, and the staff quite rude.
A person isn’t greeted or asked if they are ok. Considering that they are dealing with sick and disabled people, they should show a glimmer of concern. Instead, a clipboard is thrust into your hands through a gap in the plastic, and they say with no understanding “Fill this in”. It states that they want to see a persons proof of identity, although nothing is said about this in the letter that the person receives. I pointed this out to them and they said to fill it in anyway. I did this for the lady, but they offered no help or even asked if she was able to do so.
The building itself is old, shabby and harks back to a time, probably the 1960’s and 1970’s. There are lines of chairs in poor condition, one water fountain (which is a new edition, it wasn’t there the last time that I visited) and basic toilets. Everything is dark wood and shabby carpets long past their best. The only nice thing about the room is that it has big windows, looking out across the road where upper-class housing is being built. This is tragic, rubbing their noses in it I thought.
We found a spot in a corner at the back of the room, I was trying to make the whole awful experience less daunting for her. She struggles in crowded spaces and felt more at ease there.
As soon as we sat down, a young man stormed out of his assessment. He was shouting and was angry, which was very understandable. He told the room full of people that he has a mental health illness, that he struggles. He went into his assessment and was asked to move his arms and legs. He was asked NOTHING about his mental health. He knew that they were going to fail him and as he stated, and as we know, he wasn’t given a medical relevant to his condition. They saw him and decided that they would fail him. He went on to tell everyone sat in the room to challenge everything, to appeal and to do what I do. Expose every wrongdoing that they are guilty of. He was then walked out of the building by the security guards.
I don’t want to scare anyone, but this is how easy it is for a person to lose everything. A so-called medical ‘nurse’ deciding that they are going to wrongly assess a person. This is why it is very important to take the assessors name, qualification and the medical body on which they operate under. These are all vital details needed to make a complaint and appeal. Also, if you are able, write a transcript of the medical when you arrive back home.
Whilst waiting, I heard a woman complaining that she had waited for over an hour, had travelled 45 minutes to get there and she couldn’t stay any longer because she couldn’t cope anymore. She made another appointment and left.
In front of us, a woman was half sat, half lying down on a couple of chairs. She was curled up in a ball and was obviously unable to cope with being there.
An 81-year-old woman was wheeled into the room by her carer. I had no idea of her circumstances but there is no way on this earth that an 81-year-old woman should have to attend a medical. No one should have to attend a medical like this.
Towards the right to us, there was a lady clutching hold of her carer, rocking back and forth talking to herself. Her carer was furious that she had to attend and told me that it will take her weeks, if not a month to get over this experience.
Further down, there was a woman sat with her partner. She looked very nervous and wasn’t talking to anyone. When her name was called, she refused the offer of help from her partner to go in the assessment with her. I really hope that they didn’t fail her but the odds were stacked against her.
Sat at the front, near the reception a woman was sat silently looking at the ground, bewildered, unsure of why she was there and what was going to happen. She was also on her own.
A lady was sat with her carer to the right of us, asleep. She had to be woken up to attend her assessment.
All of these people were clearly too ill and disabled to attend thisso-calledd medical. They clearly shouldn’t have to attend, no one should. Their consultants or doctors assessment and diagnoses of their conditions should enough, it always used to be. This process is designed purposely to humiliate and degrade a person, to make them feel unworthy and to question their illness or disability. I’m sure that most people leaving these assessments leave under a dark cloud of depression, stress and worry.
As for the lady that I accompanied, we waited two hours, she had a panic attack and I had to rearrange the appointment.
This folks is the reality of this cruel system, and this is exactly why I will continue to fight it. No one deserves to be treated like this. The whole DWP system in the form that it exists in now kills people. How many more deaths is it going to take before people take notice. This needs to become a priority, and soon.
Footnote; This is not the first time that I have attended a medical with someone, and it won’t be the last time either. I just wanted to share this experience. It is not my intention to scare anyone, but reality is reality and it needs sharing.
I do this at my own expense, and this week I have had to make the decision of heat or eat myself. I had to choose eat, the emergency gas will have to last. If I don’t blog tomorrow, it means that my internet has been disconnected due to non payment, and I have no credit on my telephone either. I will access free wifi at Ikea on Friday if this is the case. Once again I’m just stating the reality of the situation, and the situation is the same for thousands of people.
Be the kindness that you want to see in this world.
I featured on the Adrian Chiles show on Radio 5 Live on monday. Here is the link. This was recorded outside Ashton Jobcentre last Tuesday.
Please share, and talk about my blog. Also please donate if possible. Every penny helps. Thank you, and thank you to everyone that supports my blog already.
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I arrived for our weekly demo a few minutes late, I unexpectedly met a friend of mine who wanted to join us this morning. I was so happy to see her because she has been a tremendous support to myself regarding my personal life.
I had a tough few years and both her and her brother who has sadly passed away were a tremendous support to both myself and my daughter. It cheered me up no end seeing her.
As we approached the Jobcentre out of nowhere Gordon had appeared and there was a small crowd of people waiting for help, advice and food parcels. My first job was to talk to them all individually and assess what their situation is and what help that they can access locally.
Some don’t want to approach local organisations for whatever reason but I do talk to them every week and one day I will succeed in getting them there. This can be hard work and I’ve built up a rapour with them so I’m keeping everything crossed.
Today seemed very hard, the requests for help and also just conversation was very high.
We now have people that used to attend Stalybridge Jobcentre requiring advice and solidarity. Most of them commented once again that they couldn’t believe the difference between Ashton Jobcentre and Stalybridge, there were also numerous complaints about the security guards. It is very daunting walking in that building.
I spoke to a young man whom I had helped a while ago. When I first met him he was down on his luck and having a very hard time. This was also compounded with the fact that he had addiction issues. He wasn’t getting the support that he needed and was like a fish out of water. Being homeless as well made his life unbearable, but we stood with him, didn’t judge him and ensured that he received the help that he needed and also gave him the strength and support to do so.
This is why we do these demos, and it also gives us hope..
He is an amazing young man. He gave me full permission to record the video below. I’m so proud of him.
Today was extremely busy and I don’t think that we had handed so many leaflets out for a long time. It’s a good job that we had arranged for a re print with some edits made to the back page to make them clearer to read. I think that we might use these up in record time at this rate.
I’m taking a lady to her ESA medical on Wednesday next week so she came to meet me to have a chat. She’s quite understandably very nervous. I will ensure that she gets the support that she needs on that day.
It’s taken me a long time to build up her trust also. I’m really hoping that she passes her medical but we know how hard that is don’t we.
I spoke to two very young girls that were having to use the Jobcentre, one of them had an appointment the other wanted to go in with her friend for support but was sent out of the Jobcentre by the security guards. She was informed of her right to do so and was given a copy of this in writing so that she could show them next time.
I spoke to an older lady who was leaving the Jobcentre out of breath and obviously in poor health. I informed her that given her circumstances she could apply to claim ESA and she should do so with the upmost urgency. She has to now travel miles to get to Ashton Jobcentre and I am very worried about her ability to do this, and also the cost. She is struggling so I handed her a food parcel and explained that we are there every week if she wants to talk to us. I also handed her a leaflet with details of other local organisations that might be able to help her.
Every person that we spoke to today that had previously been using Stalybridge Jobcentre were struggling in some way. I did alert people that this would cause immense suffering but it fell on deaf ears.
We also didn’t see any DWP staff members protesting about this. Not one. Maybe they were deployed elsewhere so weren’t that concerned with loosing their jobs there. This will be remembered if the same staff ever approach us to support one of their picket lines. I doubt that this will ever happen though.
I spoke to a young lady who was with her mother and her baby. They looked stressed and muttered something about how their benefits always being changed. They didn’t go into any details though they were in a rush to attend their appointment. We did however inform her of her right to have her mother with her for support.
I also had to do a very short notice demo for Radio 5 Live on Tuesday. So I went down armed with leaflets to do so.
It’s always a different atmosphere when I do impromptu demos. The Jobcentre immediately turned off their automatic door opening system as soon as they saw me. I’m no threat to them at all, I really am not. I’m a middle aged lady with a bad back and their behaviour sometimes strikes me as ridiculous.
That morning I spoke to a woman who was struggling with being on Universal Credit whilst her husband works on a zero hour contract. The Jobcentre are demanding that she also finds work, but with two children and never knowing what hours he is working its near impossible to find childcare. She also has no family in England to help her.
I spoke to a man who was in obvious distress and quite rightly so. His Jobcentre advisor was giving him the runaround, and trying every trick in the book to sanction him. He had done his job search, showed her but his advisor still told him that he was going to be sanctioned. This man was very vulnerable and his advisor knew this, which makes it even worse. He became angry which is also very understandable, so I did my best to calm him down and thankfully it worked.
I also spoke to a man who had previously had a struggle with his advisor who had tried to make him claim Universal credit instead of the JSA that he is entitled to claim under his circumstances. Not only would he have been much worse off financially, it wouldn’t have done his mental health much good either. Luckily he had stood his ground and won.
I spoke to lots of people that morning, and all were thankful for the advice and leaflets given to them.
I was freezing cold and extremely tired that evening but it was worth it because more people recieved the help that they needed.
This is just a few of the people that have been helped this week, can you imagine how many people are desperate for help up and down the country every day? This is an issue that certainly isnt being spoken about enough and it does feel like no one cares about them. Are they not worthy enough to make their issues become a priority?
I stand in solidarity with DPAC and agree that one and a half questions at PMQs this week in parliament is not enough, not by a long shot. I fully support Jeremy Corbyn, don’t misunderstand me, but people are dying every day as a result of these punitive measures being directed towards the disabled and the poor. Their voices need to be heard.
How many deaths will it take?
I’m sorry for the short blog, I’m tired and it feels like I never stop.
I’ve also started a regular vlog on YouTube to coincide with my blog. This week will be my first vlog and here is the link if you would like to watch it.
Please share my blog as widely as possible. I really do appreciate my readers that already do this.
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Today was the day of our yearly anniversary and we had decided on a theme… Prisoners of the DWP. Claimants are treated by the DWP like criminals and every aspect of their life is effectively controlled by them. If you don’t believe me just ask someone who is a victim of this regime. It’s cruel and horrible and has the ability to destroy a persons life at the push of a button. Hence our demo theme.
I arrived slightly early awaiting the delivery of the pasting table that we were using today, the big flask donated by Ray Woolford when he visited, and also tea, coffee etc.
I arrived early, I was expecting Roy early, but I wasn’t expecting anyone else to be but they proved me wrong, everyone was either early or on time which was amazing. Thank you folks it is appreciated it really is, you guys are my rock.
As I was setting up for our demo I was busy handing out food parcels, asking folk how they were and signposted to local organisations that are able to sit down and talk to them. We need to do this, but we offer lots of help, support compassion and solidarity. We also receive no funding from any large organisations and rely on donations.
A man stopped me and he was very angry. He told me that he was fed up of being sanctioned. He was a young man who had previously had to use Stalybridge Jobcentre to sign on but it’s been shut down so has to now use Ashton. He also wasn’t very complimentary about the staff either.
A homeless chap raced over to me and told me that his money had been stopped because he had applied for his ESA before the six month time limit so he was refused. He told me that he didn’t want to speak to any official organisation at the moment but I will keep trying. I also gave him details of the local organisations that he can access to get help.
Then we were joined by Paula Peters and Keith Walker from from the inspiring group DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts), we always offer solidarity and they do to us. We have links to a lot of the national campaigning groups throughout the country.
I was so happy to see them, and they had travelled from London to see us and some other groups. The last time that I had met Paula was at a Unite/PCS conference two years ago. She, and DPAC are amongst my heroes, they literally put their life’s on the line to protest about the way that disabled people are being treated in the UK.
We were then stopped by a man who told us that he had been sanctioned for 96 days. We wern’t clear about the reasons for the lengthy sanction but I can say this. Sanctions are mostly being given as a first option of ‘punishment’ by the DWP, it’s their first line of attack and they shouldn’t be. No one deserves to have their lifeline taken away from them by anyone and these cruel methods employed by the DWP certainly do not encourage people into work. They do the opposite, sanctions do result in deaths and that is a fact highlighted by UN reports. It’s going to become a whole lot worse, infact horrific when universal credit is rolled out universally. The impact that this will have on disabled people will certainly result in many, many deaths. The suffering will be on such a scale that it will be unpresedented. But we will continue to help people the best that we can, and I will also continue to lobby MPS, attend meetings, speak at meetings, help with tv companies that are only making positive programmes about the reality of living within this system, and of course I will contuinue to write my blog. I have also started to write my book at last.
I brought the megaphone to the demo today because it was our fourth anniversary, but we wern’t celebrating, far from it. A few of us made some speeches, mine was awful I’m afraid, but Paula’s, John’s and Christine’s speeches were amazing. Christine poem brought tears to my eyes.
There is so much more that I could write about, but I don’t want to bore you. It was a fantastic day for solidarity and support, we gave out lots and lots of help, handed out food parcels, provided hot drinks and biscuits and leaflets. We listened whilst people told us about their problems and then helped them. We showed them a kindness that hadn’t been shown to them by the Jobcentre staff. I got hugs from some people as a thank you for helping them because believe me the campaign doesn’t start and end on a Thursday. It’s more or less a full time job.
We do make a massive difference to people’s life’s and that is what we are there for, that and to campaign.
I would also like to say thank you to our supporters for all the support that you have given me and for sharing this blog. I also want to thank all of the team for just being amazing I love you all. And a special thank you for John and Christine who have been there from the start. They’ve put up with me for years and that in itself deserves a medal.
I’m tired so I’m going to end it there, and if any of the gang from Wigan Diggers read this I cannot attend because funds don’t allow but I will be watching all of the videos and supporting you from home.
Please share this blog widely, the government really don’t like people sharing information such as this, it damages their credibility, that’s if they have any left anymore.
Also please donate if you can every penny helps and is put to good use. Thank you.
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