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. 

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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.




63 year old lady in tears. Stories the government don’t like to tell you. 

Our Thursday demo last week fell on the day of voting for the referendum. Lots of bickering was happening on the streets, people saying I’m voting out, people saying I’m voting in, but it was just another ordinary day at Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre.

To say Thursday overwhelmed me is a bit of an understatement. It completely overwhelmed me like it does sometimes. I’m not heartless, or have grown a rock in the place of my heart, nor have I become immune to the goings on inside that Jobcentre. Sometimes I feel it, and it hurts like nothing else because I cannot stand any kind of injustice, and I was reminded of injustice that day. And it hurt.

A lady who looked to be of around pensionable age was slowly walking into the Jobcentre. She was a small, slight lady and I could see that she was very worried, something wasn’t quite right with her at all. I asked her if she would like to talk, she muttered no and walked into the building. Less than ten minutes later she walked out. She looked visibly shaken. I stopped her again and asked her what was wrong, that she could talk to me. She looked up and said “I’ve got a problem, it’s a big problem” I reassured her and she went on to explain. ” I am 63 and I used to work 16 hours a week. I was looking after children and the government advised me to do that. I thought I could retire at 63, but only received my work pension which is hardly anything. It just covers the mortgage. I’ve not eaten and they won’t help me. I am full of arthritis but I failed my medical so I’ve put in an appeal. I’ve had no money except the small pension, but I’ve had to pay the mortgage because I don’t want to become homeless. She then explained that she had used food banks three times, but they were trussell trust ones and they wouldn’t let her access them again. She then said ” they are telling me that I’ve got to lie and say I’m fit for work. I can’t lift anything, my joints are really bad. I’ve never told a lie in my life. Who’s going to employ an old woman of 63 years old riddled with arthritis?”

It was then when she started crying. My heart broke. She’s someone’s grandmother, she’s a woman who should be enjoying her retirement but instead she’s cold, hungry and desperate. The whole team was shocked. I handed my leaflets to my comrade and took my purse out of my bag. I don’t have a lot, sometimes nothing myself but I will not let anyone suffer. Hunger is the worst feeling ever. I took her to the shop next door to the Jobcentre and bought her the basics that will last her until she attends the places that’s she’s been signposted to.

You might not understand why this upset me so much, but it touched my heart. Why? This government, not content with chasing the young, pregnant, middle aged are now chasing the elderly. By putting forward pensions for ladies they have made their futures become very unstable. It’s nit good enough saying that they will have to manage. All their working life’s they worked to aim to retire at a certain time but the government changed the goalposts. Very wrong.

As for the lovely lady, she has been signposted and looked after. She said she would return this week, and if she does I’ll be introducing her to a group that might help to give her a brighter outlook on life and help her with her everyday worries.

In my eyes it’s simple. You should look after the elderly, they took the time to look after us when they were younger. Making them suffer like this is deliberately cruel and I can never forgive the government for that.

Every week Charlotte sees desperation at first hand – outside the job centre | Frances Ryan | Opinion | The Guardian


BURIED: UN slams Tories over UK human rights abuses

Walk right past…. 

Manchester today. Walk right past….. There’s nothing to see here….. Buy expensive stuff that you don’t need….. But there’s nothing to worry about, just walk right past. 

Manchester today, like any big town across the country. It’s resembling the Manchester that Engles, Marx and Dickens wrote about. But don’t worry… Walk past, pretend it’s not happening and continue to buy expensive things that you don’t need. 

Permission was gained by the chaps in these photos, and drinks and food was handed out. Many thanks to the amazing groups and people that help the homeless on a daily basis. Never has this help been needed more than it is today. 

Vulnerable and refused help

Last weeks demonstration was eventful to say the least, there must have been an even bigger wave of negativity blowing through Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre, which it seemed was larger than the normal one circulating.
Within minutes of arriving we were alerted to a situation that was developing inside the doorway of the Jobcentre. A man, obviously distressed was shouting for help. He was very agitated, the DWP receptionists and the G4S security guard were not helping the situation at all. They were exacerbating it, making you man feel completely helpless. Their idea of “helping” was to stand there, one with arms folded, the other saying I’m on the phone to the police. They were not interested at all in what he was upset about. Get him out quick was their attitude.
He stormed out of the building and I ran after him, I was worried that he would put himself at risk in some way, and I also wanted to let him know if I could help.
He explained that he had been made homeless, he was on high rate ESA payments and he was anxious because he couldn’t access his money due to having no identification. To remedy this his bank suggested that if the Jobcentre would print off a very simple letter stating who is is then he could access his money.
Now I already know that the Jobcentres don’t as a rule print off letters, but there will be special circumstances where this could be allowed. Anyway, I’m not sure if there is an actual ruling about this, or they have just stopped doing this now. Either way it’s a terrible situation which could be easily prevented in the correct, polite manner.
I told him that I would go into the Jobcentre and ask the manager or supervisor if there was anyway that this gentleman could be helped. I walked into the building and was met by the same two men, both with arms crossed. They said ‘we aren’t dealing with you because you are part of the protest’. I explained that I was there in my personal capacity and was trying to diffuse a situation that really didn’t need to have happened, that this gentleman was vulnerable and therefore by denying him this simple request thry were preventing him from accessing food, heating and the basics needed to exist. Their answer was “we don’t care”.

This is not an unusual scenario by any means, however I felt compelled to inform readers that this happens everyday at Jobcentres up and down the country.
Denying a vulnerable man access to his money knowingly controvenes basic human rights acts. So arrogant are they, that they are beyond caring. I also wonder how once normal caring people can turn into heartless, uncaring drones. One thought is that they become indoctrinated by the whole system and their working environment that their humanity button gets turned off.

The gentleman returned later and came up to me and shook my hand. He said thank you for helping me, and he appreciated it. The police had caught up with him and asked him if he was ok. He said no, and they asked him if he was going to apologise to the Jobcentre staff. His reply was never, if they had listened it would never have happened, however he said he was going to go back and to thank that lady that helped him which he did.He’s been in my thoughts all week and I hope that he’s ok.

We are the real Daniel Brakes #IamDanielBlake

Man forced to put his disabled child and his other children  into care because of an illegal Jobcentre decision.

Sounds a bit far fetched doesn’t it? I can assure you that this is true..  Spoke to this man on Thursday at our weekly demo. He was very understandably angry and upset. He’s lost everything that he loves in life… The reason? The Jobcentre he says.

Before this situation came about this gentleman had a family and a partner. They got along, even though one of their children had cerebral palsy and by this mans account was very disabled.

They managed, but his partner became more and more stressed and upset. The enormity of looking after a disabled child became too much for her. I really don’t think that they were getting the advice or the support that they needed. I’ve found that this happens a lot. Sometimes families and situations like this get overlooked, and can sometimes have the appearance  of being able to cope, when in reality the situation is different.

This man said that he had supported his partner and children but it all became too much for her and she had a nervous breakdown. She was admitted to hospital and was that ill she never was able to return to the family home. I ask for no judgement on her behalf. We don’t know how hard her life had been and her situation.. She did her best for her children. As a result he was left alone with his children, one of them being severely disabled.

He put in an application for DLA and carers allowance and income support for himself. He had to be at home to look after his children. They had been through so much already and he very obviously had to be there to care for them.

He thought that everything was going to be ok.. Yes it was going to be hard but he would cope. That he said was his job as their parent. But all this changed in a matter of weeks.

The Jobcentre called him in for a back to work interview. They unlawfully told him that he had to look for work and start claiming Job Seekers Allowance (JSA). Yes we know that he did not by law have to do this, indeed his place was to be at home caring for his disabled child and his other children.

He said his whole life felt like he was on a treadmill. He had no rest. They kept sanctioning him because they said he hadn’t looked for work enough. He said he had, but he also had to care for his children. Then the sanctioning started. One sanction after another. He was going hungry, and he didn’t know what to do.. He just saw himself as a failure to his children. He said to me “I couldn’t even provide £70 a week for them. I’m a failure as a parent”. So he took the only option that he thought he could take at the time. He contacted social services and told them that they would have to take over the care of his children. He couldn’t provide for them. He could give them love but it’s not enough he said.

On Thursday I saw a broken and angry man. He said that he has nothing really to live for and is a failure. He couldn’t even provide £70 a week for his children he says. He also said to me that now they are in care they get everything that they need, everything that he couldn’t provide because the DWP refused him the basic human right of being able to bring his children up in their home environment.

To add insult to injury he will now be on another sanction because Ashton Under lyne jobcentre are now sending him to a workfare programme at an Age Concern charity shop in manchester. He can’t afford the bus fare and they won’t provide the bus fare either.

This man wasn’t known to us at the time of him loosing his children, or at the time of the Jobcentre telling him illegally that he had to return to work. Of we had known him then we would have helped him and this might not have happened. It’s no use saying that he should have done this, and he should have done that… It’s too late now. He wasn’t supported enough by anyone and that is very indidcitive of the state that this country is in at the moment.

Make no mistake the DWP commit illegal crimes like this all the time and they get away with it. This is the whole purpose of the blog, to expose, highlight problems and to deal with them. To enlighten people of their basic human rights regarding the DWP and how to enforce them. One day I really hope that they are held accountable for their crimes. And yes they are crimes in my eyes.

As you will understand this story upset me greatly. I had to take a day off from campaigning to deal with the whole injustice and cruelty surrounding this issue.

Please donate to keep our campaign and blog going. This isn’t just a few hours a week it’s really taken over my life. Many thanks.

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