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.

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.


 

 

 

Is the government running an enforced volunteering cartel? How does this effect small local charities and businesses? 

I remember the days when you were allowed to choose where you wanted to volunteer. The Jobcentre actively encouraged you to do this. They said that i
t would encourage you to learn new skills and to improve your c.v.

On the whole it worked. Of course there were times when it didn’t, but if it failed the Jobcentre would send you on a course, you would get an extra few quid on top of your social security payment and you really did benefit from this. Life was much better, there was less conflict and most places could find volunteers relatively easily.

All that changed when the Tory party won the general election in 2010 and along with the Liberal Democratic Party they formed a coalition government, but David Cameron was clearly in charge.

He set about to punish the poor. He wanted to change the whole system, and indeed he did. But he didn’t do it overnight. He did it by stealth, bit by bit. All aimed I’m sure to take any decent quality of life away from the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

He introduced a scheme called workfare, marketed as a “work for your dole” scheme. This scheme operates under various guises, but the end result is the same. If you want to be able to claim your benefit payment then you must undergo the work programme.

It was marketed as the best idea ever. The government cosied up to their friends in the right wing press and they launched a full on attack on the poor. Let’s shame them, let’s treat them like criminals, let’s turn neighbour against neighbour. It’s the best tool in the Tory party tool box and they used it well. Before long the poor were criminalised and criticised for almost everything they did. Television ran countless programmes that actively targeted vulnerable people. This is when David Cameron must have decided that it was time to exploit the poorest as much as possible, and why not? There was no opposition now.

Multi national buisnesses were quick to take up the offer of free workers. I mean why pay someone when they are forced to work for nothing? When their allotted time of enforced volunteering is over the are simply replaced with another victim. No hope of a job, nothing to look forward to except very hard work for no pay. And so modernised slavery was created.

Very strict rules were put in place. Don’t be late, always turn up and you must turn up for work whilst sanctioned. Not easy when you can’t afford to eat and often have to walk miles to get to your workfare provider.

Now this has caused lots of problems, probably too numerous to mention here. Workfare workers turning up to “volunteer” unable to complete their work properly because they are too hungry, weak and demoralised. Many have been forced off their sickness benefits and forced to undergo workfare, many forced to undergo enforced volunteering as a requirement of being placed in the work capability group. Their health suffering to such an extent that they become very sick indeed and many give up.

There is also another side effect of big buisness and multi national charities using enforced volunteers sent directly from the Jobcentre. Small charities are finding it extremely hard to find volunteers. Many refuse to use enforced volunteering due to the ethics of the scheme. They don’t agree with enforcing people to undergo an activity that they may not be capable of undergoing.

They try to advertise for volunteers, claimants ask the Jobcentre if they can volunteer at their shops, but the Jobcentre refuse. They say either you go where we send you or you will get sanctioned. So volunteers become very sparse. Local small charities become at risk of closing or close altogether. These charities are often essential organisations within local communities. But the government don’t care. In their eyes, you should take enforced volunteers. If you refuse, well they must think that it’s the price that you have to pay. And it’s a very big price indeed.

I speak to people who run small local charities and organisations. They are stretched to the limit. They don’t know what to do, they have given their life’s to making it work, to helping others in need. They want to do it honestly without exploitation of any kind. But the dilemma is there, accept enforced volunteering or shut down.

Yes the government are indeed running a cartel which involves people being used as free labour to be exploited. Slavery is not dead, it’s now been modernised under the guise of whatever name the DWP wants to use for enforced volunteering. And the public have accepted this .  A good days work deserves a good days pay. A local charity should be able to employ volunteers who actually want to volunteer for them without enforcement. They want their charity to succeed, we want their charity to succeed. Let’s campaign to make this possible.

 
http://www.boycottworkfare.org/

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Two year anniversary demonstration and 9 food parcels taken in less that two hours. 

Today was a wet and dreary day and it was also our second anniversary demonstration. I’m sorry to say that we have had to hold these demonstrations for two years. It’s a very sad indictment of today’s society of the way this government treats the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

As usual I had no expectations about how many people might join us. I try not to put pressure on people because they are already under a lot of pressure anyway trying to keep going. But I was overwhelmed. I asked for a headcount and 37 people had arrived from organisations all over the north west. We had members of DPAC ( disabled people against cuts), Old Swan against the cuts, The Mary Quaille club, Stockport against austerity, Unite Community north west branch of which I am a member, members of the Lancashire anti fracking nanas, and individuals who read my blog, my newspaper reports, my Facebook and my Twitter accounts.

It was amazing, the atmosphere was fantastic. We had several speakers, myself included who drew quite a crowd across the road. Very disappointingly a man walking past felt that he had to shout at us all saying that we should all get jobs. Of course we responded in a very peaceful way, and a local PCOS officer escorted him out of the way. Sadly people still believe the media rethoric which is played constantly on our televisions and newspapers.

Interestingly for the first time in two years we had a local newspaper reporter arrive and he proceeded to interview myself and Rick Burgess from DPAC. We have waited for two years for the local press to take notice. Despite many emails and telephone calls they had been very reluctant to attend, but happy that they have now.

We handed out nine food parcels in less than two hours which is a very sad reflection of the DWPs awful regime. Claimants were very surprised to be offered them, and were thankful. Many thanks to Pauline Town and the We shall overcome campaign. Lots of other food was handed out as well which was very gratefully appreciated.

I’d like to think that we won’t need to be campaigning for another two years, but sadly I feel that we will. Universal credit has just been rolled out to a nearby Jobcentre this week, despite Teresa Mays announcement that there will be no further roll outs.

We will continue to support the victims of the inhumane sanctioning system, the victims of failed ESA and WCA assessments, the victims of the workfare programme, the victims of the Workprogramme and for everyone that may need us.

And as Rick Burgess from DPAC said “We have you in our sights and we will be back”

Please donate if you can to enable myself and the team to carry on our valuable campaigning. It’s not just about standing outside a Jobcentre, a whole lot more goes into it. Many thanks to everyone who has helped us and who has donated.

I’m sorry if I may have forgotten to thank you personally. I do try to but I’m very busy and there might be the odd time when I forget. I always thank everyone if I see them and people know this. Trolling me is rude and there is no need for it.

A massive thank you to everyone who has helped us during the two years.

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Vice magazines article about our work. 

Hi folks. A lovely reporter from vice magazine came and joined us for the day the other week. Here’s his wrote up about our work. Please read and enjoy! We work very hard and this has taken over my life.http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/ashton-under-lyne-jobcentre-protests-universal-credit

Damning United Nations report. A national disgrace. 

Recently there was an extremely damning report published by the United Nations committee on economic and cultural rights. It confirmed  the Uk governments austerity measures are indeed in breach of their obligations to the human rights of citizens living in the uk. Although mentioned in the mainstream press, it hasn’t been given enough attention, however I do feel that it is time that we spoke about this, it’s am important issue that should not be swept under the carpet. 
The report considers a number of areas, all of which are drastically important to our everyday life, and the life of the poorest. It covers factors such as, foodbanks, unemployment rates, the housing crisis, mental health care and discrimination against migrants and the disabled. 
In its report the committee reminds the government of their obligations and actively calls upon them to make the changes required. Sadly I fear that this has fallen upon deaf ears, as no official acknowledgement has been made, nor of a rush to tackle these issues. 
The United Nations committee is “seriously concerned” about the disproportionate adverse impact that austerity measures forced upon the poorest in the uk are having to already disadvantaged and marginalised individuals and groups. To put it simply, people are suffering beyond what is necessary, I hold the strong belief that it is not necessary at all. These are people who already had a bad deal in life and therefore can see no way of getting out of the situation that they are in. Many are ill, disabled, people with children and single parents. These people are repeatedly being targeted time and time again, it’s an endless circle of suffering and poverty. 
It also emphasised problems with welfare reform. Their words are that they are “deeply concerned” about the various changes in the entitlements to, and cuts in social security benefits that are constantly being made. These include the reduction of the household benefit cap, the four year freeze on certain benefits and the reduction in child tax credits. They go on to say that this will deeply affect “women, children, persons with disabilities, low income families and families with two or more children. Despite the constant demonisation by the press, labelling these very people scroungers, they are suffering and children are suffering. So much so that schools are concerned. This used to be unheard of. 
It goes on to tackle other issues such as the unemployment rate, the high incidence of part time, zero hour contract work, people forced into precarious self employment, the “persistent discrimination” against migrant workers, the national minimum wage, the new trade union act, limited availability of affordable childcare, the increased risk of poverty for disabled people, ethnic people, single parents and families with children. The lack of affordable accessible housing, the significant rise in homelessness and the ever increasing university tuition fees. 
However I would like to focus on one issue, the issue of sanctions relating to benefits and the absence of due process and access to justice for those affected by a benefit sanction. Sanctions are handed out far too freely by the governments DWP workers, they are given to mostly innocent people who are trying their best and are quiet often not fit for work. Claimants aren’t given any due process and often don’t have an explanation for a sanction awarded. They will often go to their bank and see that their regular payment has not been paid. They will then not have any access to any justice, except for the over worked and under paid staff at their local citizens advice bureau, a welfare rights office or equivalent. Not everyone is so lucky and many don’t have access to the above, nor do they know how to challenge a sanction. The DWP do not inform them of how to do this and many just take themselves off the system. Some can’t take anymore and commit suicide, some are so hungry and cold that they die of related illnesses. 
The report is indeed damning and is a very sad indictment of how the government treats the most vulnerable in society. They have continued to punish the most vulnerable leaving those responsible able to continue to gain massive wealth at the cost of the poorest. 
It’s easy to become distracted by all the news about the referendum, the Tory party leadership and the in fighting in the Labour Party. But what I can say is this. We need to stand united as a country and continue to highlight the fact that these very issues exist, that they are bad enough to be condemned by the United Nations, a fact that we should be ashamed of. We need to educate others, share this report, lobby MPs, help those who are affected and who are suffering. Let’s show this government that we are all in this together and we will not support acts like this anymore. 

 

G4S security guards taking personal information yet again! 

I really don’t know what sort of unofficial arrangement G4S has with the DWP, but they seem to have forgotten the rules regarding the data protection act. It comes as no surprise, maybe that’s why they had the Windows blocked at Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre so we could no longer see their unlawful actions. Nothing fails to surprise me though, and it seems that today they have excelled themselves in being rude and uncooperative. 

I was made aware of a post put on my personal page on Facebook. I have kept it anonymous to protect the identity of the claimant. This is important, because the DWP can be vindictive at times and I don’t wish to put anyone at risk of being possibly targeted by them. This is also in their own words, so please no criticism of grammar etc, as they obviously wrote it in anger and disbelief over the way they were treated. 

“G4 guard believe they are policing the job centre. Ashton job centre stories. “Can I use the toilet please” G4 guard (chubby, short dark hair basin cut) no can you cant, imagine the state they would be in if we let them lot use them looking at queue of people. Moving a chair to a table, to fill out form, ordered to put it back or police will be called. Chubby G4S guard asking what is your national insurance number! When asked why he wanted to know and him being told he did not work for the job centre (personal information) he responded saying he does. Ashton job centre in house joke.  Such lovely people. Its not just sanctions it about hating  the poor.”

There are several things that alarmed me with this. The G4S security guard should not be asking for personal details, once again this breaches the data protection act. If they ever ask this of you, refuse and state your legal rights. 

Secondly, there is no access to a toilet. Now I know that this is usual, but I do feel that there should be a toilet available for claimants to use, especially when more and more disabled claimants are being forced to use the Jobcentre. 

They also threatened to call the police because the claimant moved a chair to the table to sit on to enable them to fill a form in. A completely unnecessary possible use of police time. 

None of this is unusual though, this happens everyday, and I’m doing my very best to report and prevent this happening again. The G4S guard has obviously got some kind of agreement with the Jobcentre which they shouldn’t have. Personal information should only be dealt with by a trained DWP member of staff. Threatening a claimant with the police for wanting to move a chair whilst they fill a form in is totally ridiculous, and to be honest I’m not very happy with the treatment dished out to this claimant, who is a totally respectable, well mannered member of public. 

Oh and as for the G4S security guard criticising the claimants using the building, I can bet they have better manners and show more respect to the public that he does. Claimants might not wear designer clothes but most have the biggest hearts that you could ever find. I suggest that you take a lesson from them in common decency. 

And yes it’s a direct war against the poor, but we will fight back! 

My thoughts are with the families of the people killed by the Orlando gunman, and for those who were injured. Incidentally the gunman was employed by G4S since 2007. 

Keith Ordinary Guys latest letter. Please read.