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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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

Another pregnant lady sanctioned and an altercation with a PCS union rep.

Im late in writing my blog this week due to unforeseen illness, but here it is.
Thursday was certainly an eventful day. The weather was lovely for a change and we were all in good spirits. That was blighted though for reasons that I will explain.
The first incident occurred when a lady who was heavily pregnant informed me that both herself and her boyfriend had been sanctioned on their joint claim. The reason why? Because Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre had refused to transfer their claim to a Jobcentre nearer their home in Bury.They couldn’t afford the Tram fare to Ashton so got sanctioned. They had lived in Ashton but had since moved. Thankfully the had applied for hardship payments but these go nowhere when you have a child to support as well. I advised her on what to do and to say and she went into the Jobcentre. A little while later she returned after speaking to an advisor who had agreed to transfer the claim and lift the sanction. They will receive a proper payment the week coming. She said I don’t know if its because you lot are stood outside but they seemed nicer today than they have ever been. She also said that she had seen a different advisor this time. I hope that all goes well for them, she’s had very tough time and this certainly shouldn’t be happening.

Our next incident occurred a little while later. We were all in good spirits. A friend had travelled to meet us and he was playing a little music. We are not a violent group of people and we are peace loving. We are at the Jobcentre to help people and have done so since August. We know that the Jobcentre staff are under enormous pressure and some are unhappy in their work. Whilst I don’t condone their actions at all I understand the culture of fear that runs through their offices. If indeed they wanted to join us on our protests we would welcome them. They know this and were told this at a previous meeting that was held in the Jobcentre last year between ourselves and them.
We were stood outside peacefully holding our placards and listening to the music when a lady burst through the Jobcentre doors with a G4S security guard. She made a beeline for me and she was very aggressive verbally and with her body language. She informed me that she was a PCS union rep and did not like a placard that we were using. The placard concerned has been used nearly every week since August and no one has ever taken offence to it. By then a crowd of 5 people had gathered round peacefully to hear what she was saying. She went on to say that she did not like the fact that a member of our group had recycled a PCS placard picked up on the anti austerity march in manchester in 2014. What is ridiculous is the fact the most of the PCS logo was covered by a stick and there was already notes on it stating that it was not being used as a PCS placard. The G4S security guard was stood behind her about 2 feet away smiling. He certainly didn’t feel threatened by the situation. She went on to say that we cannot use this placard. We pointed out to her that it had indeed been used since August at this Jobcentre and Stockport Jobcentre and no one had taken offence to it. The member concerned said that he would tackle this officially, but she then became abusive towards him.
I myself am a union member and I have never seen behaviour like this before. After many many months of peaceful protests she had taken it upon herself to try and disrupt the peaceful relationship that we now have with the Jobcentre, the police and the PCS union.
She then went on to phone the police which was uncalled for. A PCOS attended as we were packing up. He informed us that she had thought our behaviour was threatening and intimidating!! We informed him that it was actually not the case and it was the union rep who was threatening and intimidating. We advised the police officer to go inside and advise her about her behaviour because it was her uncalled for actions that started this whole chain of events.
What is quite ironic is that 40% of Jobcentre workers wages are so low that they themselves will qualify to claim universal credit. They might need our help one day. I think that the union rep should remember this. She should also remember the resolution that was made at their recent conference. A motion was passed to;
Raise the profile of the Governments war upon the poor,
Encourage campaign activity with local groups on this issue,
Support initiatives that seek to undermine and expose the draconian sanctions regime that exists in Jobcentres,
Actively support staff who are targeted with discipliners and reduced box markings for using their discretion when considering decision maker and sanction referrals.
Surely they should be supporting us and showing us some kind of comradeship rather than being abusive? Maybe she thought better or maybe she wasn’t aware of her unions own actions. We certainly are.
We all left shocked that this had indeed happened, but determined and resolved to attend again next week as usual. We are there to help and support people and come in peace. Is that so hard for people to understand?

Events coming up next week.
Tameside against the cuts strategy meeting, Tuesday 12 noon. Meet in Ikea Ashton Under lyne to discuss our strategies and actions for the coming year. Please attend.

Please if you can donate to keep this blog going. I would like to carry on blogging. My paypal add is seercharlotte@gmail.com

Can I state that this persons attitude is not representative of the whole of the PCS union. Many of which I know and who also think that her actions were uncalled for. In times of austerity we need to support each other and not become divided.

Our demonstration yesterday and a paralysed man told he has to apply for a job hod carrying roof tiles.

Yesterday was a very cold day and a  tough day to be standing outside. I arrived at the venue Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre. I was greeted by two people from channel 5 wanting to speak to people that are living on universal credit. They are making a programme along the lines of benefits Britain . A programme that I despise. I said to them they are more than welcome to chat to people but their programme has nothing to do with our group. I made my feelings clear about how this programme and others like it have helped to demonise the poor. They said it would be different so I gave him the benefit of the doubt… But I will not hold my breath. Programme like that do nothing to help our cause.

Onto the terrible sanction stories heard yesterday. One woman given a 4 month sanction for not attending a computer course that they had supposedly sent her a letter out for her to attend. Guess what the letter never arrived. The result was a 4 month sanction. No food over christmas. She is a shadow of herself she says. She had never suffered from depression before but she does now. By the way this is the first time that she has been unemployed.

A man living on a grand total of £30 a week because he is having deductions made out of his universal credit due to a loan he had made to pay for a funeral…

Sanctioned for changing a phone number. This man had changed his phone number. He had informed his advisor or coach as they like to be called. They had taken note of it. He saw them do it. He was sanctioned because the advisor didn’t update it and therefore it was the claimants fault thus resulting in a sanction.

A gentleman who had suffered a serious back injury and was paralysed as a result was told that he had to walk up the stairs to his appointment and he couldn’t take his mobility scooter upstairs. He was also threatened with sanction for refusing to apply for a job as a hod carrier… Remember this man cannot walk he cannot carry roofing tiles he can only get around using his mobility scooter. When the gentleman said hang on I cannot physically walk up the stairs they accused him of being aggressive!!  No he wasn’t he was being truthful. How on a paralysed man do this type of job? The same advisor also criticised him for having a hobby.., how dare he have a hobby… The hobby being making figurines and very good they are too… He showed us the photos. He wants to work but Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre need to realise that he is disabled and unable to do a large amount of work. He was also told by the advisor that he needs to stop using his regional accent because it sounds too “common”!

Claimant told to wear a suit and to look smart when entering the Jobcentre.., ok when you have the money to do this.., and why should he just to look at a computer screen? Their excuse well an employer could walk in. Well sorry but the chancelike is of that are next to zero. They told him if he doesn’t smarten up they will sanction him. He looks no different than anyone else who enters the Jobcentre.

Please help us stop this!! We were shocked yesterday. These are only some of the stories we were told.

we are outside Ashtin Under Lyne Jobcentre every Thursday. Please join us. Please support us in any way you can. And to the Job centre staff please start treating claimants in the manner you would like to be treated. These people should not be talked to like this and should not be treated like this. It’s illegal and you need to stop. We are watching you. Sanctions kill and we will carry on exposing your crimes against humanity.

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Our meeting at the Ashton Job Centre today…

Today we were asked to attend a meeting at Ashton Under Lyne Job Centre to “discuss” our protests outside the Job Centre every Thursday. The local police facilitated this and a constable and inspector was present.
I can give you a brief outline of events so far as we will want to see the minutes from this meeting first to check things and to decide what may happen next.
Those present were the the two police officers and 3 members of the JOb Centre staff, namely the manager and two women. One of which was an area manager. Members of Tameside against the cuts and a representative of Unite in the community. The Job Centres alleged concerns were…… People sometimes standing in the Job Centre doorway…. Entering the Jobcentre and taking photographs of staff…. I repeat they are alleged concerns. We have never actively blocked any doorway or indeed gone inside the Job Centre. We come in peace and give much needed help to people attending the Job Centre.

We felt the meeting was productive however we will be discussing it in further detail when we receive the minutes.
However we will not be stopping our protests and we will return next Thursday at the usual time 1pm. The police readily agreed with this as it is our right to protest peacefully.
I will discuss this more when the minutes are received….

They felt the need to block the windows up ready for our protest on Thursday….

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And for the Job Centre staff reading this we come in peace as you know.. All want is for you to stop sanctioning people unlawfully. Come and join us outside of you feel that you support us. We will even offer you a cuppa. Peace is our motto.