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.


 

 

 

Where did we go wrong? Why has starvation, suicide and poverty become the norm? More sanctions.. sanctions kill.

As you know every week we hold a demonstration outside Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre. We believe that the cruel sanctioning and the cruel benefit reforms that are affecting thousands of people up and down the country everyday. Once you start hearing the real stories and the way that they are affecting people in your local community you cant help but feel their pain in some way. Sometimes we cry whilst we are being told of a persons death, sometimes we go home and cry. Today was one of those days. I woke up wanting to change things, but sadly realised that I cant change much apart from peoples minds once they read my blog. I opened my emails and read some stories that have been sent to me, They want their news to be shared but sadly not always their names. You see they feel victimised already and don’t want to be persecuted anymore. Here are a few of their stories. Please read and share.

My son who has Asperger’s but is high functioning was sanctioned for staying at his girlfriends house for 1 night, she lives a hour away. He was always available for work, always contactable and fulfilled his job search obligations. He was told that he wasn’t allowed a break from home and should have submitted a holiday form!! He only mentioned the overnight stay off the cuff he didn’t realise that he wasn’t allowed to stay out for one night. He was told by telephone after the appointment that he would loose a months money, As a result he now has to travel 14 miles a day on a bus to sign on everyday. This is not helping him to find a job. He has a disability advisor but he is treated like a person without issues.

I was diagnosed with COPD four years ago. My condition has got worse and I’m down to 20% lung function and I’m unable to walk 100 metres. I have trouble climbing stairs but ATOS has declared me fit for work every year. I’ve won two appeals to get my ESA reinstated. I was placed on the work programme under WRAG and last march I was sanctioned for failing to attend an interview. I live alone, had no one to phone on my behalf and had an abscess the size of a golf ball preventing me from speaking. When I tried to call they hung up on me. I filled out the relevant forms and was sanctioned for three months. I was threatened with eviction until I went to my local housing and declared my zero income status. I had to claim JSA until my appeal and was told again that I was fit for work. It didn’t matter about my obvious disabilities. They ruined my life.

My sister had an appointment for a Saturday morning when they wernt open. She went doen anyway, the building was all shut up and she took photos of it. They said that they were open for appointments but had to phone to get in. No number was given, no notice was up to see this and no one was there to unlock doors. She was sanctioned. How can this be right?

These are just a few of my emails. This government are committing crimes against humanity on a daily basis and we need this to stop. Please help me and join the fight against this evil regieme.

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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A very interesting document. Please read… And please share…..

Today I received a very interesting document. It consists of the governments latest plans regarding sanctions. It makes very interesting reading. That is if you don’t get too angry and stop reading. For this reason I have taken out the “worst” bits. I shall put a little explanation alongside each one. Sources of this document etc shall remain nameless but you need to read this and share it.

LIE!!….Sanctions make people too scared to live, too scared to do anything but what the Job Centre tell them to do. SANCTIONS KILL.

Support is also given with job-searching and skills but at its heart the system relies on people seeking employment for themselves. It is therefore critical to get people to comply and we know sanctions play an important role in encouraging claimants to comply. DWP research shows[5] that:
72 per cent of JSA claimants and 61 per cent of ESA claimants said awareness of sanctions made them more likely to follow rules; and 63 per cent of JSA claimants and 44 per cent of ESA claimants said awareness of sanctions made them more likely to look for, or take steps to prepare for work.

Lie number 2… People leave because they either commit suicide, starve or take themselves off the system altogether because they cant deal with the stress anymore. Most do not find work. They either do the above or are on the work programme.
And for the most part where people do comply with conditions of entitlement, the majority leave benefit quickly, over 80 per cent of new claimants to JSA leave the benefit within 6 months.

AND THEY LIE AGAIN….So basically there are no rules… that’s why they get away with the usual “we don’t think that you have taken enough measures to look for work”. This is usually a lie and in over 85% of cases its proven to be… but they aren’t answerable to anyone.
Where claimants do fail to comply they have the opportunity to explain why they have failed. All evidence is considered by an independent decision maker and where the claimant had good reason no sanction will be applied. There is no prescriptive list of what is considered good reason – it should be based on an holistic appraisal of the claimant’s circumstances.

THIS IS VERY VERY WRONG!!!!!!! THE WORDS WELL YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE TOLD THEM THAT YOU WERE PREGNANT THEN STILL RING IN MY EARS!!

A sanction will never be imposed if a claimant has good reason for failing to meet requirements.
Claimants are always made aware of their right to appeal before any sanction is imposed. Claimants may appeal any decision to sanction their benefit by requesting a mandatory reconsideration by DWP. DWP will reconsider all decisions before any appeal, so that only unresolved disputes go to an appeal hearing. If the decision remains unchanged claimants may appeal to the First Tier Tribunal.

ANOTHER LIE!!!! CLAIMANTS ARE RARELY TOLD ABOUT HARDSHIP PAYMENTS AND ARE REGULARLY REFUSED HARDSHIP FORMS!!
We have improved the hardship payment process so that no one is sanctioned without being told about hardship payments. We have sped up the hardship payments process across our Contact Centres, Jobcentres and Benefit Processing sites to ensure claimants receive payment within three days of representation, where appropriate. This commenced on 14 July 2014.

WHAT EXACTLY WILL THEY HAVE IN MIND FOR A NON FINANCIAL SANCTION? ANSWERS ON A POSTCARD PLEASE.
We have accepted in principle a number of Oakley recommendations including the recommendation to pilot a new approach using warnings and non-financial sanctions following a first failure to comply with conditionality on the Work Programme. We will consider further the potential options and likely timescales of testing such an approach.

IT IS THE CLAIMANTS GIFT TO END THE SANCTION… AND HOW DO YOU DO THAT? BY ENDING YOUR LIFE OR DISAPPEARING? THIS SENT SHIVERS DOWN MY SPINE. HOW EVIL CAN THEY GET?
We have also adopted a different approach for sanctions which will be implemented under Universal Credit which is designed to drive better engagement and compliance. There are four levels of sanctions which depend on a claimant’s conditionality group. We are also introducing open-ended low level sanctions, e.g. for failure to attend an appointment. Therefore, it is in the claimant’s gift to end the sanction to emphasise personal responsibility.

This is all very scary. Scary because they actually believe their lies and scary because there are many unwritten implications here, The one that unnerves me the most is non-financial sanctions…

Please share, please start shouting, please start telling the government that this isn’t right. To leave a person without the ability to eat or drink breaks just about every human right law that exists and they need to be held accountable. Sanctions kill that’s the reality.

Merry Christmas one and all. The baby that survived his mothers sanctioning.

10687207_697282403722649_5533992748708273346_nI look at this photograph of this baby and I see a miracle. This is the baby born to the lady who was sanctioned whilst she was 23 weeks pregnant. Ashton Under Lyne Job centre told her that it was tough she was pregnant and not ill so she should just get on with it. Luckily his mother didn’t starve, although if it wasn’t for the kindness of others she would have done. She was traumatised. It wasn’t bad enough that she was forced to attend a totally unfair workfare placement whilst she was 23 weeks pregnant… nope Ashton Under Lyne Job centre had to go that step further and sanction her for not breaking the law.. for confirming the fact that she was pregnant with B&Q when they asked her. This sanction was totally illegal and contravenes every human rights law that exists. She was left without heat, food and the very basic elements needed to live. And as a result of the stress I am sure her baby was born 5 weeks early. Are we living in Victorian Britain? No we are not but it is a country that the Victorians would recognise. In fact Charles Dickens would probably use this story as a basis for one of his novels.

We need to stop all these illegal sanctions and we need to hold this government responsible for their actions. I for one will not give up with this campaign. Remember when you look at this photo of this baby remember that he is very lucky to be here.. it could have been very easily another story and another two deaths hidden from the death statistics that the government fail to release… why you may ask? Because they will not be able to retaliate against the public outcry. This is murder and legalised eugenics in mine and others eyes.

Pregnant and sanctioned just in time for christmas… Sanctioned and frozen to death….The latest news from Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre.

Today was our usual demonstration day. The wind was howling and the rain and hail was pouring down. We were cold but we turn up every week. We will not let the victims of the Job centre down. Whilst handing leaflets out a lady that had said hello to us on previous occasions came running out of the Job Centre. She was upset, crying, she screamed “Why does this place treat you like this?” She is pregnant and has been put on the terrible universal credit scheme. A scheme which really knows how to make anyone suffer. She had fulfilled all her job search requirements. But when she turned up at the Job Centre to sign on they said that she hadn’t turned up for an interview that she never received a letter for. They couldn’t or most likely wouldn’t show her a copy of this letter… that’s if it even existed in the first place. They refused to give her a hardship form which they are legally obliged to do. She had spent all of her phone credit on phoning for jobs which she didn’t have a chance of getting because she is pregnant. The police happened to turn up for our demonstration… they turn up every week…. they are on our side… they went into the Job Centre to get her a hardship form… and they refused them as well. Ashton Under Lyne Job Centre really do think that they are not answerable to anyone. We hope to see her next week.

After talking to this lady I was stopped by a homeless chap who wanted to congratulate us on our hard work. He said that he hated this Job Centre. His friend who lived on the streets with him had been sanctioned after being taken off the sickness benefits that he was on and was put on Job seekers Allowance. He had severe mental health and addiction problems. He was sanctioned, and without warm clothes and very little food he fell asleep on the streets and never woke up. He died of hypothermia. People had passed him and thought that he was asleep. He didn’t stand a chance. And what do the Job Centre staff say? “We are only following orders.” Most don’t feel any guilt or remorse. And we know that this government doesn’t either.

We are holding a memorial service outside Ashton Under Lyne Job Centre next Thursday. We will be laying a wreath and we are desperately in need of funds to do so. We ill be doing this in memory of every person that has died as a result of this governments war against the poor. We wont forget them. Please come, bring a flower, bring some words to say but more importantly bring yourself.