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.


 

 

 

Why should a young person at the start of their life feel like they want to end it? 

Today was our usual Thursday afternoon outside the Jobcentre. The rain kept off and everyone was still in a fairly good mood. It had been a good weekend at the Manchester demonstrations and our visit from Natalie Bennett had given everyone a good morale boost. And quite rightly so, they deserved it. The team are amazing. 

Not long after most of our regular attendees had arrived I received a telephone call. It was from a claimant at Ashton Jobcentre. They were panicking and I could hear them crying. I asked what was wrong and they said that they had received a letter stating that they had to attend a work programme course in a different town too far away to walk and they didn’t have enough bus fare to get there. They didn’t know how to get there. 

I asked them if they could meet me outside the Jobcentre which they did because they were still in town. 

When they arrived they were clearly very distressed. The first thing I did was give them a hug and some kind words. Doesn’t cost anything but it means the world. Then we set to task. 

The first worry was that a job interview coincided with a work programme day. So I went into the Jobcentre with them and I explained the matter to them. They were shocked to see me but were curteous and did everything that I requested. After being told previously that I was banned it was nice to be able to go in and sort this out and communicate with them. 

Then we sorted out the bus route etc and maybe someone to go with them. And we had a collection for their bus fares. We won’t let anyone go without even if we have nothing ourselves. 

Everything changed then. The claimant sat down and said that they couldn’t do this anymore. They wanted to end their life. It was too hard. How many things are they going to be asked to do they said. Please understand that this train is very vulnerable with health issues. They were found fit by the gods of Atos and we’re now being put into situations that they are finding very difficult to deal with. 

Comrades took them to a safe place and provided the compassion that they needed. Made sure that they had enough food etc and a list of things to do. One of them being to be put back on ESA. The stress of the Jobcentre is literally killing them. 

This left us all saddened. A comrade who had spoken at the peoples assembly demonstration had attended and was very enlightened by the work that we do. We don’t just stand outside the Jobcentre and shout. We provide support and compassion. Things that society is lacking these days. 

We will be following this up and providing proper support and advice. 

The work that we do is the type of work that does start the changes that is needed to fight against this government. It’s not dissimilar to the anti poll tax campaigners back in Thatchers day. These little movements turn into big movements and they grow. 

Many thanks to the new groups that have started up after being involved in ours. One in Stockport and one in Glossop. There are also others starting up and if I have forgotten you I apologise. 

Thanks for your support we really do appreciate it. 

We are running low on leaflets so any donations would be more than gratefully received. My Paypal add is seercharlotte@gmail.com

Big shout out to The people’s assembly and Manchester trade union council for the amazing work that they have done organising the whole Tory party protest events and demonstrations. 

Many thanks to everyone who attended today. Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Very very true! We need independent Tenants unions and not organisations that are ran by the housing associations. They often do not allow free speech and monitor everything. The ‘benefit tenant’ is surplus to HA requirements

Source: The ‘benefit tenant’ is surplus to HA requirements

Carers now being targeted by the DWP. 

Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all the changes that are occurring in the DWP. It seems like a never ending turnstile of changes. I usually get alerted to the big changes fairly early on before they happen, but I missed this one. 

A lady approached me outside the Jobcentre yesterday during our weekly demonstration. To say she was a bit annoyed was an understatement. She is a full time carer for her disabled son. His condition is unpredictable at times and as a result they are in receipt of a high level DLA payment. It’s not easy to get a high level award and this lady has fought very hard to get this.

She had received a letter from the Jobcentre. She had been asked to go into the Jobcentre for a mandatory back to work meeting. To make matters worse they didn’t send her to her nearest Jobcentre, they sent her to one which wasn’t in walking distance, indeed it is a tram ride away. When she told me I was a bit shocked. She needs to be at home to care for her child, but apparently all this is changing now. She went into her meeting and returned to talk to me to let me know the outcome. 

“The advisor that I saw was totally unsympathetic she showed no compassion at all. She asked me if I knew what my sons condition would be like next year. I said I didn’t know, it’s not a condition that just goes away, it’s part of him and won’t improve. She told me that I would have to leave him with a childminder and they would pay for it. I replied there is no way that a childminder could take him on. He’s very unpredictable in his behaviour and could be a danger to others. I told her that he needs his routine, I can’t just take him out of his routine and leaving him with strangers is not an option. She asked where my child was now. I stated that he was with my daughter who had a day off work. She then looked at me as if to say well she can look after him…… She asked me if he goes to school, I replied that I don’t know which secondary school he is going to yet. And when he does it will be a special needs school, where I can be called out at any moment to pick him up. She then went on to ask me how many hours a day do I look after him. I replied all of the time, but she gave a smart answer…. Well you don’t when he’s at school so you. I said I have told you before I’m constantly on call. She didn’t seem to care. My child doesn’t matter to her. The system is crooked and wrong and I told her that. She sat there all smug with a half smile on her face, nicely manicured nails, nice clothes and reeking of perfume. My daily struggles don’t even allow me to think of myself. I’m disgusted and worried for my sons future”

She is going to fight this and is seeking advice. 

Yesterday we also noticed that the amount of older people having to use the Jobcentre has increased enormously. You can’t receive pension credits at the age of 60 now, so if you loose your job you have to sign on. One chap who was 61 has been told that he might be sanctioned because he cannot get his head around using computers. He’s worked all his life and shouldn’t be going through this. We will help him through this.

Another man again aged 61 lost his job and has been sent to do course after course. He applies for lots of jobs but the job market is so tough he doesn’t stand a chance of finding a job at his age. Of course the DWP don’t see this. They want to work pensioners to death. 

This is so worrying and these are cases where the most vulnerable are being targeted wrongfully by this government. They are not “scroungers” in fact I think that word should be banned. They are people trying to get by under very difficult situations. Remember you could be next. 

Next Thursday the 6th of August we are celebrating our first anniversary of a solid year of weekly demonstarations outside the Jobcentre. There will (hopefully) be music, food, speakers and the usual leaflets and help given. Please come and join us in peace we would love to meet you! 

  
Please donate to help keep our campaign going. This isn’t just a blog, we work tirelessly to highlight how wrong the regime that this government has inflicted upon the poorest and most vulnerable in society. We have to produce our own leaflets and campaign materials.. I also spend most of my time helping people and attending meetings etc to enable us to help more. We will not be stopping our campaign despite how hard it might get for us. There is a lot of work that does go into this and it’s not just a few hours a week. 

Please donate to help keep our campaign going. We work very hard at this and it has become more or less a full time job for me.

We are not human machinery. 

Karl Marx wrote a book titled Das Kapital l many years ago. In it he quoted from a letter written by Edmund potter to the times during the cotton famine. 

This famine hit Lancashire and other areas of the country particularly hard. What struck me is the wording that is used in this letter. Living people are reffered to as ‘human machinery’. They didn’t think to keep their ‘human machinery’ in good order they just kept it so busy that it didn’t get ideas of reacting to the terrible working conditions that they were forced to endure. Profits were too important as was child labour which was more profitable and easy to obtain. 

And so capitalism was born. Nothing has changed, they just use different names for the same ideals. We are kept busy with constant unpaid workfare positions, constant job searches, working part time is now classed as underemployed and we must ‘strive’ hard to improve this with full time work even though it doesn’t exist enough to fill the criteria set out. We are sanctioned and made to live without anything if the masters at the DWP judge us as being unworthy. Make no mistake they will continue to do so unless we say enough is enough. 

We are not machinery and we must not allow them to treat us as such. 

I run this blog on a shoestring and I would love to keep it going. Please donate to help keep our campaign going. We work very hard at this and it has become more or less a full time job for me.

Five more years of tyranny. 

Shocked could be a word that I could use, but I won’t. Thatcher got voted in for a second and third term in parliament despite much opposition. So then the Tory party got re elected it wasn’t so much of a shock, it felt like something had died in our country. Yes the Tories have regained their power and will no doubt use this power, unopposed by anyone to inflict the worst damage that has ever been known to the poorest in society. 

I was interviewed by a local paper whilst at the election count and the reporter said to me “How would you feel if the conservatives won the election?” I said that I would feel sick, I would cry. I would not be crying for myself I would be crying for the people of this country. A country that will be systematicically destroyed and taken apart by the Tory party for the benefit of the rich. I don’t use the name that the Tory party have rebranded themselves with. The very name conservative does not suit them. The definition of the word conservative is to not like change, to be quiet. Well they are going to do exactly the opposite. We know this. They plan to dismantle this country as we know it bit by bit, piece by piece. Every single safety net that we have relied on will soon be gone. If it doesn’t benefit the rich then it will no longer exist. Make no mistake they don’t care for anyone who isn’t one of them.

My first experience of the Tory party began when Mrs thatcher came into power. Even as a child I knew that this would be bad. For the first time in my life I felt what it was like to be poor. We had holes in our shoes, filled by cardboard and had no money for anything other than to exist. If it wasn’t for my grandparents we wouldn’t have had new clothes. My father was an engineer, a trade he didn’t really like but it was a job and we depended on it. Back then we had local industry, and we depended on that industry. I was told that the Tory party were bad, they only looked out for themselves and he was right. As a result there was strikes, but as a child I knew that what they were fighting for was right. I remember arguing with my parents about this. But I always had this belief that we must stand up for what is right.

So what now? Do the people who have voted in this government again realise exactly what they have voted for? I doubt that they do. Many I suspect have read and believed the mainstream news and voted as a result of the innacurate stories in the newspapers. Here’s a list of what will most likely happen, now there is no one to stand in their way.

The snoopers charter will be passed. Say goodbye to your privacy.

The NHS will be sold. There is opposition to this and Caroline Lucas is the head of this opposition. I hope that she gets enough backing to prevent the sale of our precious NHS.

TTIP will happen. This will have vast implications on our country as a whole.

Zero hour contracts will increase. More likely they will become the norm.

The benfit sanctioning regime will become worse, if it possibly can.

Homelessness will increase massively.

No social housing will be built. 

The human rights act will be scrapped.

Climate change investments will be slashed.

The BBC TV license will be scrapped and a subscription based service introduced.

Employment regulations will be slashed, they will merge regulators and cut costs.

The Tory party want to reduce seats in parliament to 600 from 650. This will be pushed through as a priority, making it difficult for another party to get into power in 2020.

There will be a referendum in Europe.

Fracking plans will go ahead. 

Cameron’s majority is wafer thin and he now only has a majority of 10 very rebellious back benchers to whip. Maybe this will work in our favour….

What can we do now? 

All anti austerity parties need to now join together in solidarity. We need to put aside any differences and work together. By doing this we will form a very powerful opposition indeed. We didn’t quite get it right before the election but we can do now. And the Labour Party needs to become the left wing party that it used to be. They will gain more support if they stop cosying up to austerity ideas and plans. They need to start saying no. By supporting all people again not just working people. We also need to look at the SNP and learn from them. They started as a small minority party but have grown massively. 

We can survive this, and we will by joining together. If you work join a union, if you don’t join unite in the community. The Tory party will try and attack the unions as much as possible now. And whilst they haven’t acted as strongly as they should have done in the past I feel that they will start to act more strongly now. There’s strength in numbers and we need to remember that. 

Always remember that a compliant society is easy to control, a non compliant society isn’t easy to control. So let’s not make this easy for them. 

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Want to know more about how and why the NHS is being privatised? Please watch this.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=Cz5dl9fhj7o