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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Our third Christmas demo. An invite.

Hi folks.

Every year we like to pay respect and remember those whom we have lost as a result of  this governments relentless attacks on the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

We have had several themes, and because the government are determined to send us back to mid Victorian times we have decided to go for a Dickensian Christmas/ Workhouse theme.

Very apt seeing as the Jobcentre, Work Programme and Workfare are all the modern day equivalent of the Workhouse.

Regular members will be costumed, but because we aren’t funded we cannot provide costumes for everyone. But you can bring your own. We are merging all of Dicken’s characters, and we will be having Mr Bumble visit who will be representing the DWP.

I love street theatre, it is a very effective method of getting important messages across. I would love to hear from anyone who is involved in the theatre or film making for this project, and another I would really like to start. That would be a national event.

Please come along and read the event description, all details are contained in there.

https://www.facebook.com/events/202670863509828/?ti=icl


Many thanks.

Please donate if you can, if not please continue to share. Thank you so much!

.

Our short film with The Guardian.

Around a month or so ago we spent three weeks filming with a journalist and film maker from The guardian. Having worked with The guardian before I held  a certain level of trust with them because they have always been nothing short of brilliant. Always giving a fair and honest opinion and treating both ourselves and the claimants with the respect we all deserve.

I’m not sure that John and his team from The guardian knew what to expect. They had a remit which was to make a film that backed up Ken Loaches film I, Daniel Blake. To counteract the naysayers and the right wing that would say that its just a piece of fiction. And I was proud to have been asked. After all Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre is one of the worst in the country. A reputation very much deserved.

So for three weeks they joined us and spoke to Melvin, a man who due to redundancy and ill health found himself a victim of the DWP regime.

There was also lots of other footage taken, but they didnt make the cut.

Watch the film, its very powerful. It might make you cry. It might make you angry.
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/video/2016/oct/21/meet-the-real-daniel-blakes-ken-loach-video

But one thing is for sure, we hear many more awful stories each and every week and our work has become invaluable. This week all of our food parcels were handed out within ten minutes, which has got to be record timing.

It’s getting cold, and people are becoming more desperate. Also as we move towards the Christmas season we notice a sharp uptake in sanctioning levels. We have already noticed a far higher level of disabled and sick claimants being turned down at their ESA medicals. We know the reason for this and its awful.

We do rely on your support to keep going. At times our morale can be very low, because the stories that we hear are very harrowing.

Please donate if you can. This has become a full time job for me and it doesn’t just stop outside the Jobcentre every Thursday. I spend my time lobbying, writing, attending meetings, informing people and campaigning. As well as planning our demos.

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This week we held our special I, Daniel Blake demo which was a resounding success. The Jobcentre asked us to remove our banner. We politely declined their request.

A victim of domestic violence? Don’t worry you will get sanctioned too. 

Today at our demonstration I was approached by a young woman who had a baby with her. She was clearly distressed and she had a very sore black eye. I asked her what was wrong, she was quite literally a bag of nerves. She went on to tell me that she had just escaped from the clutches of her very violent boyfriend. The police had to rescue her from her home. She left with her baby, his clothes and the pram. She was shaking. She is now staying at the local women’s refuge, a haven for women escaping violence. 

She should be able to recover now, you would think. No she couldn’t . She went on to explain that she had previously been attending a Jobcentre in another town, and was supposed to attend an interview at that Jobcentre. She couldn’t attend. Why? Because it’s the town where her ex partner lives and she has to keep away due to the risk of violence to her and her baby. She did the right thing and phoned the Jobcentre up, and they agreed on the phone that she didn’t have to attend… But they stopped her money.

 She phoned the DWP up on their expensive number and they informed her that she was sanctioned because she didn’t attend. So that is why she was at this Jobcentre today. She wanted advice, I gave her some advice and a leaflet and she went inside the Jobcentre. This is shocking. The poor woman has gone through hell and back and is now paying the price for escaping. I hope that she is ok and manages to heal. 

This made me feel sick to the bone. I had to walk away for a minute to compose myself. I really want to stop this. One day perhaps I will get the chance.

A man that I speak to on occasion walked over to me and started chatting. He’s homeless and has problems, but he’s a nice bloke and I always take the time to speak to him. Addiction is an illness and should be treated as such. He was a bit angry today. Our local council has cut their funding to the homeless organisation in our town, amd in a small town nearby. I had heard word of this last week, so was prepared. He was upset, he couldn’t understand why they would do this. I agreed I said neither do I. He said there’s nothing more important to him and what would he do now? I told him that I would do my best to help. If I ever get elected this would be my ultimate priority.

 There are no real homeless shelters in Tameside. There’s a few drop ins and foodbanks but nothing at all to give them a bed for the night. They have to travel to manchester to get help, and that’s not easy. My local authority doesn’t have any duty of care towards the homeless and neither do they recognise the real level of homelessness in the area. I’m sure they really know but don’t like to admit it.  

Another man walked over to me. Now he was angry. He was told to use a computer, but physically couldn’t do it. The DWP had put him on a course for a day but he still couldn’t do it. We gave him the appropriate advice, and he went in for his appointment. A little while later he came out. The Jobcentre had offered him a job for £2.47 a hour. Way below the legal wage. He’s forced to do this, if he doesn’t then his money will get stopped. Workfare is wrong and that’s another issues that I want to stop. 

Many thanks to Boycott Workfare for all their hard work on this. 

This has left me feeling rather drained. I just don’t understand why those in power want this suffering. It hurts my heart to see people in pain like this. One day I might be able to change this. If I get elected I will do. And that’s a promise. If I don’t get elected I will also do my very best. I want change for the people in our country. Today is ST George’s day but I don’t feel like celebrating. The country that I love is hidden away, lost behind the darkness. But I will find it and bring it back to life. 

Our memorial service yesterday. What a poignant day.

It was a wet, windy and cold day. The weather couldn’t have been possibly worse. I was panicking a bit that people wouldn’t come to the memorial service because of this. I was wrong. We arrived and started to organise ourselves. Within minutes people started to arrive. More and more people started to arrive. Lots of hugs and hellos were exchanged so much for the Job Centre accusing us of being aggressive.
The Rev David Grey arrived. He said hello and decided to go into the Job Centre to introduce himself and to offer any workers counselling if needed. They responded very curtly.. No we aren’t interested we have our own.. After spending a few moments inside he returned to us saying that they were quite aggressive in their tone to him. A few minutes later the police arrived, the Job Centre accused him of making them feel intimidated …. Nothing could be further than the truth… He showed nothing but compassion towards them…This just shows how indoctrinated they are.
We performed a little ceremony led by the Rev David Grey which was very very moving. He’s a very wise man.
My daughter was asked to lay the wreath.. As she was about to do so she stopped in her tracks. She was scared she said that the woman that had previously sanctioned her whilst pregnant was staring at her and she was scared. We all rallied round and gave her the confidence to lay the wreath. We applauded her for this because it took a great deal of bravery on her part. Eliza then went on to read the list of the dead that is published by the Black Triangle Campaign. It took over half a hour to read… We were all close to tears. All questioning why is this being allowed to happen? Why aren’t those who are committing these crimes held responsible for them?
Unison then handed in an official letter to the Job Centre… They refused to let him in at first and then tried to get a G4s security guard to take the letter… Which was of course refused…. He managed to hand it to a Job Centre member of staff.
We then sang some songs and said a few more words. We caused no trouble, we came in peace. In solidarity of those lost due to the benefit reforms. Our wreath has been removed.. Most likely thrown in the bin by the Job Centre.. But we will never forget this day…… The day that humankind brought kindness and compassion to Ashton Under Lyne Job Centre.

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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.

My Christmas austerity song.

I’m no songwriter mad I don’t claim to be. This is my version of feed the world….. Sung to the same tune. It might not be the best but the sentiment is there. Enjoy.
It’s Christmas time, it’s time to be afraid,
At Christmas time we get more sanctions and live in shame,
And in our world of plenty we can’t spread a smile of joy,
Throw your hearts out to the poor at Christmas time.

But say a prayer, pray for the ATOS victims,
At Christmas time, it’s hard when you can’t heat or eat,
There’s a world outside your window,
And it’s a world of dread and fear,
Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears,

And the bailiff knocks that don’t stop,
Are the clanging sounds of doom.

Well tonight thank god it’s them instead of you?

And there won’t be joy in most houses this Christmas time.
The greatest gift they’ll get this year is hope,
Oh, where the worry always grows, and the hunger never ends.
Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?

Here’s to you – sleeping on the streets,
Here’s to you- with not enough to eat,
Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?

Feed the poor, let them know it’s Christmas time,
Help the reform victims,
Let them know it’s Christmas time again.

This is dedicated to every victim of this governments evil regime. Long may the dead be remembered and let us fight against this cruel, harsh government.

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