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.


Many thanks.

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


Why the film I, Daniel Blake is so important. Our weekly picket outside Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre. 

As you know we hold our weekly picket outside Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre. It was non stop from the moment we arrived.

My first conversation was with a young lady who has a seriously ill husband. They’ve tried twice now to claim ESA because he is clearly unfit for work, and as result of the stress of caring for him and her family she’s become ill herself and now has to attend an ESA medical next week. I offered guidance, solidarity and compassion. My one regret is that I will not be able to attend her medical with her, but I have advised and I’m trying to sort something out.

We met a lady who has a serious heart disease. She failed her ESA medical and as a result has been forced to claim JSA to enable her to have some kind of income. She struggled coping with the interview and she says the advisor was not helpful at all and was quite rude. She said that she struggled to walk up the stairs, but they refused to let her see an advisor downstairs. Obviously there’s no lift that members of the public can use and the DWP like to make things awkward.

I talked her through it, explained her legal rights to her and informed her that she needs to appeal her ESA decision. She isn’t capable of looking for work for 35 hours a week and isn’t physically fit enough to do so. But she has no choice because a claimant who has failed their ESA medical can no longer receive the appeal rate. The government took it away, probably to stop claimants appealing. So now the DWP advise claimants to commit fraud by giving untrue statements saying that they are fit for work, and they are knowingly authorising it.

What I can advise claimants to do if in this situation, is to visit their doctor and hoping that they are sympathetic. If they are then they can write them a new sick note that differs from the original. This is not fraud, and no doubt their illness has got worse as a result of the DWP harrasment. Hopefully then they might be able to get a new ESA payment under a new claim.

We met a lovely young man whom myself and my comrade met last week. He is a care leaver and is homeless. The local authority have housed him in the local travel lodge but he has no cooking facilities. All of his income was being spent on buying ready made fast food which is expensive and has little nutrition. I introduced him to another comrade who referred him to the local homeless support unit. He got some good advice, a meal and a food parcel. This week he returned with a smile on his face and a hug. He was so thankful and now feels that people care for him. He just wanted to say thanks and he said that he would come and say hello next week.

I spoke to a 63 year old man who is in poor health. He’s lost his job and has been forced to sign on. He had also failed his ESA medical and is at the limit he says. He’s not eating properly, the Bedroom Tax and Council Tax supplement is ensuring that he struggles to eat. He started to cry saying that he can’t understand why he is having to suffer like this. No one is going to employ him. He’s right, they won’t. So I offered once again compassion, solidarity and advice. I’m determined to try and make his life a little bit better if that’s possible.

I then spoke to a man who became homeless two days ago due to no fault of his home. He needed support, but his housing association refused to help him. As a result of this, and him failing his ESA medical he didn’t realise that he could claim his rent on a zero income basis. He lost his home, and now the housing association are trying to help him. But in my eyes this should never have happened. As a vulnerable man needing support life on the streets would have been very hard for him, and I doubt that he would have survived. I introduced him to the other man and he took him to the outreach place that he attends.

I also spoke to a man who once again failed his ESA medical. He suffers blackouts and as a result his body is covered in bruises. I advised him and showed him solidarity and compassion. I hope that he’s ok, he doesn’t deserve to live like this. No one does.

What can I say? This all happened in the space of two hours. Now imagine how many people are suffering everyday at the hands of the DWP. Whilst I and the group will be there for them, there are thousands of people who have no one to talk to or to help them. I feel that the government has created an unseen so called underclass. These people are walking amongst us, you don’t know who they are and neither do they talk about it. Many are ashamed, many just want to hide away. But we need to change this, make this become the topic of  government enforced destitution and poverty become as commonplace as the subject of The Great British Bake Off.

This is a definite war against the poor and disabled and we need to fight it.

Many thanks to everyone who came to support us. Your support really helps us and we do appreciate it.

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.




63 year old lady in tears. Stories the government don’t like to tell you. 

Our Thursday demo last week fell on the day of voting for the referendum. Lots of bickering was happening on the streets, people saying I’m voting out, people saying I’m voting in, but it was just another ordinary day at Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre.

To say Thursday overwhelmed me is a bit of an understatement. It completely overwhelmed me like it does sometimes. I’m not heartless, or have grown a rock in the place of my heart, nor have I become immune to the goings on inside that Jobcentre. Sometimes I feel it, and it hurts like nothing else because I cannot stand any kind of injustice, and I was reminded of injustice that day. And it hurt.

A lady who looked to be of around pensionable age was slowly walking into the Jobcentre. She was a small, slight lady and I could see that she was very worried, something wasn’t quite right with her at all. I asked her if she would like to talk, she muttered no and walked into the building. Less than ten minutes later she walked out. She looked visibly shaken. I stopped her again and asked her what was wrong, that she could talk to me. She looked up and said “I’ve got a problem, it’s a big problem” I reassured her and she went on to explain. ” I am 63 and I used to work 16 hours a week. I was looking after children and the government advised me to do that. I thought I could retire at 63, but only received my work pension which is hardly anything. It just covers the mortgage. I’ve not eaten and they won’t help me. I am full of arthritis but I failed my medical so I’ve put in an appeal. I’ve had no money except the small pension, but I’ve had to pay the mortgage because I don’t want to become homeless. She then explained that she had used food banks three times, but they were trussell trust ones and they wouldn’t let her access them again. She then said ” they are telling me that I’ve got to lie and say I’m fit for work. I can’t lift anything, my joints are really bad. I’ve never told a lie in my life. Who’s going to employ an old woman of 63 years old riddled with arthritis?”

It was then when she started crying. My heart broke. She’s someone’s grandmother, she’s a woman who should be enjoying her retirement but instead she’s cold, hungry and desperate. The whole team was shocked. I handed my leaflets to my comrade and took my purse out of my bag. I don’t have a lot, sometimes nothing myself but I will not let anyone suffer. Hunger is the worst feeling ever. I took her to the shop next door to the Jobcentre and bought her the basics that will last her until she attends the places that’s she’s been signposted to.

You might not understand why this upset me so much, but it touched my heart. Why? This government, not content with chasing the young, pregnant, middle aged are now chasing the elderly. By putting forward pensions for ladies they have made their futures become very unstable. It’s nit good enough saying that they will have to manage. All their working life’s they worked to aim to retire at a certain time but the government changed the goalposts. Very wrong.

As for the lovely lady, she has been signposted and looked after. She said she would return this week, and if she does I’ll be introducing her to a group that might help to give her a brighter outlook on life and help her with her everyday worries.

In my eyes it’s simple. You should look after the elderly, they took the time to look after us when they were younger. Making them suffer like this is deliberately cruel and I can never forgive the government for that.

Every week Charlotte sees desperation at first hand – outside the job centre | Frances Ryan | Opinion | The Guardian


BURIED: UN slams Tories over UK human rights abuses

Walk right past…. 

Manchester today. Walk right past….. There’s nothing to see here….. Buy expensive stuff that you don’t need….. But there’s nothing to worry about, just walk right past. 

Manchester today, like any big town across the country. It’s resembling the Manchester that Engles, Marx and Dickens wrote about. But don’t worry… Walk past, pretend it’s not happening and continue to buy expensive things that you don’t need. 

Permission was gained by the chaps in these photos, and drinks and food was handed out. Many thanks to the amazing groups and people that help the homeless on a daily basis. Never has this help been needed more than it is today. 

My latest Morning Star article and a message from Mr Ken Loach himself. 

It’s not often that I get praise from above, and today was a day that I shall always remember. This is one for the team, for everyone who actively campaigns against this governments inhumane policies. 

I received this via my editor. 

Here is the article that Mr Loach was referring to. Mr Loach is a hero of mine, his films portray the reality of life for many, including my own. And I would like to thank him for his kind words. 

To all my haters, and to those who say that I cannot write, spell or use correct grammar, you might like to speak to Mr Ken Loach who obviously disagrees with you. Peace.