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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Yesterday’s  demonstration outside Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre. ESA payment delayed and unreasonable local housing association. 

Today’s demonstration was hard but full of solidarity. It has reminded me of how many people out in the community do actually care.

Today we spoke to a man that we had met last week. He had been made homeless two days before we saw him and had been temporarily housed in the local Travel Lodge. He hadn’t ate because he had no food, and he didn’t know where to go for help. He approached us and the look on his face was one of total desperation.

The first thing that I had to do was to phone the ESA department (Employment Support Allowance). He had been promised a payment, and he showed me the letter to evidence this. We waited 20 minutes for the call to be put through, listening to endless recitles of Vivaldis The Four Seasons. This is by no means unusual. The reason why he couldn’t use his phone is because he doesn’t have credit and it would cost too much. He had no money to use a phone box, and neither would the Jobcentre let him use their phones. Remember they took them all out a few years ago.

Eventually we got through and the DWP official seemed to be on a go slow. She made him repeat himself twice before even taking his personal details. If she had done so she would have seen the reason for the delay of his payment. The gentleman had sent a sick note, but they had lost it so he now has to send another one in the hope of getting a payment. This man has been without any money for four weeks now, and has been relying on our food parcels to keep him going.

They should have informed him that he needed a new medical certificate in the letter that he received. Instead they had given him false hope of payment. It was their duty to inform him, but never rely on the DWP to actually help claimants.

Then came the icing on the cake. The local housing association has temporarily housed him in the local travel lodge. He can’t cook in there except anything that he can make with a kettle. His housing officer telephoned him and said that she wanted to see him, so he went straight to their office which is nearby. In this meeting they demanded his birth certificate and proof of income. Fair enough you might say, but he was born in Manchester, he had no money to get there and no money to buy a copy of his birth certificate. If he didn’t get them for tomorrow they said, they would make him homeless tomorrow. This man is vulnerable with health problems and he wouldn’t last two minutes on the street. The housing associations attitude was awful, and indeed it is to most people. I think that they either forget that they are dealing with extremely vulnerable people, or have just become immune to the job.

Myself and the team were worried, so we clubbed together to get him enough money to get his birth certificate and to pay for his transport. But here’s a scary thought. What if he had been born hundreds of miles away in a place like Scotland? How on earth would he have been able to complete this task? It would have been impossible. But the housing association didn’t volunteer to pay, knowing that he hasn’t got an income and neither did they care.

This did make me a tad angry, but not destructive angry more a feeling of complete frustration. It would have really upset myself and the team if we weren’t able to help him, knowing that he would have become just another statistic on the streets, and maybe a death certificate in the winter months.

A comrade also dropped some hygiene products off for him, because he has nothing and he wanted to get clean. It’s not a lot to ask is it?

We dealt with lots of issues yesterday, but I wanted to highlight this one. This gentleman became ill, wasn’t receiving the support that he needed and he lost his home as a result through a series of unexpected events. He’s intelligent, articulate and used to have a really good job. His life completely changed within a few months and now he is in this situation.

It can happen to anyone. Everyone is one payslip away from this, never mind the three payslips. Most people that I know live from week to week or month to month. This is why I don’t judge anyone, and I encourage my readers not to either. But we will not abandon him, he is now a part of our team and we stand in solidarity with him.

We also handed out six food parcels, a few to victims of universal credit, and another to a gentleman that relies on our food parcels to keep going. He’s forced to attend the Jobcentre everyday, and I’m sure that the reason what they are doing this is because his English is poor and he can’t argue with them. We also gave suitable food to the gentleman that we helped.

Please donate if you can to support this campaign. It’s a full time job and doesn’t just end with the Thursday demo and the blog. Many thanks.
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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. 

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.

Its Christmas sanction time. A gift from the government that just keeps taking.

Yes its that time of year. The run up to Christmas. The time of year where Jobcentre staff are told to reach their quota of sanctions before the Christmas holidays. You see they cant sanction for those few days. But the person either on JSA or Universal Credit must constantly search for jobs. Even on Christmas day. Even on Boxing day. Even when you have the audacity to be ill.  Today a man found out that he had been sanctioned because he was ill in bed with a severe chest infection. He wasn’t shirking. He wasnt pretending. He was ill. The doctor had given him a sick-note. But this isn’t good enough. Even though this cruel government say that when you are unemployed you are allowed to be ill twice in a year. Yes twice. We feel blessed that they allow us this grace…. only we do not feel blessed. We feel downtrodden, humiliated, suicidal. This man will go without Christmas this year…. how is this right? It isn’t and I’msanction angry.

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Stand with us and be sanctioned. Jobcentre bullying at its worst.

Today we met at Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre for our regular Thursday demonstration. Nothing unusual at that. We are there every week to support the victims of the Jobcentres cruel sanctioning regime. What was unusual was that we were missing a regular attender. A member of the public that often attended our demonstrations. A nice quiet man, well mannered and very unassuming. He can see the injustice of the system. He had however passed a message onto us saying that he couldn’t attend because the Jobcentre staff had threatened him with sanctions for attending. He would however join us at our meeting after the demonstration away from the Jobcentre. When he joined us I quickly interviewed him and here is a transcript of that interview. In his own words. I cannot name him because he is scared. Hes been threatened by the Jobcentre.

“I walked into the Jobcentre for my regular signing on appointment. They asked me to wait in the waiting area. They checked my action plan and said everything was ok. The advisor then said can I ask you what you were doing outside the Jobcentre on Thursday? I said I was talking to the people outside who were demonstrating. She then tried to get information out of me by asking lots of questions. I refused to answer. She then got annoyed because I wouldn’t tell her what I said to them and what they said to me. She then said “well do you really know what you are getting yourself into?”” We and and will sanction you for talking to them. We will sanction you for standing with them or even talking to them.”

I’m sorry if the above conversation isn’t grammatically correct, Its in his words. The words of a scared man. A man now too scared to talk to his friends. When were the Jobcentre given the right to tell people who they can talk to in a public space on a public footpath? It is our basic human right to protest. One which is upheld by British law. Seems that Ashton Jobcentre have a law book of their own.

We need you to join us every Thursday between 1 and 3 at Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre. We need to show them that what they are doing is totally illegal in every respect.

Meanwhile our friend is sat at home worrying about the prospect of a sanction for doing nothing wrong, How is that fair? It makes me angry.

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500,000

The number 500,000 keeps ringing in my head like an annoying song on the radio. It wont disappear. £500,000 is the amount of money that Eric Pickles has spent on private cars to take him from meetings and to his luxury pad. But why is this figure ringing in my head? Because its also the exact amount of people that have “disappeared” from the unemployment figures since the cruel sanctioning regime began. These people will be hungry, unable to afford public transport. The only transport available to them will be their feet, that is unless they still have a bike to use that hasnt been sold for food money. There are several ways that the government like to make people disappear from the unemployment figures. The favourite method of the moment is sanctioning closely followed by the work programme where they also enjoy sanctioning you. Also is the workfare programme where even when sanctioned you are expected to work for nothing. Volunteering clearly isn’t voluntary any more.

If you want to help boycott the companies that use the workfare programme. I know that I do. Hit them where it hurts… in the wallet. Boycott these companies.

Give some easily cookable food to your local foodbank make it as complete a meal as possible. Dont forget dog, cat food and toiletries as well. All are important.

Remember we are all only 3 payslips away from being in this situation. We need to let this government know that we aren’t happy and we are not going to be willing to be treated like this for much longer.

500,000 might only be a number but its still ringing in my ears.

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