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 did the select committee fail us?

Last week there was a select committee at parliament which covered the issues surrounding sanctioning at Job Centres throughout the country. At first I was excited about this I naively thought that we might be given a decent representation and would be given chance to have our say. Not so. I myself had sent quite a few details of illegal sanctioning from Ashton Under Lyne Job Centre. I had hoped to have heard something from the committee even an acknowledgement. No not a thing. Then other organisations have contacted me stating the same thing. No response from them at all and no mention of this at all.
I’m not happy. The people of this country and the government need to be told of the reality of sanctioning. Now I am asking another question to Anne Begg who was the spokesperson for that committee. Why did you not acknowledge our concerns? I truly think that we deserve to be heard so I am calling for another fair hearing.
http://www.welfareweekly.com/letters-failure-work-pensions-select-committee/

Our meeting at the Ashton Job Centre today…

Today we were asked to attend a meeting at Ashton Under Lyne Job Centre to “discuss” our protests outside the Job Centre every Thursday. The local police facilitated this and a constable and inspector was present.
I can give you a brief outline of events so far as we will want to see the minutes from this meeting first to check things and to decide what may happen next.
Those present were the the two police officers and 3 members of the JOb Centre staff, namely the manager and two women. One of which was an area manager. Members of Tameside against the cuts and a representative of Unite in the community. The Job Centres alleged concerns were…… People sometimes standing in the Job Centre doorway…. Entering the Jobcentre and taking photographs of staff…. I repeat they are alleged concerns. We have never actively blocked any doorway or indeed gone inside the Job Centre. We come in peace and give much needed help to people attending the Job Centre.

We felt the meeting was productive however we will be discussing it in further detail when we receive the minutes.
However we will not be stopping our protests and we will return next Thursday at the usual time 1pm. The police readily agreed with this as it is our right to protest peacefully.
I will discuss this more when the minutes are received….

They felt the need to block the windows up ready for our protest on Thursday….

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And for the Job Centre staff reading this we come in peace as you know.. All want is for you to stop sanctioning people unlawfully. Come and join us outside of you feel that you support us. We will even offer you a cuppa. Peace is our motto.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sandra Gives The Game Away: Jobcentres Given Sheriff’s Stars For Hitting Benefit Sanction Targets

Sandra Gives The Game Away: Jobcentres Given Sheriff’s Stars For Hitting Benefit Sanction Targets.

This is why we protest.

Here is a video of the Rev David Grey making his speech outside the Job Centre… And also you will hear afterwards the list of the dead which is updated by the Black Triangle campaign. They update this list on a regular basis. Sadly this list isn’t complete because the government refuses to release the actual figures and names of people that have died as a result of the welfare reforms…

Please watch… Warning you will get angry and you will get upset. I struggle to read this list so my friend helps me out which I appreciate enormously.
Please help us to continue to fight this legalised genocide of the poorest people in society. Help us by sharing this blog to get the word out there, by joining us if you can, by starting your own movement in your local area and most importantly by making people aware that this is going on every single day in most Job Centres up and down the country.
This is wrong and we will not stop until this has stopped.
We will never be forgotten.