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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Freezing cold and sanctioned yet again.

It was a very cold Thursday and my heart really goes out to the homeless and everyone suffering under the tyranical rule of this Tory government. Days are spent trying to keep warm and to get enough money together so that you can eat. It’s a massive struggle, the stress that is piled upon the shoulders of the poorest at times feels like a ton weight, most don’t live they exist.

I had only just arrived at the Jobcentre when a young man that I had previously spoken to stopped me. He had been sanctioned again, and he was understandably, very distressed. He couldn’t understand it as he had done everything right. Unfortunately once you have been sanctioned it becomes easier for the DWP to sanction you again. I say that it’s like being on a treadmill, it never ends. I signposted him to the right places and informed him of his right to appeal. Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre told him that he had no right to appeal, so he will be appealing.

I think it’s disgusting that they blatantly lie to the claimants like this. But because they are only answerable to themselves they can literally do whatever they want to do. We need to continue fighting to change this. I know that I will.

They even lie about the very basic things. A claimant who had seen us campaigning outside the Jobcentre, who also knows about our campaign spoke to her advisor. She asked them what the group of people standing outside the Jobcentre (meaning us). The advisor said to her that we were waiting for payments! It was clearly the case that we wernt.

Sometimes the severity of the situation gets to me, and this week was one of them. I’ve never seen such a massive gap between the rich and the poor as there is now. It’s heartbreaking and life is certainly becoming very hard now. I was reminded of this today when I visited a place that I hadn’t been to before. The people there were able to make choices. The choice to be able to buy an expensive cup of coffee or an expensive milkshake, and the choice to leave it as well. I know that I can’t afford to do that, and many of my friends and comrades can’t either. It made me realise just how restricted by poverty I am.

I do hope that one day I can help to change things. I feel useless at times, and the winter months serve only to highlight the suffering of others.

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Yesterday’s demonstration. A stark reminder that hardship can happen to anyone, Junior Doctors and buisness rate relief ended. The Tory onslaught continues.

It wasn’t raining for a change, and it wasn’t too cold. It was a little quiet, but I was expecting that. I’ve got my suspicions that the Jobcentre are shifting appointments around so the claimants don’t speak to us. Knowledge is power they say, and they don’t want claimants to have any knowledge.

A young man walked out of the Jobcentre. He had worked for all of his adult life, but had become ill. The gods of Maximus had declared him cured of course, and he didn’t know what to do. The Jobcentre told him that he had to sign on for JSA. Of course if he did this then he would be declaring himself fit, which he shouldn’t do. It was all new to him, and he was a little bewildered. I told him that he must appeal, that he has every right to appeal and that he must inform them that he is doing so. I signposted him to welfare rights, they will help him with his appeal etc. He said that he was glad that he had spoken to us. He had hope now he said.

A young woman stormed out of the Jobcentre. She too said that Maximus had declared her fit and the Jobcentre had told her that she couldn’t appeal, but she had to claim JSA. She did as they said because she was scared of having no money. I signposted her to welfare rights, I just wish that I had the time and place to offer solid advice. I, and my collegues have the knowledge but we can only do our best whilst stood outside the Jobcentre.

A young man that I know stopped me. He has a serious medical condition and his sickness money had been stopped. He didn’t tell me exactly which benefits he is on so I can’t elaborate. He had managed to sort it out over the phone. They told him that his payment had been released but he wouldn’t get it until the next week. He was starving so I bought him a plate of chips. Just why are people being made to suffer like this?

Each one of the people above are vulnerable and society should be taking care of them, and not discarding them like yesterday’s newspaper. They have feelings and deserve respect. It’s so wrong.

Right now I’m a bit fed up of society using the words “benefits” and “welfare”. These are American words and have been created to demonise the poor and those in need. Please can we all start using the words social security? We need to stop using Tory terminology!

I’m also devestated that Mr Hunt is now trying to impose the new contract on our junior doctors. Of course it’s all a part of the plan to privatise the NHS. He openly admitted it in a book that he wrote years ago. Please, junior doctors, don’t leave. This is exactly what he wants you to do. Stay and fight. We are fighting for our NHS! And we all need to support them. We will miss the NHS when it’s gone!

There’s been a massive blow to the small businesses and independent charity shops in the local authority that I live in. The discretionary rate relief that had previously been awarded has been stopped. Central government have stopped the money to fund this ensuring that my local authority can’t find this anymore. There’s simply no money on the pot.

One things for sure. We will see lots of small local buisness shut down along with the small, independent charity shops. This will result in our high streets being cleared of local businesses, with the big corporate, often non tax paying businesses taking over. A few small business owners and independent charity shop owners are already talking about shutting down.

This will be devestating. This weeks cruel onslaught by this evil Tory Government has left me almost speechless, but angry.

I’ve heard that Ian Duncan Smith doesn’t like blogs like mine. He’s not too keen on us exposing the truth. Well let me tell you Smiffy we will not stop blogging etc. Fellow bloggers, keep up the good work!

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Our Christmas memorial service. 

Today was a great day. We held our now annual Christmas rememberence service outside Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre.

Despite a lot of planning you never quite know how it will go and how many people will turn up. But we had a very good turnout which was fantastic.

Word has got round about our weekly demos and we get a lot of support from the public these days. But it’s taken a long time to get that support. We’ve worked very hard doing this and we will continue to do so.

Of course, whilst setting out we were “welcomed” by the police. There was quite a few of them. We are a peaceful lot and have never been a bother to them, but they feel that they have to give us this attention. I do feel that some of them actually support our campaign which I’m very thankful for.

We set out our table which had warm hats, gloves and scarfs on. Also we had mince pies, biscuits, some savoury biscuits and most importantly warm drinks that a member of our team had brought up in a large drink.

We also had a gorgeous wreath which was made by a member of The Green Party. I’ll put a photo of it below. It was stunning.

We started off with a speech by myself. I’m asked to speak publicly on occasion but I do get nervous. I explained why we were there and then I invited our guest to speak.

Our guest today was the Rev David Grey. He’s an amazing man, he doesn’t judge anyone and believes in peace, love and non judgement of people.

He gave a very moving speech that I will place below for you to watch. We then had the fantastic Eliza P Singer singing some very appropriate songs that she has wrote herself. She’s extremely talented.

I then spoke again and we carried on with the memorial demo. A fantastic man called Steve who is connected to a local pub The Station in Ashton spoke. They do such a lot for the homeless and anyone who needs help. He spoke about the amazing work that the landlady Pauline does. She’s amazing.

We then continued with our memorial demonstration handing out leaflets etc. I decided to speak again and a few members of the public joined in. They were disgusted at the way they have been treated. One of them a single mum with 3 kids had been sanctioned for months without anything. We all agreed that sanctioning people should never happen. Cutting off a persons only means of survival is never acceptable.

Whilst speaking I spoke about the evils of sanctioning, WCA assessments, workfare, ESA fit for work assessments and the obscene work programmes that the Jobcentre force you on. No one benefits on these except for the company providing them.

We decided that we wouldn’t leave our wreath outside the Jobcentre. They threw last years in the bin, so we had a procession up to the war memorial nearby. We placed it on the back of a memorial so not to break any rules and it is slightly hidden. Much like the poor who are dying everyday as a result of this governments actions.

We then returned to our homes. Weary, cold but feeling satisfied that we had managed to pay tribute to those that have passed as a result of this governments war against the poor.

Many thanks to everyone that came along today. I didn’t have time to thank everyone it was just too busy.

Please look at the videos and the photos. There’s some amazing people in them. Thank you so much.



Sanctioned for a so called missed appointment and for another reason that they won’t declare. 

Nothing changes does it. Someone who attends Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre came to me for help. They turned up for their regular signing on date and were told that they were “possibly” going to be sanctioned for a missed appointment that they hadn’t received. Now this isn’t unusual so I set about trying to sort this out. 

No paperwork was given regarding this possible sanction and no right to appeal was given. They were just told that they had to wait for the decision. 

The first thing that I did was to email the Jobcentre manager. I stated DWP rulings in this email and that proper reason has to be given for a sanction to be applied. Also that it is DWP practice that you are given the right to appeal the sanction before it goes to the decision maker and once it gets to the decision maker. There is also a period of time given for this to happen. You are not supposed to be sanctioned straight away. 

Of course they ignored this and sanctioned them straight away (it’s a joint claim). 

To give the Jobcentre credit they did phone the people concerned upon receipt of the email. However the advisor phoning wasn’t the manager and they refused to give details of their position. They also gave different dates for the reason for the sanction. This isn’t unusual. But this is also wrong. They also refused to even conside dismissing the sanction. It would have to go to the decision maker. 

So we have several things that are wrong here. 

When you are informed of a possible sanction DWP legislation states that you should get this in writing with information included on how to appeal this decision. 

There should also be a period of time given to consider this. The decision was made in less than 2 days without a right to appeal. 

Three different dates were given. They don’t even know the actual date of the sanction! And once again no notification was given except a verbal “you might be sanctioned” 

The burden of proof goes to them to provide proof that an appointment was given and proof that they received it. This cannot be given because no appointment was received. 

Just to add this couple are completely fulfilling their job seekers agreement. Also they both have had job interviews and also have a work trial this weekend. But their advisor who had previously been nice to them suddenly and unexpectedly changed personality and said that they wernt doing enough to find a job! They have requested to change advisors but this has been refused. It is their right to do this! 
Also yet again G4S security staff are breaching the data protection act by taking clients details and national insurance numbers! They do know that they should not be doing this. They are employed as security staff only and not as advisors. 

I can also add that this is not the first time I have had to deal with a wrongful sanction case. I do this all the time. I just wanted to post a typical day (or two in this case) of just what myself and others do to try and help others. 

They have been given a hardship form to fill in which they have done. This had to be requested though. 

This case has also been referred to my local MP who has agreed to try and challenge this. Many thanks to Angela Reyners lovely secretary for agreeing to meet outside normal surgery hours. It’s very much appreciated. I do know Angela as we stood in the general elections together and our paths cross often. I’m hoping for a positive outcome on this. 

Here’s a comment made by a comrade who attends demonstrations outside Stockport Jobcentre. Terrible. 

This is happening in Stockport too. We had to arrange a foodbank voucher from the Solidarity Drop In when a young man with 3 children (one a baby) came to inform us of a situation where his JSA payment had been stopped pending an appointment at the Jobcentre to discuss a “potential sanction”. The reason for the potential sanction was that he had put a doctor’s appointment for one of his sick children ahead of a Jobcentre appointment at which the latest act in the nonsensical charade of a pretence that there are abundant jobs going-a-begging was to be acted out. At the meeting with the Jobcentre advisor (on a Monday), he had been told that the sanction was not to be proceeded with but that his payment due that day would nevertheless not be made until Friday. The DWP is acting unlawfully. This is quite simply a regime of the most gross bullying and arbitrary and inhuman treatment. I remain absolutely disgusted that the workforce carrying out these outrages is highly unionised – being members of the union, PCS, that I was a member of for 12 years and a branch secretary of, for 3 years!!Creative Commons License
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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.