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. 

http://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=K47PHPHS5XYRC” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow noopener noreferrer”>.

Our third Christmas demo. An invite.

Hi folks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Many thanks.

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

.

Our short film with The Guardian.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My March in remembrance of the Peterloo massacre.

On Sunday I, along with hundreds from around the greater Manchester area marched in commemoration of those who were injured and killed at what is now known as The Peterloo massacre. I walked nine miles wearing unsuitable footwear, but I felt that it was necessary to pay homage to those that passed away at Peterloo. Growing up in a town not far from Manchester, I have always been aware of the Peterloo Massacre and the injustices thrown at innocent people that day. 

On the 16th of August 1819 an estimated 18 people, including a woman and a child died from cuts from a sabar and trampling. 7000 men, women and children received serious injuries, many never recovered from them and they continued to suffer for the rest of their lives. 

Crowds began to gather on the morning of The 16th of August. Whole families attended from all over the north west. This was intended to be a peaceful demonstration, and many brought picnics to eat whilst sitting on what was known as petersfields Manchester. They marched great distances in protest mainly because of the disastrous corn laws which made making bread unaffordable. At that time fewer than 2% of the population had the vote, so this was their way of saying peacefully that they weren’t happy. Many were wearing their Sunday best and behaved with great dignity. They weren’t violent thugs, they were good people trying to make a peaceful stand. 

They had speakers planned, the key speaker being Henry Hunt. He stood on a cart. Not everyone could hear him due to the amount of people attending. People were holding banners which said words such as equal restoration , reform, love and universal sufferage. Many of the banners contained the red cap of Liberty, which was seen as a very powerful symbol. 

As you can imagine the authorities weren’t happy. Local magistrates were watching from a a window near the field. They panicked, even though the event was a very peaceful one. Without much thought they read the crowd the riot act, but the crowd was that large, not many were able to hear and they made no effort to tell people. 

At that moment 600 Hussars, several hundred infantrymen, an artillery unit packed with two six pounder guns, 400 men of the Cheshire cavalry and 400 special countable waited in reserve in buildings surrounding the field. The local yeomanry were given the task of arresting the speakers, so head by Captain Hugh Brieley and Major Thomas Trafford, who were essentially a parliamentary force drawn from the ranks of the local mill and shop owners. 

They then on horseback, fully armed with cutlasses and clubs proceeded to head towards the very large crowd. They were already biased against members of the crowd and wanted to settle scores this way. Issuing orders such as “There’s sexton, damn him run him through” 

They proceeded further and charged towards the crowd. The crowd had stood linking arms, trying to prevent the arrests, but it was to no avail. Their banners were struck down and they moved toward the crowd striking out at people. There are reports which state that the yeomanry were drunk which I fear only fuelled their violence. 

By 2pm,the field was a scene of carnage. Abandoned banners strewn everywhere and dead bodies lying on the field. Those injured waiting desperately for help. Journalists at the scene trying to report the event were arrested, and others who went in to report the days event were jailed. The businessman John Edwards Taylor went on to set up the guardian newspaper as a direct reaction as to what he had seen. 

The speakers and organisers were put on trial, and were first charged with high treason, which was reluctantly dropped by the prosecution. The hussars and magistrates responsible for slaying innocent people received a message of congratulations from the prince regent and were cleared of any wrong doing. 

So why do we continue to march and commemorate the day? 

The battle of Peterloo played a huge part in paving the way for ordinary people to win the right to vote. It lead to the Chartist Movement from which grew the trade union movement and it established the publishing the establishment of the Manchester guardian movement. The injustices and suffering inflicted at Peterloo played a critical part in the poorest getting the freedoms that we have today. 

It inspired the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley to write his poem The Masque of Anarchy, which due to restrictions placed on the radical press was not published until 1832, then years after the poets death. 

This is a very brief overview of events, and many thanks to The Peterloo Massacre Memorial campaign for their information which has helped me write this article.

The Peterloo massacre is as important today as it was then, because we are still fighting the same battle, the battle of injustice forced upon the poorest and most vulnerable in society. I shall always remember the victims of Peterloo. So I sit here with sore feet writing this article which I feel is a very small price to pay in remembrance of those who lost their lives. 

http://www.historyhome.co.uk/c-eight/distress/masque.htm

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peterloo_Massacre

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.


 

 

 

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.

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.