Today’s demo. Frustration, food parcels and anger. 

I was a bit anxious about the demo this morning for two reasons. The first being the weather, it looked like the heavens were about to open and Odin was about to pour all his wrath upon us. Secondly, it’s the school holidays and I have to bring my daughter with me. She’s normally very good, but is an active, intelligent girl that can easily become fed up. 

My fears were unfounded though, because the sun shone, it was warm and my daughter was kept busy thanks to my friend Karl and my friend Lel. My friends are wonderful thank you. 


As I arrived so did the food parcels. it wasn’t a long wait, and Roy dropped them off. He’s amazing. He used to work for Citizens Advice amongst other organisations and is now retired, although I don’t think that he has much spare time! 

I had noticed a lady that we hadn’t seen for a few weeks waiting across the way for a food parcel. I had been worried about her, but she assured me that she was ok. She took a food parcel and I double checked that she is getting all the advice and support locally that she needs. She said that she was, but she’s very quiet and isn’t too happy taking to new people. I will try and help her with this though. 
I spoke to a man that said that he needed a food parcel. He said that he was on the verge of becoming homeless and was caught up in a mess that he feels that he can’t see a way out of. He would only speak to me, and as well as offer him a food parcel, I asked him to go straight to a local drop in to see if he can get some extra support and help. He told me that he would, but I’m not sure if he did. I can only try my best to help people to engage. 
I spoke to a lady who is struggling with her Universal Credit payments. She’s waiting for her first payment to arrive and they keep changing dates and payment amounts. The poor woman doesn’t know if she is coming or going. They have told her that she will most likely receive her money in two weeks time, but two weeks without money can seem like a lifetime especially when you have children. She’s also having trouble with her child benefit payments. 

She is getting advice from our local Citizens advice Bureau, but I also signposted her to another local organisation. I really hope that she went to see them, but once again, I can’t force anyone. If they don’t know them they might not trust them. The whole DWP system makes them feel this way. 

As I was handing leaflets out and advising people, two men dressed very smartly walked towards the doors of the Jobcentre. I asked them if they were from any agency etc, and they replied that they wern’t but they investigate fraud cases. 

It was then that I recognised one of these men. I had taken a lady for an appointment at the Jobcentre under the guise of checking that she was recieving the correct benefits. When we were sat at the table I noticed that on the top of his letter, it said fraud in big letters. Of course I immediately questioned this because I knew that without a doubt that this lady had never committed any kind of benefit fraud, or crime in her life. I asked him about why she was there for fraud when her letter said a benefit check. I also asked him for any evidence of any so called fraud. Of course he couldn’t answer me, he went on to say that he would do a benefit check, which he did and she was claiming everything that she was entitled to. I knew this of course. 

Watch out for this folks, this is how they can catch you out, especially innocent vulnerable people. Always take a witness with you to any such meetings and make a full record of the conversation, either written of verbally recorded also. Don’t let them catch you out. I’ve seen too many peoples lives destroyed in this way. 

On their way out of the building he looked at me and gave me a glare, which was ok, because I was already glaring at him.

We also handed food parcels out to people that don’t want to be mentioned, but their struggle was real. They are very brave in the shadow of adversity and are the true heroes of this world. 
Towards the end of our demo a lady walked up to a colleague shouting at him. We had never seen her before. She was an elderly lady who was very obviously fed up with the system. She went on to rant about scroungers etc etc. Whilst I cannot sympathise with the words that she spoke, I can understand why she is angry. 

The town that we live in has been run down so much it was unrecognisable to a 70yr old man that we spoke to today. He had just returned back to England from South Africa where he had lived for many years. He told us that he didn’t recognise the place. It’s awful he said, no wonder young people have no hope. They’ve got nothing to look forward to, no chance of a decent job, no chance of anything. He said when an area looks run down and uncared for so do the people living there. I totally agree with this. 
The government has systematically destroyed communities, are not supporting people adequately in their time of need and cut a person’s lifeline off when they decide to sanction them. 

We can’t as a country carry on like this for much longer, something will have to give way, and the government realises this. 

When it’s time to vote folks, use your vote wisely. I can’t stress how important that this is. 


A massive thank you to everyone that managed to join us today. It was a very slow start, but I’m so happy that you all arrived. Thank you so much. 

Thanks to my daughter for taking the photos. She’s fab. 

Please share and talk about this blog as much as possible. A lot of people still have no idea of what life is like for people having to endure signing on and claiming any type of benefit. It’s heartbreaking having to share these stories every week, and often we return home upset and frustrated. 

Also please donate if you can. Every penny helps thank you! 
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Blackberry Crumble. Frugal and almost free to make! 

it’s that time of the year again, time to harvest the free fruit that grows around us. 

Blackberries grow almost everywhere, even in urban areas and they are a delight that we should all take advantage of. 

They are high in vitamins, and if you can’t afford to buy fruit and vegetables from a supermarket or shop, you can pick these for free. 

Children love eating these whilst picking and my daughter always eats more than we take home. 

There are lots of things that can be made from Blackberries. Jam, Cake, Crumble, Wine, Cordial. The list goes on and on. 

Yesterday, because the sun was shining for a change and I’m skint and didn’t have anything sweet at home, we decided that we would go Blackberry picking and make some Blackberry crumble when we returned home. 

This is how I make it, everyone has their own tastes and therefore the recipe can be adjusted to suit yours. My reciepe is very basic. 


It’s important to wash your Blackberries after picking and to soak them in a very diluted solution of salt and water. This helps any bugs and debris  that might be lurking to float to the top. I’ve never come across any bugs, but I keep up the tradition of doing this. Call me old fashioned, but if it was good enough for my grandparents to do then I will follow suit. 


After soaking place in a dish of your choice. It doesn’t have to be a fancy one. The one that I use is an old lasagne one left over from the days when I could afford to cook lasagne. You can use any dish that’s suitable for the oven. 


Once in the dish, sprinkle with normal granulated sugar to taste. If you have a sweet tooth add more, if not add less. I also added Cinnamon mainly because we like the taste and for the various health properties that it has. 


Time to make the topping. 

My daughter and put as much flour as we thought would be needed to cover the top in a bowl. Yes, we played it by eye. We like a lot of topping and I’m really bad at using exact measurements. 

I grated enough cold butter to mix and bind the four together so it resembles sand once finished. Again we used guesswork and I’m hopeless with measurements. 

I also added some sugar and cinnamon. Just enough to make it nice and sweet. 


My daughter then placed the topping on top of the Blackberries. She likes to make a pattern on the top. She’s ten years old and it’s a good sensory activity for her. This did take her some time to perfect her pattern!


Ready to put in the oven. 

I placed it in the oven at gas mark 5, 375f and 191c. 

I watched it and took it out when it looked ready. It really wasn’t in the oven long therefore not using much energy up. 


The finished creation. 

This can be ate on its own, with custard (the packet custard is really good with this), and if you can afford it it can be ate with cream and Icecream also. 

To make this a vegan dish just replace the butter with a vegan equivalent. 

Happy eating! And don’t forget to look out for the blackberries. 

I’m harvesting some cherries from a friends cherry tree today, and will also be harvesting some Sloe berries to make some christmas presents with. 

Free food given to us by nature is the best food! Enjoy! 

Today’s blog. Stress, suffering and yet more rain. 

I can understand if you are fed up of my complaining, but this is what it is like, week in, week out. Nearly four years later and after much complaining myself and my colleagues are still here, helping people. It’s a travesty that we still need to isn’t it. 
I arrived at Ashton jobcentre mid phone call. I was talking to a colleague. As usual there were people waiting for help, although it was a bit slower than usual. The DWP has a habit of changing a claimants time to sign on, just to frustrate them I think. They like to disrupt a persons routine as much as possible and to make things difficult. I’m certain that this is done to keep people on their toes, and is a constant reminder that big brother is always watching them. 

Remember, once a person is caught up in the system their life isn’t their own anymore. Their every action, thought and very being belongs to the DWP. To comply is the most important thing, and even when they give a claimant a wrongful claimant commitment they are too scared to question it. The mantra must be repeated, “I must comply, I must comply”. If they don’t they stand a good chance of loosing everything. Their health, sanity, self respect, family and their home.

 Rarely is a case straight forward to deal with because the system isn’t straightforward. It’s purposely designed to be complicated and to make people suffer. Sometimes I think that the government would like them to disappear, well everyone that isn’t of any use to them in any way. They are quick to ensure that claimants have to undergo their awful work programme and workfare (work for nothing) schemes. They profit highly from these, and so do the directors of these companies and businesses. 

Today was particularly awful for a lady and her partner that we have been helping and giving support to. They had finally, after months of waiting been allowed to claim Universal Credit that they were entitled to. Having a baby recently had complicated things, and although signposted they like to speak to us because we are trained to help, and they also trust us. Trust is a massive issue, more than you would think. The DWP sucks any trust that a person had in anyone away, so we build this trust up. And I’m proud of the work that we do. 

I saw them dash into the Jobcentre, I knew that this wasn’t their regular signing on day and they looked very rushed and stressed, so I asked them what was wrong? Could we help them in any way? 

Their problem wasn’t caused by them, the very flawed Universal Credit system had taken them off the system without their knowledge and the Jobcentre staff were far from helpful. The system does this sometimes and when it does it’s devastating. When your only source of income is taken away, your lifeline it’s the worst thing that can happen. After some advice, she went back into the building and they actually let her use a telephone to phone the Universal Credit system up and to sort it out. 

Common sense would say that an ‘advisor’ should do this for them, but like my readers will know, the DWP aren’t known for their common sense and compassion, but at least she was allowed to use a telephone. I’m sure that our presence helped with this. 

After a long telephone call, she was told that their claim will be started as a new one and they will have to wait for their first payment. It’s just not good enough. She has children to feed. But huzzah they advised her that she can get a ‘loan’ off them whilst their claim is waiting to be processed. A loan that has to be taken back upon her first payments and concurrent ones. They decide the rate. She has no choice to accept. As a result her payments will ensure that she will be forced to live on much less than she should be doing. It’s a trap that most Universal Credit claimants fall into out of necessity. 

We spoke to a WASPI lady, a 60yr old lady that has been told that she has to take part in the work programme. This lady is 60 years old, but looks much older. she’s worked all her life and has been reduced to having to do this. We sympathised with her, because there’s not a lot else that we can do. The DWP show no respect for age like we do. But she was very glad to see a friendly face. 

We spoke to a homeless chap, who is managing to get by. He has no substance or alcohol abuse issues, and as a result he keeps away from situations and places where there are these issues. I did signpost him to local organisations, but it’s up to him if he goes to these places. Some deal with the issues that he wants to steer clear of so it’s difficult for him. We can’t force anyone to engage with a certain organisation and nor should we. We get to know people, gain their trust and then maybe they can be persuaded to do so. But whatever decision that they make we will be there for them, because like I’ve said not one persons situation is straight forward, its usually complicated and we understand that. 

We spoke to a young lady who is also a carer for her mother. We had seen her briefly last week as she wheeled her mum into the Jobcentre. Once again we asked if they were ok, their response was that they wern’t ok. The young ladies advisor had told her that she has to look for full time work, even though she is a full time carer. We gave her the correct information and advice regarding this and they entered the Jobcentre. 

Thankfully they wern’t in too long. they had taken our advice and had seen a much nicer ‘advisor’ this time. Believe me some advisors can be more vindictive than others. Most likely because they are target driven. 

They left with a smile, some good advice and a food parcel because they are struggling. This isn’t because they aren’t claiming everything that they can claim, it’s because people simply aren’t given enough to live on. 

I spoke to a man who is sanctioned and who has a relative living with him who’s had failed his ESA medical. . I do signpost him every week, but he has trouble engaging with some organisations. He trusts us, Good news though, he will hopefully be receiving his first payment next week, and I’m so happy that he is. 

Today he was too scared to stand in front of the Jobcentre, he didn’t want to be seen and we get a lot of people that are like this. They feel that the DWP are watching them all the time and they aren’t wrong are they. 
We spoke to many people with many different issues. We have received training to help people through this awful system, and we have also had years of experience doing this. In my spare time I also check for legislation changes and converse with other groups such as DPAC who are a tremendous moral support to myself. 
We do signpost people, this isn’t as easy as people think. Like I’ve said before lots of people targeted by the Jobcentre find it hard to trust anybody, and certain situations can trigger anxiety etc. 

I spoke to a man leaving the Jobcentre who told me that he was from a work programme provider. I explained that I know exactly how these places are ran and what it’s like for the people forced to attend. I couldn’t let this opportunity slip, so I asked him what their employment rates are. How many actually gain decent employment after attending. He couldn’t really answer, which was no surprise because its all about the money not the person isn’t it. 
We were joined today by the gang from The Wigan pier project, this is a project ran in conjunction with the Daily Mirror, and is being done to highlight the similarities between George Orwell’s book The Road To Wigan Pier and modern times. The similarities are astounding and it was lovely to meet them. They showed great comapssion and understanding and I’m sure that their story will be really good. 
Tomorrow is the start of the summer holidays in my area and as you will have read in the newspapers, more children than ever will be going hungry. It’s abhorrent that the government quite happily ensures that children will be hungry. I’m expecting the demand on our help could well be higher, but we will be there for them. 
I was donated a kindle fire, that was donated to me  to a jobseeker to make their job searching easier. It’s not easy having to sit in Libaries and other suchlike places using their computers to do this. Having a bit of independence to complete their job searches on their own is a massive tool to empowerment. That is if they know exactly what their requirements are. I gave the kindle to D for himself and his mother to use. It will free their life up a bit, and they can now go to a cafe, or even Ikea to do this. 

Good news though! Pat a very talented member of our team has made a fantastic new banner for our four year anniversary which is coming up in the first week of September. It’s amazing and it will catch peoples attention. I will post details about this nearer the time. 

I need to apologise to the team for my rather stressed mood today. The summer holidays are looming and every now and then i feel like I’m getting nowhere quickly. Thank goodness that the campaign is going well though and that’s thanks to everyone that supports and reads my blog. Thank you all so much. 
I couldn’t take any photos today again I was far too busy. I’m going to really try next week, and I apologise. But this is a cracker isn’t it. Yes they’ve made a massive difference to the life chances of people throughout the country haven’t they… their life chances have been evaporated. 

I’ll end it on this note. A young man who had been made homeless today due to thoughtless and inconsiderate rulings made by a local social housing provider said this. ” I went in for help, they didn’t give me any. I went to housing options, they looked at me like I was a piece of rubbish, just like the Jobcentre did. I was given a piece of paper and that’s it. no one wanted to listen to me, they both just wanted rid of me. It’s wrong, I’m not a criminal, and now I’m homeless” 

This man was referred to a local homeless charity, but we did show him compassion and understanding and a food parcel to keep him going whilst he sorts everything out.

 I had to stop him and ask him what had happened though, rarely does anyone voluntarily come out with this information straight away. People feel ashamed, and they might think that no one else cares. But we do and we will always care. A lot of my time is spent asking people if they are ok, and also at times running after people who are in an angry state. I’ve mentioned this in a previous blog post. 
Keep safe out there folks, I’m thinking of you all. 

Big shoutouts to Kate Belgrave, Keith Ordinary Guy, DPAC, Unite Community, and everyone who reads and shares this blog. 

Please  donate help keep the blog and campaign going if you can. If not please share. It’s important that we keep talking about this all the time. This has become a full time job for myself, and anyone spending any time with me will attest to that.

 Thank you!

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‘Encouraging’ words of ‘Wisdom’ placed above Jobcentre computers. 

We’ve seen these before, usually behind a Jobcentre ‘advisors’ desks, or on films made by programmes such as Dispatches. And who could ever forget Sandras Sheriff Badges. 

The DWP use this method of ‘encouragment’ to coerce staff to achieve higher offload levels or as recently discovered ‘Aspiration’ levels. 

They must think that the public are ready to succumb to these tactics. Luckily we have claimants who are very observant and can see the absurdity and irony in this. 

It also strikes me as being a bit orwelian, I mean how on earth can claimants think for themselves? They must need to have little reminders of how inadequate they are placed in their direct eyeline! 

Here is the offending item placed directly above the computers that claimants are forced to use. 

Now anyone who has spent any time on these computers will know that this entails constant pointless job searches. This is very repetitive and the authenticity of many of these jobs is dubious. Infact you are far less likely to find a job using one of these computers than you are going out and positively looking for work. 

So if we take the wording “If you always do what you always did, you will get what you always got.”

So translated this could mean “If you sit here on these computers always looking for work, most likely you will be doing this for forever.” Which is very likely due to the fact that most of these jobs are either non existent or zero hour agency work. 

I think that they need to possibly have lessons in how to communicate positively with claimants. 

Don’t treat claimants as if they are idiots. Many are highly intelligent people who are down on their luck. 

 If they could see the fault with this straight away then they are obviously one step ahead of you. 

Many thanks for informing me about this. If  anyone else happens to see little messages like this appear in their local Jobcentre please forward a photo to myself. Your anonymity will be respected at all times. 

A statement. 

It was pointed out today that someone was confused about the political stance of our demonstration group, which is Tameside against the Cuts. It has always been made clear that we are a cross party group and have no alliances to any political group. Indeed, we find the diversity good and healthy. 

We are a non discrimitory group and everyone regardless or age, sex, gender or sexuality is welcome to stand alongside us. We do not tolerate racism, sexism, classism or any kind of insult towards anyone. We have respect for everyone. 

The claimants are our priority and will always remain so. And we stand together to fight against the draconian measures enforced by the government, we also stand against austerity and everything that comes along with that. 

I apologise for my PayPal email address. Its been brought to my attention that people might find it off- putting. I cannot change that as I do not have another bank account to open a new PayPal account. It plainly states my name as I am the blog writer. 

If there is, or has been any confusion I apologise, and here is a photo of the team, a mixed political party gang with no Tory or UKIP members allowed. 

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Is the government running an enforced volunteering cartel? How does this effect small local charities and businesses? 

I remember the days when you were allowed to choose where you wanted to volunteer. The Jobcentre actively encouraged you to do this. They said that i
t would encourage you to learn new skills and to improve your c.v.

On the whole it worked. Of course there were times when it didn’t, but if it failed the Jobcentre would send you on a course, you would get an extra few quid on top of your social security payment and you really did benefit from this. Life was much better, there was less conflict and most places could find volunteers relatively easily.

All that changed when the Tory party won the general election in 2010 and along with the Liberal Democratic Party they formed a coalition government, but David Cameron was clearly in charge.

He set about to punish the poor. He wanted to change the whole system, and indeed he did. But he didn’t do it overnight. He did it by stealth, bit by bit. All aimed I’m sure to take any decent quality of life away from the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

He introduced a scheme called workfare, marketed as a “work for your dole” scheme. This scheme operates under various guises, but the end result is the same. If you want to be able to claim your benefit payment then you must undergo the work programme.

It was marketed as the best idea ever. The government cosied up to their friends in the right wing press and they launched a full on attack on the poor. Let’s shame them, let’s treat them like criminals, let’s turn neighbour against neighbour. It’s the best tool in the Tory party tool box and they used it well. Before long the poor were criminalised and criticised for almost everything they did. Television ran countless programmes that actively targeted vulnerable people. This is when David Cameron must have decided that it was time to exploit the poorest as much as possible, and why not? There was no opposition now.

Multi national buisnesses were quick to take up the offer of free workers. I mean why pay someone when they are forced to work for nothing? When their allotted time of enforced volunteering is over the are simply replaced with another victim. No hope of a job, nothing to look forward to except very hard work for no pay. And so modernised slavery was created.

Very strict rules were put in place. Don’t be late, always turn up and you must turn up for work whilst sanctioned. Not easy when you can’t afford to eat and often have to walk miles to get to your workfare provider.

Now this has caused lots of problems, probably too numerous to mention here. Workfare workers turning up to “volunteer” unable to complete their work properly because they are too hungry, weak and demoralised. Many have been forced off their sickness benefits and forced to undergo workfare, many forced to undergo enforced volunteering as a requirement of being placed in the work capability group. Their health suffering to such an extent that they become very sick indeed and many give up.

There is also another side effect of big buisness and multi national charities using enforced volunteers sent directly from the Jobcentre. Small charities are finding it extremely hard to find volunteers. Many refuse to use enforced volunteering due to the ethics of the scheme. They don’t agree with enforcing people to undergo an activity that they may not be capable of undergoing.

They try to advertise for volunteers, claimants ask the Jobcentre if they can volunteer at their shops, but the Jobcentre refuse. They say either you go where we send you or you will get sanctioned. So volunteers become very sparse. Local small charities become at risk of closing or close altogether. These charities are often essential organisations within local communities. But the government don’t care. In their eyes, you should take enforced volunteers. If you refuse, well they must think that it’s the price that you have to pay. And it’s a very big price indeed.

I speak to people who run small local charities and organisations. They are stretched to the limit. They don’t know what to do, they have given their life’s to making it work, to helping others in need. They want to do it honestly without exploitation of any kind. But the dilemma is there, accept enforced volunteering or shut down.

Yes the government are indeed running a cartel which involves people being used as free labour to be exploited. Slavery is not dead, it’s now been modernised under the guise of whatever name the DWP wants to use for enforced volunteering. And the public have accepted this .  A good days work deserves a good days pay. A local charity should be able to employ volunteers who actually want to volunteer for them without enforcement. They want their charity to succeed, we want their charity to succeed. Let’s campaign to make this possible.

 
http://www.boycottworkfare.org/

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Vice magazines article about our work. 

Hi folks. A lovely reporter from vice magazine came and joined us for the day the other week. Here’s his wrote up about our work. Please read and enjoy! We work very hard and this has taken over my life.http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/ashton-under-lyne-jobcentre-protests-universal-credit