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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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!

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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.

Thursday’s weekly demo. The poor are not responsible for their own poverty.

As usual we held our weekly demo. It was well attended by people from the local area, all with the common belief that it is wrong to make people suffer in the way that the DWP do. The claimants are not to blame for their poverty, its very easy to fall upon hard times, but extremely hard to climb out of poverty. Every attempt is thwarted with yet another obstacle given to them by the DWP.

Its started to become cold now and therefore it gets harder for the claimants and ourselves. Heat or eat is a choice that has to be made and eat usually becomes the only option, that’s if they can afford to. I’m sure that many claimants and working poor claiming Universal Credit have sleepless nights worrying about how they are going to feed their families and themselves. I know that feeling well. It’s a horrible feeling and the government has no right whatsoever to punish the poor for their own poverty, whilst they languish in comfort, it’s a totally different world.

I spoke to a lady who was sent outside the Jobcentre for being ten minutes early. Now before anyone says that this happens all the time, I know it does, Ive been writing about it for two years now. But it always reminds me of the mind games that the DWP like to play. They like to keep control, a bit like an abusive partner. I know that there is room for the claimants to wait, but the G4S security guards turn them away. I inform claimants that they should wait in the lobby but most are too scared to do so. Claimants are terrified of the DWP and with good reason. The DWP in effect controls their life, where their next meal will come from and basically everything that they do.

I also noticed a few claimants runnning towards the Jobcentre, scared of being late. Your cannot be even five or ten minutes late. That will most likely result in a sanction which will take away most of their income. The DWP give no allowances at all, compassion is a quality that they are devoid of.

A woman rushed into the Jobcentre, she was very upset and panicking. “They’ve stopped my money, it wasn’t in the bank. I don’t know what I’m going to do.” She went on to say that she hadn’t received any notification either. This isn’t unusual, and I’m sure its not done by mistake. Call me a cynic but mistakes like this don’t continually occur fo three years. Everything is calculated carefully to ensure that a claimant remembers their place, so they are compliant, so they don’t argue back. A compliant society is very easy to manipulate and they count on that.

I would also like to say that claimants are not living the life of luxury. Anyone that believes this should spend a morning with us. They would be shocked.

We helped countless people. I say countless because I don’t keep a tally but maybe I should. We also spoke and gave advice to claimants whom we see on a regular basis. The Jobcentre staff tell them to ignore our advice, but our advice is correct and empowers people to fight back, to take a stand. And it works.

We handed out some warm coats, but we are needing to start stocking up for winter.

The campaign doesn’t end on a Thursday though. It’s a full time job, and anyone else campaigning like this will tell you the same. Its very hard work, both physically and emotionally. You’ve got to be very strong to undertake it and keep it up. Please donate if you can, it really helps. If you can’t then please share! Thank you!

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Next Thursday we will be holding a special I, Daniel Blake demonstration to coincide with the official release of the film. Its a fantastic, hard hitting film which touches on some of the issues that we deal with. Please come along if you can. Thursday 10-12. It’s going to be fab..

Also please support my Thunderclap timed to go out on the day that the film I, Daniel Blake is released. Let’s make it massive! That would be amazing! I\
If everyone who read this blog signed up it would take over Twitter for the day!
https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/47840-i-daniel-blake

I also apologise with the delay of writing my blog this week. My health hasn’t been brill and I’m now on antibiotics. I will be feeling bettter soon thanks to our precious NHS.

Hammersmith Jobcentre approaching claimants to take photographs for DWP promotional material. 

I, amongst others have always had a sneaking suspicion that the DWP likes to approach claimants in their quest to find willing victims for their promotional material. They’ve been caught out in the past when using paid models, so now they are trying it on with claimants. 

Whenever I see any DWP promotional material, I and others like to research the validity of their photographs and information. Indeed their new Universal Credit promotional material is extremely misleading and inaccurate. So you can imagine my joy at receiving confirmation of their plot to involve claimants.

 Please note that the person involved is not easily intimidated. I’m sure that a person who is scared and vulnerable would give in to their requests straight away. They might think that if they refuse they could be put at risk of a sanction or worse. 


Now, it’s extremely rare for a claimant to be actually smiling inside a Jobcentre. You are usually extremely stressed and it’s the last place that you want to be in. And shaking an advisors hand? This very rarely happens, at best claimants are treated like they have the bubonic plague. A decent advisor still won’t shake your hand. Manners don’t really exist in a Jobcentre. 

It’s just more evidence of the DWP trying to send out a completely misleading message. 

Kudos to the claimant for sharing this. And watch out for the new fake smiley photos posted in local newspapers and Jobcentres. 

Look what we have here…. The Jobcentre Plus column and here’s my version. 

After a long afternoon campaigning outside Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre I was in great need of cheering up. It’s cold out there at the moment and some of the claimants stories were particularly hard.

We decided to go for a well earned cuppa. Whilst we were sat having a chat, my comrade reached into his folder and asked me if I had seen this column in our local newspaper.

I hadn’t, I don’t buy the newspaper but sometimes you can get a free copy. So I had a look. I was that incensed that I actually spilt my cuppa.

I do believe that Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre are trying to promote themselves and their schemes as being helpful. No mention of the heartache and desperation that they cause to claimants everyday. I wasn’t surprised though. Our protest has been continuous every Thursday for 15 months now, and as a result we have had a lot of good, positive feedback. As a result they could well have felt the need to try and portray themselves in a better light.

I then thought to myself and to my comrades that we should construct our own, which is below. I have tried to find the person named in their leaflet, but so far I’ve had no luck. But I’m not surprised by that either.

Here is Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentres “column” in the local newspaper. I’m sure that they have done similar promotional things in different areas.


You can see why I was angry. So here’s our version. I actually think it’s much better and more realistic. Many thanks to my friend who holds a deep hatred of the DWP, but is also amazing on a computer.

 


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New tactics from the DWP workers. 

Every week we hear new stories of how the DWP workers try to trick people into receiving a sanction. We aren’t easily shocked anymore but if you haven’t heard of these tactics in your area please watch out for them. Here’s a few read and note. These aren’t unusual but it’s good to highlight them every now and then. 

Only apply for jobs that you know you will be successful in getting on the universal job match website. Now we know that most of these jobs are fake jobs but yes this was a nugget of advice given yesterday. If you apply for jobs that you won’t get then we will sanction you. It’s a no win situation for the client and he got illegally sanctioned. Don’t fall for this one folks unless you possess some kind of clairvoyant ability then how would you know if you are going to get the job or not? 

Being sent to a job club that doesn’t exist. Yes this is a newish one. A DWP advisor scribbles down on a piece of paper and tells you to get round to a certain building in half a hour. They run round trying to find the non existent building so you go back to the Jobcentre and they sanction you for not attending the appointment, it didn’t exist. Try and check to see if this place exists before trying to find it it could save you a sanction. 

The non existent appointment. Yes they are still trying this old one. Not sending you a letter for an appointment then sanctioning you for not attending. They like to use this one a lot because often they go unchallenged. What’s the point in fighting when it’s your word against theirs? 

On universal credit worked all week sanctioned your top up wage whilst on zero hours contract. Why sanctioned? Because you failed to look for work for a further 35 hours that week. Why? Because you were working and you had to sleep. Your advisor says tough the Jobcentre comes first before anything else. 

They sanction you and they refuse to hand over a hardship form and say that you aren’t entitled to one. Very wrong and they have been warned about this in parliament. By law they have to give you one. Demand one. Don’t make the mistake of saying b******s under your breath.. This will ensure that a g4s security guard escorts you out of the building. 

We will sanction your housing benefit if you don’t comply…. No you won’t and no you can’t. They often threaten this but they cannot do this. Go straight to your local council offices and apply for housing benefit on a zero income basis. 

Refusing to accept your form for a mandatory reconsideration of a sanction even though they requested that you hand it in. Also when the envelope doesn’t stick refusing to put a bit of sellotape on it to stick it. All true! 

These are just a few of their lame tactics and they are predictable. Always question them and always ask for everything in writing. Remember over 85% of sanction appeals are won. And don’t give up. 

See you next Thursday outside the Jobcentre.