Exclusion and life below the poverty line. 

Hi folks, I’m writing an extra blog in response to feedback given to me on my Facebook page and Twitter account. I put out the question ‘Would anyone like an extra blog per week, something a bit different to the posts about the demos’. The response was unanimous. A big yes, if I have the time so here it is. 
One subject that I am constantly reminded about is exclusion.

 I know that this will also be familiar to my readers also, but at times it can be blatantly obvious, and at other times not so obvious. 

Before I start writing further, I should explain my position to anyone that isn’t aware. I have no magic money tree, I’m just like you, like millions of people living in the uk. 

I’m a single parent, I live way below the poverty line and have had first hand experience of the DWP system and illness. LIfe isn’t easy for most of us, but I’m not complaining even though I should complain more. I have a wonderful daughter and amazing friends. At times I must try their patience. 
Exclusion comes in many forms, and anyone living in poverty wether it be relative poverty or absolute poverty will experience this, although the severity of it does differ. To put it bluntly the less money that you have, the less you can do. 

I hear friends talk about trips out, I’m sure that you do too, it’s lovely to hear about their adventures, but a the same time it serves as a reminder that apart from local free days out in reality its not an option. 
The  other week I had to pay for a school trip for my daughter. Parents will be familiar with this scenario. The children are excited about the prospect of a day out with their friends, whilst we go into a state of dread and panic worrying about how we are going to pay for this. Many children don’t go, their parents keep them at home. And the school system punishes the child for having time off school. They won’t get their 100% attendance award, a punishment on top of their missed day out. 
As an adult being poor also excludes you from trips to the nearest biggest town, clothes shopping, doing what I call ‘big shops’ yes, Peter Kay is correct in stating that we say these things. I also say ‘big light’. I’m a northern lass and proud of it. Bus fare in my area is very expensive, so the only option is to walk unless you are lucky enough to have a bike. 
Trips to the Cinema, or ‘Pictures’ as I still call it are totally out of the question, going out for a drink is also and having a meal in a restaurant is the stuff of dreams. And yes we do dream about being able to do these things. 
A trip to the Supermarket, if it’s in walking distance becomes an obstacle course in itself. For many people, especially those living in rural areas, there isn’t any choice in where they shop. So they time it for when the yellow stickers go on the food. Believe me it can be a challenge trying to get the bargains that have been reduced, but when you do you hold onto them like they are gold, afterall they can keep a family from hunger for the week. 

It’s not just about material things though, although they do matter. Alongside this comes the loneliness, the isolation and the knowledge that you are ‘different’ than others around you. Taking part in something positive to do can stop a person from spiriling down into the depths of depression. But we just have to accept that we can’t do these things even though we would like to. And small things do matter. 
Friends become fewer, opportunities become fewer and health often becomes worse. 

With a poor diet, illness often accompanies it. It’s no surprise that there has been a return of victorian illnesses such as Rickets in children because children just don’t get access to a varied diet, and the sunlight that’s needed to prevent this. 

Adults and children have to deal with illnesses such as depression, anemia, insomnia, hypothermia, malnutrition, anxiety and many more besides. Whilst the government is busy selling off the NHS to the likes of Richard Branson, the demand is getting higher. We won’t be able to afford medical insurance it’s not an option. 

Why am I writing this you may ask? Everyone must know all this? The reality is, no not everyone does know this. The Tory Party is aware of this but choose for their selfish reasons to ignore it and make it purposely worse. There’s no use in asking for them to be sympathetic. They re created this cruelty in a very conscious way. 

I’m writing this to raise awareness, for people to be a little more understanding of each other. 

The next time a child’s parent’s can’t pay a school trip, don’t criticise and moan about it, instead understand the reasons why they can’t pay. No parent actually wants to exclude them from a school trip, and if a child gets a subsidised place, good on them, don’t hold it against that child or parent. It takes a lot to admit to a school that they can’t afford to pay for a school trip. 

If a child arrives at school in a less than pristine uniform show compassion instead of criticism. Ask the school if they can start a school uniform clothes bank. Some schools already have these. 

If a friend can’t join you for a night out, or a trip to the cinema, don’t show off about it in front of them, nor should you talk about them behind their backs. Instead ask them how they are feeling and be a good friend. 

If a person is hungry show them where the nearest food bank is, or offer compassion. Compassion costs nothing. If you can buy them a sandwich then that might just make them feel human again. Giving someone hope will also do this. 

People shouldn’t be tossed aside because they supposedly dont ‘fit in’. Everyone is important, and so are their right to a decent standard of living. 

More and more people are excluded from housing, vulnerable people left on the streets to beg whilst low funded organisations try and help them, try to keep them safe and feed them. The government has completely absolved themselves from any responsibility, nor do they care about how many people die as a result. 
People are made to feel worthless, subhuman and unimportant by the DWP system of sanctioning and failed medicals which are still being conducted by the likes of Atos. People are dying everyday as a result, but the government just shrug their shoulders and look the other way. 

A WASPI lady committed suicide after the general election because she felt stressed, unworthy and unwanted. Isolated at a time when she should have been enjoying her retirement. Once again the government don’t care. 
On Friday I had to travel to Manchester, something that I don’t do as regularly as I used to. I had to use the public loos and I started a conversation with two young homeless women. They were lovely women, bright, bubbly and friendly. They told me about their life on the streets, and the difficulties they face every day. Both told me that they had been begging all morning and hadn’t got any money, they needed a pound so I gave it to them. They also needed a hairbrush so I gave them mine. I got hugs from them, and smiles that I haven’t seen for a long time. I couldn’t change their situation, but a little bit of kindness gave them hope that people do care. And thats all it takes sometimes. 
In an ideal world we would have a society that wouldn’t exclude anyone, where everyone would have a home, money in their pocket, food and have the support that they need. It’s called socialism and this country is crying out for it. 

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What is poverty? And does it define us?

This is a question that I get asked often. People ask me if I can define it. In reality  its very difficult to define. There are three definitions of poverty in common usage, those being absolute poverty, relative poverty and social exclusion.

Absolute poverty defined as having the lack of sufficient resources with which to meet basic needs. Relative poverty defines income or resources in relation to the average income. But how does poverty define us?

According to the Joseph Rowntree foundation there are more than a million people living in poverty in the UK. I’m sure that figure is lower than the actual figure due to the level of people finding themselves without work etc rising everyday. They say that 184,5000 households have experienced a level of poverty that has left them with no choice but to resort to charities for essential things and shelter. The Joseph Rowntree foundation also say that three quarters of people living in poverty go without meals and half cant afford to heat their homes. These are some very basic statistics, but how what does living in poverty mean to those living in poverty?

I live in poverty, I’m not ashamed to say it. I don’t think that it has ever left my side except for a very brief moment a long time ago. So I can say this out of experience. I live in an area that is one of the poorest in the country, and a lot of my neighbours live in some kind of poverty.

Poverty can be very restricting and isolating. It defines how you can travel and relate to others.   Socialisation is limited to mainly your local surroundings or your own home. Public transport is expensive and is often off limits. Walking distance is often as far as you can go. So you often only see your local area and your own home, and slowly you begin to isolate yourself. You might  stop talking to people because you feel ashamed that you are poor and you certainly don’t want to be reminded that you are. You avoid people and places, its easier that way because it numbs the pain. This very often starts a cycle of depression and illness, often from a very young age.

The media bombards the public with advertisements and television programmes promoting a richer, happier lifestyle. They also promote the scrounger rhetoric with programmes such as Benefit Street. Discrimination against the poorest in society has never been this bad. Names such as scrounger, fraudster, single parent, immigrant are thrown everywhere with such hatred and disgust. I see this a lot whist helping claimants, no one bothers to ask what their story is, they are given a label.

When you live in poverty debt becomes your worst enemy. High rents, the bedroom tax, council tax, sanctions, benefit delays, low wages all ensure this. Charity shops become your best friend that’s if you can afford them. Food and heating becomes a priority, often its a choice either heating or eating. Its a tough choice because both are equally important.

Poverty defines your every move, children grow up knowing no different but the gap becomes clearer the older they get. They will soon be growing up to accept name calling and discrimination, after all the media have done an extremely good job of turning neighbour against neighbour. People cant just snap out of it and find a job that doesn’t exist.

Everyday I’m reminded of the film Cathy come home. I have a daughter who lives with her partner and children in a privately rented house. The house is very damp, it floods all the time, but the landlord refuses to help. She cant move because she cant afford to pay the £1000 deposit upfront, she doesn’t have a guarantor and she owes rent from her previous sub standard flat which was a housing association flat. She manages, keeps the damp to a liveable level. She lives in relative poverty.  She says that she is lucky to have a home, and she is right, but no one should have to live like this. Sadly its not unusual, its commonplace but it shouldn’t be.

People are trying to get by, its not easy and the unemployed and the working are stuck in the same situation. I say that we will soon be back to the 1930s poverty levels, but I fear that it will be more like 19th century poverty levels. Poverty does indeed define us, we might try to deny this, but it has defined my life and it will continue to do so.

I urge the public to use compassion and kindness instead of hatred and discrimination. After all this can happen to anyone and everyone is three pay slips away from being in the same position.




Dear Mr Crabb, regarding the real Daniel Blakes out there.

You may have seen the reviews for the new Ken Loach film Daniel Blake. It reduced hardened film critics in Cannes to tears with its story about the cruelty that Jobcentres and the DWP dish out to ordinary people throughout the country. 

What is very interesting to know that Ken Loach sent researchers to interview people working in the DWP, some at senior levels. Many of these anonymous whistleblowers told Ken Loch’s interviewers that policies implemented by the government and the DWP were deliberate, and indeed those high up within DWP circles stated that they intend them to be so. So much so, that Ken Loach himself felt confident enough to accuse the government of cruelty on a national scale. 

We now know that from hard to access DWP death files, that warnings were being repeatedly sent to the top, and ministers ignored this and chose to carry on. The fact that poor people would die was part of a cost saving plan and still is. We have said from the start that there is nothing unintended about anything that they implement, amid the fact that DWP staff themselves told Ken Loaches team proves it. 

Steven Crabb told the select committee last week that nobody should criticise DWP policies unless they had been to a Jobcentre and met claimants. Well unlike the ignorant collaborators on the select committee, we have been doing just that at Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre for nearly two years. We meet the real Daniel Blakes every week, and we spend a lot of the time trying to fix your ruthless policies and your predecessors also. 

Mr Crabb, take Liam, a young lad who was autistic. You didn’t need to have qualifications to see that he needed extra help, and any job coach should have noticed this. He had been sanctioned four times for reasons that he clearly didn’t understand. These sanctions occurred after both himself and his mother had informed the job coach that he was autistic.So by breaching both the equalities act and the 2010 autism act, Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre have broken two laws for the price of one! Quite an achievement in itself! 

We also met a young ex solider. He was an impressive young man, and very proud of his service in Afganistan. The Jobcentre had sanctioned him, and hadn’t informed him of his rights regarding his housing benefit. He was due to be evicted that afternoon. He told us that his only option would be to commit a crime such as criminal damage to get police station bed and breakfast later that day. 

Ken Loach said that his film should make everyone angry, and hopefully encourage people to take action. Well, if you are moved by his film Daniel Blake and want to do something then this is what you can do. You can tell your MP, appeal every sanction or come and join our group every Thursday or any other group in your local area. 

We are the UKs longest running Jobcentre campaign that has run constantly every week. And we have been doing this for nearly two years now. We are outside Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre every week between 10-12. Come and see the reality for yourselves. We would invite the entire DWP select committee, but we know that those cowardly collaborators wouldn’t bother to show up. But everyone is welcome. 

Universal credit adverts.

You might have noticed these adverts on telephone boxes and bus stops in your local area. Infact the DWP have made sure that they are placed in as many places as possible. They strategically place them in areas where people on low paid work and unemployed people might be using. It’s no mistake. It’s their unofficial announcement that most people will be changed over to universal credit in the near future.
I’ve wrote before about the evils of universal credit, and if you scroll down you will see my previous posts.
In these adverts they state that whilst on universal credit going back to work “pays”. That is a blatant lie.
On the 1st of April this year the in work credit element of universal credit was taken away, therefore leaving people who are on universal credit in a terrible situation. They just won’t be able to survive without struggling a great deal.
So armed with evidence from the department of fiscal studies, child poverty action and the like, who all have proven that being on universal credit, working or not working does make you worse off, we intend to take a stand against these adverts. This is on the basis that the information given “universal credit… Making work pay” is indeed misleading and untrue.
We intend to try and get these adverts taken down by complaining to the advertising standards commission.
Here is the link, please can I ask as many people to fill the form in because they need as many signatures as possible to enable them to look at it and take notice.
Also tweet this blog #misleadinguniversalcreditads

Here is one of the offending adverts.
Interesting to note. Creative agency Mullen Lowe got paid £250k to produce these posters. There is an endless trickle of money to lie to and to humiliate the poor.


Universal credit does not help you when you are in work.
It’s a fact that your appointed work coach will hound you to the point of exhaustion. They will say that you are under employed, and therefore will still have to undergo a 20-38 hour job search as well as having to work your long hours.

Under universal credit work does not pay!

Tax credit bill delayed in The House Of Lords.

Not my usual story but one that I felt compelled to write about once suggested to me by a reader of my blog.

The Tory party today expected a victory in the House of Lords concerning the tax credit bill. I spent the best part of today watching it from my sick bed because I happen to be full of the flu. 

I did expect him to win this but I was hopeful. The cross party opposition was strong but the rumours of threats to pass this bill from the tories did worry me. I do enjoy a good parliamentary debate and this did not fail me. 

Both sides were heard. The opposition being confident with their proposals and reasonings. Very convincing evidence given and honest words spoken. Especially those spoken by Baroness Hollis. She warned the House of Lords that millions of families will soon receive cruel “Christmas letters” from the government setting out how much they would loose in tax credits. 

She stated that “Those families believed the government when they said that work would pay. And the best route out of poverty would be to work because work would always pay” she said. 

They believed the prime minister when he announced before the election that tax credits wouldn’t be touched. ( This was brought up several times in the debate. The prime minister clearly lied and I do think this should also be dealt with).

She spoke very clearly and the silence in the room was deafening. 

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said “George Osbourne has got to think again. We now need a fair settlement that will reverse this policy”

Former Tory Chancellor Lord Nigel Lawson said that Mr Osbourne should think again”

Dispite the threats made by David Cameron to flood the House of Lords with more than 100 new Tory Peers it seems that members thought this too important an issue to ignore and threats were ignored. 

Baroness Tina Stowell the Tory leader in the House of Lords had warned peers that it would be an “unprecedented” step for them to “challenge the primacy” of the elected commons on financial affairs. 

Lady Stowell pleaded with peers that Mr Osbourne would offer ‘some concession’ if they didn’t inflict a humiliating defeat. What those concessions would be I would like to know, if indeed they existed. She went on to say “I can confirm he would listen very carefully were the House to express its concern in a way that is unprecedented for us to do so”

The Rev Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark said “families that strive, struggle and aspire will be thrown back. We risk stripping our fellow citizens of their dignity. 

So what happens now? We get a breather. A break whilst evidence is collected and presented to the House of Commons and the bill will be voted on again. This evidence should have been presented beforehand but wasn’t. Probably because none of it went in favour of the tax credit cuts. A positive decision on the governments behalf wouldn’t have been made. And they were desperate to get this bill through parliament and the House of Lords as quickly as possible with the minimum fuss. 

What the Tory party didn’t think of was both the public opposition to this and the cross party opposition. This wasn’t the ‘done deal’ that he wanted it to be. For many the thought of millions of people going hungry and very possibly becoming homeless was far too much for them. So they rebelled and you can bet that Mr Cameron isn’t happy. 

A number 10 spokesman has said “The PM is determined we will address this constitutional issue. A convention existed and it has been broken. He has asked for a rapid review to see how it can be put back in place”

Now whilst watching this debate it was explained several times very clearly how the convention hasn’t been broken. So I will be keeping my eye on this. 

So what does this mean? 

It means a delay. A much needed delay. Time to gather proper evidence against this bill, time to put in transitional support to cover up to three years for tax credit claimants. I also hope that they plan to take carers and the self employed into consideration. They don’t get the new living wage and never will do. This needs to be addressed when addressing theses changes. 

One thing I do know is that David Cameron will be seething. This isn’t a defeat it’s a delay and you can bet that he will fight this all the way. 

He was depending on the poor to take another cut and he won’t rest until he gets his way. 

Relax now, take a breather and follow this closely. We need to. Our future depends on it. 

Bootcamp for young people next on the Tory agenda…

Yes I was expecting this. The perfect way to grind down our young people… To humiliate them until they just comply with anything that is put in front of them. Make no mistake this means more free labour for big companies to benefit from (often they have links to the Tory party). Also it states that they will have ‘intensive’ from the DWP. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will understand the real implications of their ‘intensive’ treatments. 

Young people need positive messages, paid work, free education to move them forward with their life’s. Unfortunately if you live in an area where opportunity is low, unemployment is high and poverty surrounds you this is hard to do. 

Boot camp is not the answer. What is the answer is kindness, fairness and real paid work. Let’s give the young people in our society something to look forward to. They deserve it because they are our future. 

By the way these imaginary jobs will have to be magicked out of thin air.. They don’t exist. What does exist is unpaid forced workfare and volunteering. Let’s keep volunteering voluntary and abolish workfare! 


Man forced to put his disabled child and his other children  into care because of an illegal Jobcentre decision.

Sounds a bit far fetched doesn’t it? I can assure you that this is true..  Spoke to this man on Thursday at our weekly demo. He was very understandably angry and upset. He’s lost everything that he loves in life… The reason? The Jobcentre he says.

Before this situation came about this gentleman had a family and a partner. They got along, even though one of their children had cerebral palsy and by this mans account was very disabled.

They managed, but his partner became more and more stressed and upset. The enormity of looking after a disabled child became too much for her. I really don’t think that they were getting the advice or the support that they needed. I’ve found that this happens a lot. Sometimes families and situations like this get overlooked, and can sometimes have the appearance  of being able to cope, when in reality the situation is different.

This man said that he had supported his partner and children but it all became too much for her and she had a nervous breakdown. She was admitted to hospital and was that ill she never was able to return to the family home. I ask for no judgement on her behalf. We don’t know how hard her life had been and her situation.. She did her best for her children. As a result he was left alone with his children, one of them being severely disabled.

He put in an application for DLA and carers allowance and income support for himself. He had to be at home to look after his children. They had been through so much already and he very obviously had to be there to care for them.

He thought that everything was going to be ok.. Yes it was going to be hard but he would cope. That he said was his job as their parent. But all this changed in a matter of weeks.

The Jobcentre called him in for a back to work interview. They unlawfully told him that he had to look for work and start claiming Job Seekers Allowance (JSA). Yes we know that he did not by law have to do this, indeed his place was to be at home caring for his disabled child and his other children.

He said his whole life felt like he was on a treadmill. He had no rest. They kept sanctioning him because they said he hadn’t looked for work enough. He said he had, but he also had to care for his children. Then the sanctioning started. One sanction after another. He was going hungry, and he didn’t know what to do.. He just saw himself as a failure to his children. He said to me “I couldn’t even provide £70 a week for them. I’m a failure as a parent”. So he took the only option that he thought he could take at the time. He contacted social services and told them that they would have to take over the care of his children. He couldn’t provide for them. He could give them love but it’s not enough he said.

On Thursday I saw a broken and angry man. He said that he has nothing really to live for and is a failure. He couldn’t even provide £70 a week for his children he says. He also said to me that now they are in care they get everything that they need, everything that he couldn’t provide because the DWP refused him the basic human right of being able to bring his children up in their home environment.

To add insult to injury he will now be on another sanction because Ashton Under lyne jobcentre are now sending him to a workfare programme at an Age Concern charity shop in manchester. He can’t afford the bus fare and they won’t provide the bus fare either.

This man wasn’t known to us at the time of him loosing his children, or at the time of the Jobcentre telling him illegally that he had to return to work. Of we had known him then we would have helped him and this might not have happened. It’s no use saying that he should have done this, and he should have done that… It’s too late now. He wasn’t supported enough by anyone and that is very indidcitive of the state that this country is in at the moment.

Make no mistake the DWP commit illegal crimes like this all the time and they get away with it. This is the whole purpose of the blog, to expose, highlight problems and to deal with them. To enlighten people of their basic human rights regarding the DWP and how to enforce them. One day I really hope that they are held accountable for their crimes. And yes they are crimes in my eyes.

As you will understand this story upset me greatly. I had to take a day off from campaigning to deal with the whole injustice and cruelty surrounding this issue.

Please donate to keep our campaign and blog going. This isn’t just a few hours a week it’s really taken over my life. Many thanks.