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.

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.


 

 

 

Two year anniversary demonstration and 9 food parcels taken in less that two hours. 

Today was a wet and dreary day and it was also our second anniversary demonstration. I’m sorry to say that we have had to hold these demonstrations for two years. It’s a very sad indictment of today’s society of the way this government treats the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

As usual I had no expectations about how many people might join us. I try not to put pressure on people because they are already under a lot of pressure anyway trying to keep going. But I was overwhelmed. I asked for a headcount and 37 people had arrived from organisations all over the north west. We had members of DPAC ( disabled people against cuts), Old Swan against the cuts, The Mary Quaille club, Stockport against austerity, Unite Community north west branch of which I am a member, members of the Lancashire anti fracking nanas, and individuals who read my blog, my newspaper reports, my Facebook and my Twitter accounts.

It was amazing, the atmosphere was fantastic. We had several speakers, myself included who drew quite a crowd across the road. Very disappointingly a man walking past felt that he had to shout at us all saying that we should all get jobs. Of course we responded in a very peaceful way, and a local PCOS officer escorted him out of the way. Sadly people still believe the media rethoric which is played constantly on our televisions and newspapers.

Interestingly for the first time in two years we had a local newspaper reporter arrive and he proceeded to interview myself and Rick Burgess from DPAC. We have waited for two years for the local press to take notice. Despite many emails and telephone calls they had been very reluctant to attend, but happy that they have now.

We handed out nine food parcels in less than two hours which is a very sad reflection of the DWPs awful regime. Claimants were very surprised to be offered them, and were thankful. Many thanks to Pauline Town and the We shall overcome campaign. Lots of other food was handed out as well which was very gratefully appreciated.

I’d like to think that we won’t need to be campaigning for another two years, but sadly I feel that we will. Universal credit has just been rolled out to a nearby Jobcentre this week, despite Teresa Mays announcement that there will be no further roll outs.

We will continue to support the victims of the inhumane sanctioning system, the victims of failed ESA and WCA assessments, the victims of the workfare programme, the victims of the Workprogramme and for everyone that may need us.

And as Rick Burgess from DPAC said “We have you in our sights and we will be back”

Please donate if you can to enable myself and the team to carry on our valuable campaigning. It’s not just about standing outside a Jobcentre, a whole lot more goes into it. Many thanks to everyone who has helped us and who has donated.

I’m sorry if I may have forgotten to thank you personally. I do try to but I’m very busy and there might be the odd time when I forget. I always thank everyone if I see them and people know this. Trolling me is rude and there is no need for it.

A massive thank you to everyone who has helped us during the two years.

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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

G4S security guards taking personal information yet again! 

I really don’t know what sort of unofficial arrangement G4S has with the DWP, but they seem to have forgotten the rules regarding the data protection act. It comes as no surprise, maybe that’s why they had the Windows blocked at Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre so we could no longer see their unlawful actions. Nothing fails to surprise me though, and it seems that today they have excelled themselves in being rude and uncooperative. 

I was made aware of a post put on my personal page on Facebook. I have kept it anonymous to protect the identity of the claimant. This is important, because the DWP can be vindictive at times and I don’t wish to put anyone at risk of being possibly targeted by them. This is also in their own words, so please no criticism of grammar etc, as they obviously wrote it in anger and disbelief over the way they were treated. 

“G4 guard believe they are policing the job centre. Ashton job centre stories. “Can I use the toilet please” G4 guard (chubby, short dark hair basin cut) no can you cant, imagine the state they would be in if we let them lot use them looking at queue of people. Moving a chair to a table, to fill out form, ordered to put it back or police will be called. Chubby G4S guard asking what is your national insurance number! When asked why he wanted to know and him being told he did not work for the job centre (personal information) he responded saying he does. Ashton job centre in house joke.  Such lovely people. Its not just sanctions it about hating  the poor.”

There are several things that alarmed me with this. The G4S security guard should not be asking for personal details, once again this breaches the data protection act. If they ever ask this of you, refuse and state your legal rights. 

Secondly, there is no access to a toilet. Now I know that this is usual, but I do feel that there should be a toilet available for claimants to use, especially when more and more disabled claimants are being forced to use the Jobcentre. 

They also threatened to call the police because the claimant moved a chair to the table to sit on to enable them to fill a form in. A completely unnecessary possible use of police time. 

None of this is unusual though, this happens everyday, and I’m doing my very best to report and prevent this happening again. The G4S guard has obviously got some kind of agreement with the Jobcentre which they shouldn’t have. Personal information should only be dealt with by a trained DWP member of staff. Threatening a claimant with the police for wanting to move a chair whilst they fill a form in is totally ridiculous, and to be honest I’m not very happy with the treatment dished out to this claimant, who is a totally respectable, well mannered member of public. 

Oh and as for the G4S security guard criticising the claimants using the building, I can bet they have better manners and show more respect to the public that he does. Claimants might not wear designer clothes but most have the biggest hearts that you could ever find. I suggest that you take a lesson from them in common decency. 

And yes it’s a direct war against the poor, but we will fight back! 

My thoughts are with the families of the people killed by the Orlando gunman, and for those who were injured. Incidentally the gunman was employed by G4S since 2007. 

Keith Ordinary Guys latest letter. Please read. 

My latest Morning Star article and a message from Mr Ken Loach himself. 

It’s not often that I get praise from above, and today was a day that I shall always remember. This is one for the team, for everyone who actively campaigns against this governments inhumane policies. 

I received this via my editor. 

Here is the article that Mr Loach was referring to. Mr Loach is a hero of mine, his films portray the reality of life for many, including my own. And I would like to thank him for his kind words. 

https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-e9ce-DWP-inhumanity-needs-to-be-challenged-urgently#.V0cA7pB4WrW
To all my haters, and to those who say that I cannot write, spell or use correct grammar, you might like to speak to Mr Ken Loach who obviously disagrees with you. Peace.