Todays demo, desperate people and a visit from Ray Woolford, author of the book Food Bank Britain.

I’ve just returned home from our weekly demo feeling a bit elated instead of deflated. That makes a change these days.

To start with the weather was wonderful, not raining and a bit sunny which always makes things easier. Not only for us, but for the people having to use the Jobcentre. There’s nothing worse than the rain and cold weather, and we get lots of both.

Roy arrived early with the food parcels, which was fab because it’s nice not to be standing alone, and because they are needed straight away. People are waiting for them which is a sad indictment of the governments attitude towards the poor.

As we were setting up, I spotted a lady and her young child stood at the corner of the Jobcentre. She was looking at the food parcels, and she looked a bit lost. I walked over to her, handed her a leaflet and asked her if she was ok. She wasn’t ok, no surprise there sadly. She’s going through a traumatic time at the moment and her money had been stopped due to no fault of her own.

I had a chat with her, signposted her to relevant organisations and handed her a food parcel to keep both her and her child going. She was so happy to receive this and at least she knows that she has some food to tide her and her child over.

Two of my friends surprised me today and arrived unexpected at the demo. Karl walked over with a nice cup of coffee for myself, which I shared with Roy. How nice was that of him. Little things like that mean a lot because the work that we do is hard and it gives us hope.

My friend Lel arrived showing compassion and solidarity. She brought her little boy who is adorable and it was a joy to see them both.

I spoke to a man who to be honest had just had enough. He told me that he had total solidarity with us all because he knows that we are telling the truth. He went on to say that he had worked all his life, but sadly had become ill. He had lost part of one leg, and the toes off his other leg. He didn’t want a food parcel, he just wanted to chat.

He said that it is wrong that people are targeted because they become ill, disabled and fall on hard times. That’s what we pay our national insurance for he said, and he’s correct.

He told us how unfair he thinks the ESA medicals are and told of the struggle that his friend has recently been through. His friend had attended their medical, and despite several illnesses had been refused their ESA payments. They are appealing though and have been signposted to the relevant organisations that will help with that. We never leave anyone without the necessary information and help. Today, this gentleman just needed someone to listen to because he feels marginalised and discriminated against, which he is of course.

Then Ray Woolford arrived. What an amazing campaigner, activist, author and all round good person he is. He had travelled all the way from London but yet it felt like \I had known him for forever. We do chat on Twitter though, maybe that’s why, or maybe it’s because we take the same stance on issues.

He is the author of the book Food Bank Britain, and I will put a link to it at the bottom of the blog. It’s a must read and I urge anyone that can afford to buy it to buy it.

Ray arrived bearing gifts. He brought a big flask for keeping drinks warm which we have needed for a long time now. It gets very cold outside the Jobcentre so now we can offer a warm drink to people, so thank you Ray. Also he gifted us a hi vis vest, both are given in the memory of an amazing campaigner, Christine Archibald, who was killed in the London Bridge terror attack. She was an amazing lady, who was a support worker for the homeless and her work will never be forgotten #chrissysentus

Even though Ray is based in London, we are experiencing the same issues, although we have experienced Universal credit for a lot longer than most areas. It was amazingly good to talk about these issues, and discuss and share ideas etc.

Ray you are a legend thank you so much.

Some of the food parcels were handed out to people who wanted to remain anonymous and I respect that. They are struggling supporting themselves and family members. Some are working and suffering  because of the benefit cap. It’s a very hard position to be in, because they are working they can find it hard to find help. But they were signposted and given food.

I spoke to a couple of WASPI ladies again, this time different women, both suffering as a result of not being able to claim their rightful pension. They have been shown a massive injustice and I really hope that they get their pensions.

I spoke to a young man who is receiving help from local organisations, so we just chatted and let him know that we are there for him to chat to as well. He’s doing so well and is a lovely young man.

Another young man shouted over to us saying that what we are saying is true, and that we should keep up the good work. He went on to tell me that he had just witnessed a lady being badly treated by her Jobcentre advisor after receiving a sanction. So I waited for her to leave, gave her a food parcel and signposted her to relevant organisations. I hope that I showed her some hope on such an awful day for her.

It’s hard to describe everything that we do in the space of two hours, but we do a lot. And we do our best to help everyone.

Today we had a good morale boost, made a new friend and helped lots of people. This is what we do best and whilst people still continue to need the help we will be there for them.

Please, if you are local to the Manchester area, come and say hello. We would love to meet you.

Many thanks to everyone that came along today, and to Steph who also made a special journey today. It is appreciated.

I am furious that the government treats people like this, but it’s expected from a Tory government. They care only for themselves, and unless a poorer person is of some value to them they will deprive them of their basic needs, humiliate them and degrade them. This is because this government does not hold any value on a working class person’s life unless they can make some money out of them.

Here is the link for Ray’s book.

 

 

http://www.rochdaleonline.co.uk/news-features/138/community-news/111800/antiausterity-campaigner-charlotte-hughes-guest-speaker-at-castleton-labour-meeting

https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-e155-Mental-health-The-vulnerable-suffer-what-they-must

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A hard morning. A man crying, rain pouring. It’s supposed to be August.

I’m not going to bother you with talking about the weather, I’ve said it in today’s blog title. It was raining AGAIN. Will we ever get a break, and have some good weather for once? My heart went out to Richard, a homeless chap who I buy a cuppa for most mornings and chat to. We always put the world to rights. He deserves a medal, such a nice man who has unfortunately fallen on hard times.

Gordon, who normally drops the food parcels off is currently unwell, get well soon Gordon! We missed you today! So Roy collected them also. He’s not feeling 100% well either, nor am I but we plod on and thank you so much, Roy, for your help and dedication.

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The food parcels went to people who had no food or very little through no fault of their own. it’s extremely hard to manage on the meagre amount of money that the government provides, that is, if you haven’t been sanctioned or refused your rightful claim of ESA. People still have to pay the bedroom tax and the council tax supplement. They also might have debts to pay, gas and electric to buy. The list never ends does it?

 

 

I spoke to a man who had been made homeless due to no fault of his own. He was living in very sub standard accommodation and had complained about it. The landlord then made the decision to evict him. I’m not sure about the exact details, but I do know that he hadn’t received adequate advice regarding how to claim housing benefit etc. If we had met him previously we would have done so.

He started to cry and went on to tell me that yes he does drink, but not to get drunk. Just enough to stop getting ill. “I’m 47 years old, I never expected that I would be living like this. I had a home, a life. I worked. Now I’m treated like crap and only a few care”

He took his phone out of his pocket and showed me the photos of his previous accommodation. To say it was disgusting is a massive understatement. No one should be forced to live like this and my heart went out to him.

We did signpost him to relevant organisations, and he assured us that he will work with them the best that he can do.

 

 

I said hello to a man that I’ve seen in my local area for a few years now. He’s a refugee and has managed to get permanent residence to stay and work in the UK.  His advisor is giving him a hard time though, most likely because his English is poor and from experience, they do target people with a poor grasp of the English vocabulary.

They have had him on daily signing on appointments for a long time now, he hasn’t been told why but he has to attend or get sanctioned. When a person is put on daily signings they are given a special card that gets them into the Jobcentre quickly. I would say a get out of jail card, but it’s more like a get in jail card. They told him that he wasn’t allowed to show anyone the card but I saw it. Their excuse is that it’s the property of the DWP. No, it’s not. If the gentleman has to carry this with him every day, then it’s his property. He can show who he likes when he likes.

Look out for people having to carry these cards. They are a sign that the person carrying it has been singled out for some reason, so it’s always worth asking them.

 

 

I spoke to an older gentleman who had been refused his ESA. I offered him help, but he is a man on a mission and was adamant that he will be appealing and he has it in hand. So hopefully he has, and hopefully, he will overturn that decision, as so many rightfully do.

 

 

I spoke to a young lad who has managed to find a bed at a local homeless hostel. He’s trying his best to sort his life out and to get on top of his mental health issues. It’s not going to be easy living there, but I could tell from what he was saying that he will do it.

 

 

We saw far too many older people forced to use the Jobcentre today, one man, in particular, looked very ill but didn’t want to speak to anyone. That place does that to you. The system can make a person shy away and become wary of society. They are treated like rubbish by their so called advisors, so expect the same from everyone else.

 

 

Once again, far too many WASPI women forced to use the Jobcentre and also far too many women with very young children. This also breaks my heart.

 

 

There were only four of us there today, I and Roy were on our own for a good while. It was tough, heartbreaking and stressful, but we will always be there to help others. They need the support.

 

Today should have been our 4th anniversary, but I made the decision to postpone our special demo because we have guests from other campaigns coming to visit in several weeks and I would like it to coincide with their arrival.

 

I couldn’t take photos because I left the big camera at home due to the rain, and the phone I’m using is rubbish so please forgive me. I am trying to rectify this though.

I’m tired, a tad fed up but I won’t stop helping those in need because their journey is far harder than mine.

 

 

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Today’s workfare demonstration outside The Salvation Army charity shop Ashton Under Lyne. 

It was decided that as a group we would take a stand against the immoral stance that the Salvation Army have taken regarding workfare. Since writing the last blog I have heard many first hand accounts of claimants experiences there, and none of their stories were nice. These claimants deserve representation, many are too scared to speak out about it but we don’t mind. This is a situation that needs to be highlighted.

As mentioned in my previous blog The Salvation Army have been working with the Jobcentre to recruit “volunteers”. These claimants are told that they have no choice, that they have to sign up to “volunteer” with The Salvation Army otherwise they will get sanctioned. Refusal to comply will ensure that your voluntary position becomes mandatory, therefore you will incur all the penalties that come with that. The Salvation Army are only too happy to oblige.

We arrived at our location and decided to stand in front of the shop. As soon as we were spotted by the manager we were told that we had to move because we were stood in front of the shop window. We made it clear, that it was our intention to do so, and we had every right to hold a peaceful protest in a public area. We also stated that we wernt moving. This did nothing to lighten her mood, so she went back inside the shop and called for security.

Security arrived. Having been a resident of Ashton Under Lyne for most of my life I know a lot of people, and I happened to know this chap. He was very pleasant, asked what we were doing, we explained and he didn’t take issue. However his employer did. He seemed to be of the mindset that you can’t protest about a moral issue, but you can only protest about a legal issue. We corrected him and informed him that we wernt moving. We were causing no harm, indeed we had a lot of support from the public. Some members of the public had actually been forced to “volunteer” there and not one had a good word to say about the place. The Salvation Army tried to send a member of staff outside to attempt to intimidate us by taking our photo and telling us to “move”. We stood our ground and had a good morning chatting to members of the public about workfare and why it is wrong. One person disagreed, as is their right, but they also stated that they were an ex DWP worker so what else could we expect?

As one member of the public stated “if you are forced to volunteer the organisation isn’t going to get the right sort of volunteer. They won’t want to be there, they won’t want to do the work. Volunteering should be voluntary because when it is people are happy and enthusiastic.”

Forcing someone to “volunteer” for up to 30 hours a week is enforced labour, no matter what name you decide to call it.

The definition of slavery as quoted in Collins Dictionary is;

1″ The state or condition of being a slave; a civil relationship whereby one person has absolute power over another and controls his life, liberty and fortune.

2. The subjection of a person to another person esp in being forced to work

3. The condition of being subject to some influence or habit

4. Work done in harsh conditions for low pay”

Being faced with loosing all your income if you don’t “comply” falls exactly into that category.

We will be returning.

Jeremiah 22:13King James Version (KJV)

13 Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbour’s service without wages, and giveth him not for his work;

 

  
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We are not human machinery. 

Karl Marx wrote a book titled Das Kapital l many years ago. In it he quoted from a letter written by Edmund potter to the times during the cotton famine. 

This famine hit Lancashire and other areas of the country particularly hard. What struck me is the wording that is used in this letter. Living people are reffered to as ‘human machinery’. They didn’t think to keep their ‘human machinery’ in good order they just kept it so busy that it didn’t get ideas of reacting to the terrible working conditions that they were forced to endure. Profits were too important as was child labour which was more profitable and easy to obtain. 

And so capitalism was born. Nothing has changed, they just use different names for the same ideals. We are kept busy with constant unpaid workfare positions, constant job searches, working part time is now classed as underemployed and we must ‘strive’ hard to improve this with full time work even though it doesn’t exist enough to fill the criteria set out. We are sanctioned and made to live without anything if the masters at the DWP judge us as being unworthy. Make no mistake they will continue to do so unless we say enough is enough. 

We are not machinery and we must not allow them to treat us as such. 

I run this blog on a shoestring and I would love to keep it going. Please donate to help keep our campaign going. We work very hard at this and it has become more or less a full time job for me.