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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Exhausted and Thursdays demo.

As usual I’ve been very busy this week, its been a mentally challenging week and the implementation of the new benefit cap and the american elections hasn’t helped.

We all have our own struggles, and mine have been compounded by the reminder of Christmas looming and my daughters birthday next week. Not being able to afford either is a struggle, and is a struggle for thousands of parents. We don’t normally speak about it we just muddle on and do our best. And the government have just made it a whole lot worse.

Anyway, enough about me. Thursday was an exceptionally cold day. We had wind, rain, hail and snow all in the space of a couple of hours. Not unusual for the north west of England. The cold atmosphere emanating from inside Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre certainly did not help matters.

As I was unpacking my leaflets from my trusty shopping trolley I noticed a young man stood outside the Jobcentre watching me. He looked cold and worried so I walked over to him and asked him if he would like a leaflet. At first he was hesiitant, but after I explained what the leaflet was about and who I was he opened up.

He had been sanctioned twice for non attending appointments which he never received notice about. This is not unusual and I have wrote about this before. He was not told of his right to appeal against their decision. So I informed him, of his rights and he confirmed that he would take action. We had a good chat and he went inside the Jobcentre for his appointment.

I noticed that there was alot of older people having to attend the Jobcentre this week, hardly any of them suitably dressed for the weather. We engaged in conversation and handed leaflets to them. They need to know that they aren’t alone.

We spoke to a young woman who had to attend the Jobcentre with her young baby. She’s claiming ESA and her Jobcentre advisor is treating her appallingly. She suffers extreme anxiety and was shaking when we were speaking to her. She told us that her advisor had told her to stop crying and shaking because she seems many other claimants and they don’t cry and shake. She showed a wilful ignorance of this poor ladies medical condition.

This poor woman has been made to jump constantly through hoops, the requests made upon her are unreasonable and we explained this to her. I told her that she must get help and advice asap and to see her local MP, whom luckily is very sympathetic and pro active. We gave her a food parcel which was much needed, and we let her know that we are there for her to support her. Knowing that you aren’t on your own makes a massive difference and can sometimes make that difference between life and death.

We handed out all food parcels in record time, but I must state for anyone attending our demos that they are given on a first come, first served basis. The demand for them is really high because there is so many people having to use the Jobcentre who is hungry. I just wish that there was more that I could do. Also there’s no shame in needing a food parcel. The shame is directed to the government who are knowingly and willfully allowing innocent people to starve. This is never acceptable. We also handed out portions of home made curry donated kindly by a comrade. It was very warmly welcomed and was a nice surprise.

We did so much more, and the turnout for our demo was at one point 25. I think this is amazing. Comrades braved the cold weather to support the people who are forced to use the Jobcentre, they wanted to show solidarity which is amazing. They are all wonderful.

This weeks demo was absent of the “Go and get a job” or “Scumbag” hecklers. It was a refreshing change, maybe the cold weather scared them off.

Some good news this week, which was convieniently hidden within the American election results. I’ve got to hand it to the Daily Mail, they are good at releasing news, when they know it will be hidden. The United Nations Court Of Human Rights has issued the first part of their very damning report into the way the sick and disabled are being treated by the government and the DWP. This report is very damning, and I’m sure that they would like it to be swept under the carpet. Unfortunately for them, it’s not going to be. Both myself, comrades from DPAC who are absolutely amazing and other groups will be constantly reminding them. It’s an issue close to my heart, especially after helping claimants for so long. I would say on average about 75% OF claimants that I talk to are disabled and have failed their ESA medical. Some days that figure is higher, but never lower. It’s appalling.

A big shoutout to everyone who came along this week, it was amazing to see you. A big shoutout to everyone that supports us online, it really means alot. Also a big thanks to Pauline, Rick Burgess, Dianne and everyone else that has had to put up with me this week. A massive thank you.


As you have read, this campaign is really hard work. Alot of time is involved on the streets, talking to people and attending meetings. Indeed, Ive just returned from a meeting despite feeling under the weather. The campaign comes first as always! Because one day we will have justice for everyone who has died and suffered as a result of this governments inhumane treatment of the poorset and most vulnerable in society. Austerity is a political choice not a necessity.
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Claimant told to break his probation to attend Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre. 

As I arrived for our weekly demonstration I was approached by a young man who appeared a little anxious. I took my leaflets out of my shopping trolley and asked him if he would like one. I could see that he was cold and worried.

He was a pleasant young man who had just been awarded his claim for ESA after a long battle to receive it. He had been helped by his social worker and other support workers. He openly told me that he had been diagnosed with a personality disorder after a long period of diagnosis and during that time, because he wasn’t receiving any treatment he had fallen off the rails and had got into bother.

He explained to me that he was trying to get his life in order and was doing his best. He said he just wants to be able to get stable on his medication and start the long journey of getting his life back.

Unfortunately he had been placed in the work related activity group of ESA. Which does mean that he still has to comply with some job search related activities. One of these involves attending the Jobcentre for interviews and a request that he starts a course with the group invicta whom Ive spoken about before. He said that his advisor said that they will be able to help with his illness. The first appointment is voluntary but the following aren’t. This isn’t good because he isn’t stable enough to commit to anything at the moment. He wont be taking them up on their offer of attention this course for more than the first voluntary attendance. His priority is meeting up with the proffesional agencies that he is involved with. One of these being probation.

Unfortunately he has been given a curfew, and it includes the ruling that he doesn’t go anywhere in the town centre. Simple enough to understand, but the Jobcentre advisor just doesn’t seem to understand this. He was forced to attend a Jobcentre appointment last week, the police spotted him on the towns cctv camera and they pulled him up. Infact they were waiting outside the police station for him.

This week he was forced to do the same thing. He explained to the Jobcentre that he has a curfew, and they told him that its tough. Either he attends his interview, or he doesn’t and he gets sanctioned.

This has plainly put him in an impossible situation. He can’t afford to receive a sanction, no one can and his illness would get far worse. So he had to break the law because of an advisors ruling. What hope is there for him?

He is getting further advice on this and after his appointment he ran off to attend an appointment to try and sort this out. I of course advised him.

But the DWP openly telling this young man to break the law is plainly law. The DWP aren’t above the law, even though they think that they are and I really hope that he takes legal action against them and the advisor. They should not be giving advice like this. But of course in their eyes the Jobcentre comes first.

As I arrived at the Jobcentre with my trusty shopping trolley I was called a scumbag by a passer by. I’m used to awful comments like this and one day I will be able to buy a video camera to show folk what it can be like at times.

We were stopped by a lovely lady who’s brother had been failed his ESA decision. He’s a type 1 diabetic and he’s had no money for weeks. She travels all the way from Wales to help him, to make sure he has some electric on his metre and to give him food. He has an ulcer on his leg and as well as the diabetes he has many other diabetic related illnesses. I’m very sure that he would be dead by now if it wasn’t for her care. We advised her and she had made appointments with Citizens Advice to further that help.

Lots of comrades and supporters arttended our demo today. A comrade counted 25 at one point. The amazing film I, Daniel Blake has certainly played a massive part in this. Thank you so much Ken, Paul and team.

Two of my friends from the anti fracking movement the Nanas surprised me with a visit. They had travelled miles and I started to cry. Tears of happiness they are amazing women.

It was freezing today and Ive been very busy campaigning because as I said there’s alot more to this campaign than just turning up for a two hour demo every Thursday. My daughter told me this morning that obviously she comes first and then the Jobcentre. Sad but true. It’s not easy being a single parent on a very restricted income.

Please donate if you are able to, if not please share my blog etc.
Some good news though! One of the men in our video has now got a flat of his own to live in. I said last week that he had received his first ESA payment and now he has his flat. Its amazing news he was very proud to be able to tell us that he was able to cook his first meal and sleep in his own bed. I have spent time in a women’s refuge on several occasions in the past so I can totally relate to this. The feeling is amazing. I’m so happy for him I just wish that everyone had somewhere to call home for themselves. It’s not alot to ask is it.
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https://www.theguardian.com/politics/video/2016/oct/21/meet-the-real-daniel-blakes-ken-loach-video

Bad news though, the new benefit cap comes into play this week and its going to hurt alot of people. I knew that this was happening but it doesn’t stop me from getting angry and upset.

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.


 

 

 

In work conditonality, the very worrying select committee report.

On Wednesday of this week, the government select committee reported its latest findings in a report which can be read here http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmselect/cmworpen/549/54902.htm This report mainly concerned itself with Universal Credit and in work conditionallity.

Most people, when they find work think that they are safe, that they dont have to worry about the Jobcentre anymore. They, quite rightly, feel that they have achieved a great goal and have found a job. Wether that job is a part time job or full time job it is what both themselves and the DWP want. They think that they wont be monitored anymore, that they will be free to enjoy their life. All that will be changing once everyone is switched over to Universal Credit.

Universal Credit will be taking over the Working Tax Credit, and Child Tax Credit element and therefore if you either work part time hours, or earn a low wage and have to top up with Working Tax Credit, Child Tax credit and Housing Benefit you will be forced to comply with in work conditionality.This is already being trialed at my local Jobcentre which is Ashton under lyne and I have already written about this before. It is already being trialed at various other Jobcentres in the north of the country.
I am aware that other people have blogged about this but there are several areas in this report which are very worrying indeed.

According to the select committee report your employer will become a co-signer to your claimant commitment that you will be forced to sign, and adhere to once you are shifted over to Universal Credit. They will also be able to actually draw up your claimant commitment with the DWP advisor, therefore they will have equal access to as they will be deemed data sharers in delivering the work programme.
What happened to the data protection act I hear you ask? Last year there was a cross party campaign, including Labour politicions to allow third parties access to your claimant information. They thought that this would be a good thing, and they thought this because it would allow agencies such as housing associations access to to your claimant information so they could ‘help’ you.

Ian Duncan Smith was very co operative, and of course he would be. Enabling this would also enable the DWP to give any organisaton data sharing status to any organisation that it deems delivering the Universal Credit programme. This could very easily become an employer or Work Programme provider.
Politicians from other parties might have seen this as a good thing, but it has opened up a whole new tin of worms, and a nasty one at that. My advice to them would be to never trust a Tory Trojan gift horse in the mouth.

This will ensure that there will be no privacy for Universal Credit claimants.

Would you really want your employer to be involved in drawing up your Universal Credit claimant commitment? If your employer isnt the plesant or helpful type this could become a total nightmare. They would report back to the DWP on your in work development and your in work progression.
The DWP will also have the powers to harrass your employer into demanding that they give you more hours. (I have already written about this in a previous blog).
If your employer isnt the caring type, they could report anything that they want, even if it is lies. They could also dismiss you because of the DWP harrasment that they have been getting. Afterall, they are trying to run a buisness, and dont want to be answerable to the DWP. And for those saying that this won’t happen, it will happen, we have already seen the start of it here. (I have already written about this in a previous blog).

To make this very clear. Universal Credit claimants that are working have to be answerable to their ‘job coach’. They have to be seen to do adequate jobsearches and they have to prove that they are doing this, the same as unemployed Universal Credit claimants. The job searches on top of their working hours can range from 16-30 hours, depending on the hours that you have worked. The new powers will enable employers to become involved with this.

They already have plans to move this scheme to higher earning claimants and will implement in work progression to those earning up to 20k to level it off to the benefit cap. In their words “If in work progression is such a good thing for the 1 million poorer workers, why not benefit the better off workers to the same conditionality”

“We will treat working claimants with light touch conditionality” Tell that to the workers that have already been sanctioned and are suffering, many with children.

I have doubts that this will be stopped, or indeed halted because very sadly, Universal Credit has the wind in its sails because it has widespread political consencious. I can only think that Labour politicians agreeing to this were duped in some way, by the smooth talking spin doctors. They could not have spoken to the workers on this trial, because they would have told a very different story. I do feel that they just agreed with the DWP and it’s “findings” based upon a small trial. I know that we can never trust their “findings” because they are assessed by themselves for themselves and will always be in their favour.
Its a terrible state of affairs where decisions like this can be made without on foot research. And anything that Ian Duncan Smith had been enthusiastic about should have shone like a warning beacon to politicians from opposing parties.

 

 

http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/comment-long-awaited-peer-reviews-suggest-ministers-failed-to-act-after-deaths-of-vulnerable-claimants/

http://nr.news-republic.com/Web/ArticleWeb.aspx?regionid=4&articleid=64344845

Universal credit. The devil’s tool.

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I wrote about this a long time ago. Some took notice most didnt. There’s this strange attitude in the UK, if it’s not happening to me then I’m not bothered. But when it does happen to me I’m going to go mad. Thankfully myself and likewise folk are not like this. We see the implications and share them as widely as possible.

Universal credit isnt there to help you find work, that I’m sure of. Most people who are claiming universal credit are already working and are forced to comply with obscene job searches on top of this. If you aren’t working 39 hours a week or more you are seen as being under employed, so therefore have to comply with their rules.

Remember the man that I wrote about a long time ago? He was a single bloke working but forced to go onto universal credit. He had a job work an agency and could never guarantee his hours. It was also a zero hour contract. Basically work when we tell you because you never know when we will give you work again.
This man had worked a full week of nights, but he still had to complete his job search. They monitored him closely, ensuring that he didn’t get any rest. He tried his best to complete the number of hours given for his job searches, but he was a hour short because he fell asleep.
Ashton jobcentre didn’t use their discretion. Nope they sanctioned him his top up. At the time this also meant his housing benefit, although thankfully this has been corrected now. 
He lost everything, he didn’t get any work for a month, so lost his home, his family and he was literally starving. We signposted him to help and fed him, gave him a hat, gloves and scarf. Ive never seen a man as bereft of everything and he was close to taking his own life.
But no one took notice… Because it wasn’t happening to them.
We are however challenging their rules. If you are already in work then you ate obviously already seeking to obtain more work. Also the attitude that a single parent should have to work full time is terrible. A child needs to see their parents. For a single parent, working is already a struggle, but faced with hardly being able to see their children, well in my eyes that is heartbreaking. Don’t be fooled by the sudden kindness of this government in providing nursery places for 2 year old children. This is to ensure that you either return to work or take part in their awful work programme activities.
It’s not kindness we are plainly a commodity to them.

You can read the original blog if you scroll down.

This is why my comrades and myself campaign every week outside Ashton under Lyne jobcentre every week. We give help and advice to others.
We are also a knowledgeable bunch if people and we know our stuff. So pop by and say hello. We are there every Thursday 10-12

Remember just because it’s not happening to you doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter!