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. 

http://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=K47PHPHS5XYRC” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow noopener noreferrer”>.

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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My money saving tips.

If like me you are beyond skint and need to save as much money as myself you might find these tips useful.

I have been using these ideas for years now and they have really helped. I’m always looking for more ways to save money and I live a very frugal life. I must add not out of choice but out of necessity.

If you haven’t tried any of these then give them a go, but please ensure that you are safe before doing so.

Today the temperature hit below zero and snow is predicted, so I have gone into full winter mode. You can never be too well prepared.

Clothes.

First layers really do make a difference. I always wear a thermal vest and legggings under my clothes. If its extra cold then an extra layer of thermals as well. I don’t wear skirts so wearing cheap leggings isn’t a problem. They are as warm as thermals but are half the price.

Hat. 

You know the old saying? Your never properly dressed without a hat? Well in winter this really makes a difference. We loose most of our heat from our heads when outside, so wearing a hat really makes a difference. A pound shop one works really well, they sell some really good ones.

Scarf. 

I used to hate wearing a scarf but they really do keep you warm. I always wear one now. It certainly keeps the chill off.

Gloves. 

I start with fingerless and then when it gets really cold I wear my fingerless gloves over my normal gloves. Pound shop gloves are fab and mine have lasted me years. Ive been lucky this year, a comrade has knitted me a lovely pair of fingerless gloves.

Footwear. 

Wear boots if you have any, if you haven’t put insoles in your shoes and in your boots. They will make your feet much warmer. In winter wear thicker socks if you have them.

If you do all or any of the above you should be much warmer. 

Around the home. 

I find these tips invaluable. If you can give them a go, they will save you money. I’ve been doing this for years.

Flower pot heater. 

This is invaluable. It will save you money but please keep safe and out of the reach of children. It does get hot.

Here’s a link off YouTube for you to watch. It’s worth the initial outlay.

Bubble wrap on windows. 

Don’t laugh, it might not look fantastic but it will keep your house warmer. I do this every year and it’s simple and easy to do.

You will need a few rolls of bubble wrap and a plastic spray bottle with water in. If you don’t have a spray bottle you can sponge the window down.

Cut the bubble wrap to the size of the window pane, not the frame. You only need to cover the glass.

Spray the window.

Place the bubble wrap on the glass flat side down. Do not put this outside of your house it’s meant to go inside.

Continue until your windows are finished.

The bubbles trap the air inside and keep your window warm by insulating them. Your windows will now feel warm to the touch.

Here’s some photos.

Ignore the mess. My cats insist on sleeping above the fish tank that has plants growing inside it. If it makes them happy then I don’t mind.

I hope that you found this useful. I know it’s a little different than the normal blog but I feel it’s important to share ideas.

Please donate to help keep the campaign going. If you can’t then share!

Thank you!
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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.

Unhappy DWP staff telling us directly that they are unhappy. The reality of the situation has now hit them. 

Some people mistake the reason why we stand outside Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre. We stand there in protest of the disgusting regime enforced by the government. We also stand there to help and advise claimants, both are equally important. We don’t stand there shouting, our main purpose is to empower claimants, so they can feel confident enough to fight back against the system, and the advice that we give them is invaluable. 

Today was a strange day, the weather was warm, and a good crowd turned up. We were busy helping a claimant who had been told to claim JSA (Job Seekers Allowance) because she had failed her ATOS assement. She is appealing this, and as a result now has to apply for JSA whilst her appeal is dealt with. She was given no information on how to conduct her job searches etc, and I’m sure that her advisor was expecting her to fail on this. She won’t however, because I instructed her on what to do and not to do and she felt happier. She had told us that her advisor had warned her not to speak to that lot outside, but thankfully she ignored her and asked us lots of questions. 

Just as I was finishing helping this woman, two DWP workers purposely walked out of the building. This is a very rare sight indeed, because they usually prefer to use the back door, or they take their badges off. It certainly looked like they had had enough. They shouted that they only do sixteen hours work a week and will be punished for doing this. I said, yes you will be because it’s all part of the new in work conditionality of which everyone who will be shifted over to universal credit off JSA or Income support will have to do.  ( I’ve wrote about this in an earlier blog.)  Our answer to this was, yes we know that you are having a hard time, we do sympathise with you, and we also know that you will be sent to another Jobcentre to comply with the rules and receive any sanctions etc that you may receive. They were angry, but sadly are a victim of the system that they have helped to create, either knowingly, or un knowingly. I’m not going to go into the problems that exist within their union the PCS. There’s a lot of internal things that urgently need to be sorted out, and help from the top is much needed. But I sympathise with the decent workers and union reps trying to take a stand and to change things. This does not mean that I sympathise with the workers who actually enjoy applying sanctions and harsh conditionality for claimants. They need to be held accountable for their actions, as do those who prevent positive action. One day I hope that this will happen. 

I’ve no idea if these women are unionised, a fair amount of DWP workers aren’t, and here also lies the problem. But what I can say is that you can never dance with the devil and expect to get away untarnished. Everyone working less that full time hours and claiming any type of benefit will be affected when they get shifted over to Universal Credit. And as I’ve said before, Universal credit has been purposely created to work this way. There’s no mistakes, it’s created to harm and demoralise people to push them to the edge. 

I also believe, alongside others, that the only time that people will start protesting against Universal Credit is when they are hit themselves by the in work conditionality element of it. It will affect working people, people who thought that they were safe, will soon realise that they aren’t safe. Maybe the regular claimants won’t be demonised as much then, but I doubt that. 

Many thanks to everyone who came along and supported us today. It makes all the difference. Thank you very much. 

Ex Jobcentre workers signing on….

The other week I heard a story about ex Jobcentre workers signing on at a Jobcentre not too far away. I was  interested in this so I did some research. Every article on my blog is fully researched.

I found it to be true.. Yes there are ex Jobcentre workers that are signing on. But these Jobcentre workers are mostly the disabled and the older workers that have been pushed into taking redundancy or the equivalent of this. I learnt that these workers were treated extremely badly and many couldn’t handle the stress anymore. I wonder how long it will be before they are sanctioned and are victims of the system that they helped to create?

I know that many Jobcentre workers aren’t sympathetic, the nicer ones have been pushed out. The ones that would actually help you have gone, replaced with the over enthusiastic and zealous advisors. I found this whilst signing on, you never knew who you were going to be sent to next. The uncertainty of it all is stressful enough and is very hard to cope with. Signing on made me Ill. I became anxious for the first time in my life, I became depressed and my hair even started to fall out. Thankfully I found low paid work where I wasn’t treated well but it was better than the stress of being unemployed.
I’m not sure that I could do it again.

Here’s a little insight into the goings on at a DWP call centre. It says it all really.

GUIDELINES on how to deal with suicidal benefits claimants have been handed out by the Department for Work and Pensions to Scots workers tasked with rolling out the UK Government’s controversial welfare reforms.

As part of a six-point plan for dealing with suicidal claimants who have been denied welfare payments, call-centre staff in Glasgow have been told to wave the guidance, printed on a laminated pink card, above their head.

The guidance is meant to help staff dealing with unsuccessful applicants for Universal Credit who are threatening to self-harm or take their own life.

A manager is then meant to rush over to listen in to the call and workers – who insist they have had no formal training in the procedure – must “make some assessment on the degree of risk” by asking a series of questions.

One section of the six-point plan, titled “gather information”, demands that staff allow claimants to talk about their intention to commit suicide.

The call-centre workers, who earn between £15,000 and £17,000 a year, must “find out specifically what is planned, when it is planned for, and whether the customer has the means-to-hand”, according to the guidance seen by the Sunday Herald.

Staff are also warned in the plan that they may have “thoughts and feelings” about the situation afterwards and offered reassurance that “this is all part of the process of coping with the experience and is normal”.

Glasgow-based call-centre workers have accused the DWP of asking them to carry out the job of a psychologist or social worker.

The SNP have accused the UK Government of “playing a dangerous game with people’s lives”.

Universal Credit combines six working-age benefits – including housing benefit, Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and tax credits – into a single payment. Although not yet fully rolled out across the UK, Universal Credit is already available to benefit claimants in more than 40 so-called “Jobcentre areas” in Scotland, including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, Inverness and Dumfries as well as parts of Lanarkshire, Aberdeenshire and Ayrshire.

Processors and telephonists have to contact claimants to tell them they have been denied the new benefit or are facing sanctions which can mean payments are withheld for up to three years.

One Scottish call handler, who asked not to be named, said: “Some of us have been given a baby-pink laminated sheet which we’ve been told to hold up in the air if someone threatens to self-harm or commit suicide. So, when we are on the phone speaking to claimants – who are often very vulnerable people who are being sanctioned all the time and have no money – if they express that they intend to harm themselves or kill themselves there is a sheet instructing us how to react, which involves asking a number of questions, including how they intend to do it.

“This would suggest the DWP is expecting it to happen and I assume that this procedure is in place so that they can say they did their part. But we are not trained to deal with vulnerable people in this way. It’s a very distressing thing for us to handle.

“They’re basically telling us to assess claimants by asking how they intend to self-harm or commit suicide, which is a job that only a trained psychologist, social worker, or at the very least, a counsellor should be doing.”

Another worker said: “There was a man on the phone to me who said if he didn’t get money he’d kill himself. This was before we were issued with the guidelines and I wasn’t sure what to do so I could only try to calm him down.

“He hung up the phone and when I tried to call him back I couldn’t get through. It was very upsetting. I spent the rest of the day worried that he may have taken his own life.

“It wasn’t until the next day that a colleague told me they spoke to him later and he didn’t go through with it.

“But I know of colleagues who have been told by claimants that they are going to commit suicide and they have done so. It’s devastating for them.”

This is why they leave. The DWP think nothing of being cruel towards their own employees.

Please join us outside Ashton under lyne Jobcentre every Thursday between 1-3. We need to continue to tell this government that their actions are wrong. They literally have blood on their hands.


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