Today’s blog. Stress, suffering and yet more rain. 

I can understand if you are fed up of my complaining, but this is what it is like, week in, week out. Nearly four years later and after much complaining myself and my colleagues are still here, helping people. It’s a travesty that we still need to isn’t it. 
I arrived at Ashton jobcentre mid phone call. I was talking to a colleague. As usual there were people waiting for help, although it was a bit slower than usual. The DWP has a habit of changing a claimants time to sign on, just to frustrate them I think. They like to disrupt a persons routine as much as possible and to make things difficult. I’m certain that this is done to keep people on their toes, and is a constant reminder that big brother is always watching them. 

Remember, once a person is caught up in the system their life isn’t their own anymore. Their every action, thought and very being belongs to the DWP. To comply is the most important thing, and even when they give a claimant a wrongful claimant commitment they are too scared to question it. The mantra must be repeated, “I must comply, I must comply”. If they don’t they stand a good chance of loosing everything. Their health, sanity, self respect, family and their home.

 Rarely is a case straight forward to deal with because the system isn’t straightforward. It’s purposely designed to be complicated and to make people suffer. Sometimes I think that the government would like them to disappear, well everyone that isn’t of any use to them in any way. They are quick to ensure that claimants have to undergo their awful work programme and workfare (work for nothing) schemes. They profit highly from these, and so do the directors of these companies and businesses. 

Today was particularly awful for a lady and her partner that we have been helping and giving support to. They had finally, after months of waiting been allowed to claim Universal Credit that they were entitled to. Having a baby recently had complicated things, and although signposted they like to speak to us because we are trained to help, and they also trust us. Trust is a massive issue, more than you would think. The DWP sucks any trust that a person had in anyone away, so we build this trust up. And I’m proud of the work that we do. 

I saw them dash into the Jobcentre, I knew that this wasn’t their regular signing on day and they looked very rushed and stressed, so I asked them what was wrong? Could we help them in any way? 

Their problem wasn’t caused by them, the very flawed Universal Credit system had taken them off the system without their knowledge and the Jobcentre staff were far from helpful. The system does this sometimes and when it does it’s devastating. When your only source of income is taken away, your lifeline it’s the worst thing that can happen. After some advice, she went back into the building and they actually let her use a telephone to phone the Universal Credit system up and to sort it out. 

Common sense would say that an ‘advisor’ should do this for them, but like my readers will know, the DWP aren’t known for their common sense and compassion, but at least she was allowed to use a telephone. I’m sure that our presence helped with this. 

After a long telephone call, she was told that their claim will be started as a new one and they will have to wait for their first payment. It’s just not good enough. She has children to feed. But huzzah they advised her that she can get a ‘loan’ off them whilst their claim is waiting to be processed. A loan that has to be taken back upon her first payments and concurrent ones. They decide the rate. She has no choice to accept. As a result her payments will ensure that she will be forced to live on much less than she should be doing. It’s a trap that most Universal Credit claimants fall into out of necessity. 

We spoke to a WASPI lady, a 60yr old lady that has been told that she has to take part in the work programme. This lady is 60 years old, but looks much older. she’s worked all her life and has been reduced to having to do this. We sympathised with her, because there’s not a lot else that we can do. The DWP show no respect for age like we do. But she was very glad to see a friendly face. 

We spoke to a homeless chap, who is managing to get by. He has no substance or alcohol abuse issues, and as a result he keeps away from situations and places where there are these issues. I did signpost him to local organisations, but it’s up to him if he goes to these places. Some deal with the issues that he wants to steer clear of so it’s difficult for him. We can’t force anyone to engage with a certain organisation and nor should we. We get to know people, gain their trust and then maybe they can be persuaded to do so. But whatever decision that they make we will be there for them, because like I’ve said not one persons situation is straight forward, its usually complicated and we understand that. 

We spoke to a young lady who is also a carer for her mother. We had seen her briefly last week as she wheeled her mum into the Jobcentre. Once again we asked if they were ok, their response was that they wern’t ok. The young ladies advisor had told her that she has to look for full time work, even though she is a full time carer. We gave her the correct information and advice regarding this and they entered the Jobcentre. 

Thankfully they wern’t in too long. they had taken our advice and had seen a much nicer ‘advisor’ this time. Believe me some advisors can be more vindictive than others. Most likely because they are target driven. 

They left with a smile, some good advice and a food parcel because they are struggling. This isn’t because they aren’t claiming everything that they can claim, it’s because people simply aren’t given enough to live on. 

I spoke to a man who is sanctioned and who has a relative living with him who’s had failed his ESA medical. . I do signpost him every week, but he has trouble engaging with some organisations. He trusts us, Good news though, he will hopefully be receiving his first payment next week, and I’m so happy that he is. 

Today he was too scared to stand in front of the Jobcentre, he didn’t want to be seen and we get a lot of people that are like this. They feel that the DWP are watching them all the time and they aren’t wrong are they. 
We spoke to many people with many different issues. We have received training to help people through this awful system, and we have also had years of experience doing this. In my spare time I also check for legislation changes and converse with other groups such as DPAC who are a tremendous moral support to myself. 
We do signpost people, this isn’t as easy as people think. Like I’ve said before lots of people targeted by the Jobcentre find it hard to trust anybody, and certain situations can trigger anxiety etc. 

I spoke to a man leaving the Jobcentre who told me that he was from a work programme provider. I explained that I know exactly how these places are ran and what it’s like for the people forced to attend. I couldn’t let this opportunity slip, so I asked him what their employment rates are. How many actually gain decent employment after attending. He couldn’t really answer, which was no surprise because its all about the money not the person isn’t it. 
We were joined today by the gang from The Wigan pier project, this is a project ran in conjunction with the Daily Mirror, and is being done to highlight the similarities between George Orwell’s book The Road To Wigan Pier and modern times. The similarities are astounding and it was lovely to meet them. They showed great comapssion and understanding and I’m sure that their story will be really good. 
Tomorrow is the start of the summer holidays in my area and as you will have read in the newspapers, more children than ever will be going hungry. It’s abhorrent that the government quite happily ensures that children will be hungry. I’m expecting the demand on our help could well be higher, but we will be there for them. 
I was donated a kindle fire, that was donated to me  to a jobseeker to make their job searching easier. It’s not easy having to sit in Libaries and other suchlike places using their computers to do this. Having a bit of independence to complete their job searches on their own is a massive tool to empowerment. That is if they know exactly what their requirements are. I gave the kindle to D for himself and his mother to use. It will free their life up a bit, and they can now go to a cafe, or even Ikea to do this. 

Good news though! Pat a very talented member of our team has made a fantastic new banner for our four year anniversary which is coming up in the first week of September. It’s amazing and it will catch peoples attention. I will post details about this nearer the time. 

I need to apologise to the team for my rather stressed mood today. The summer holidays are looming and every now and then i feel like I’m getting nowhere quickly. Thank goodness that the campaign is going well though and that’s thanks to everyone that supports and reads my blog. Thank you all so much. 
I couldn’t take any photos today again I was far too busy. I’m going to really try next week, and I apologise. But this is a cracker isn’t it. Yes they’ve made a massive difference to the life chances of people throughout the country haven’t they… their life chances have been evaporated. 

I’ll end it on this note. A young man who had been made homeless today due to thoughtless and inconsiderate rulings made by a local social housing provider said this. ” I went in for help, they didn’t give me any. I went to housing options, they looked at me like I was a piece of rubbish, just like the Jobcentre did. I was given a piece of paper and that’s it. no one wanted to listen to me, they both just wanted rid of me. It’s wrong, I’m not a criminal, and now I’m homeless” 

This man was referred to a local homeless charity, but we did show him compassion and understanding and a food parcel to keep him going whilst he sorts everything out.

 I had to stop him and ask him what had happened though, rarely does anyone voluntarily come out with this information straight away. People feel ashamed, and they might think that no one else cares. But we do and we will always care. A lot of my time is spent asking people if they are ok, and also at times running after people who are in an angry state. I’ve mentioned this in a previous blog post. 
Keep safe out there folks, I’m thinking of you all. 

Big shoutouts to Kate Belgrave, Keith Ordinary Guy, DPAC, Unite Community, and everyone who reads and shares this blog. 

Please  donate help keep the blog and campaign going if you can. If not please share. It’s important that we keep talking about this all the time. This has become a full time job for myself, and anyone spending any time with me will attest to that.

 Thank you!

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Universal Credit promotion continuing and DWP involvement with The Poverty Agenda Group Oldham And Tameside.

Well, well well it seems that the DWP aren’t giving up as Teresa May suggested. My instincts were right in thinking that they would continue the planned roll out, after all they had just employed new staff especially for this purpose at a Jobcentre in a nearby town. 

Today I received a rather interesting email. It was from an organisation called Poverty Agenda Group Oldham And Tameside They work closely alongside several networks and organisations to provide resources and help to raise awareness, and to also provide practical help to those living in poverty across the Greater Manchester area. 

In this email that was sent out, it included a selection of roll out tools for the promotion of Universal credit. 

Now I found this extremely interesting as Universal credit has been proven to not make work pay. The waiting time for a Universal Credit claim to be processed at its quickest is six weeks, the longest period of time that I have heard of is three months. So why are The Poverty Agenda Group Oldham And Tameside Group  communicating with the DWP? 

Now included in this email is a complete tool kit which will give organisations everything that they would need to promote Universal Credit. So I have had a good look, and have picked some of the misleading information out to highlight to the readers of my blog. I do know that what I am about to show you is nothing new, but it does no harm indeed to show you again. People forget quickly. 

Now take note. This is the propaganda. Below is an image of the reality.

You are not better off in work whilst on Universal Credit, you are actually worse off. As from April 2016 the back to work bonus was taken away, leaving claimants with no benefit at all. Quite simply you end up worse off. It seems that the DWP has failed to correct their promotional material. 

Also in the material given, the DWP tries to pursuade organisations to ensure that claimants tick the boxes on the Universal Jobmatch job search account that claimants are forced to sign up to. 

Now if a claimant does this, they loose all privacy and their unreasonable job searches will be monitored at all times. I’ve seen cases of when a claimant was ten minutes short on their job search and they had their Universal Credit payments sanctioned. The amount of time that claimants have to search for jobs is entirely individual, for some claimants they have to job search for 35 hours a week. 

However in a recent freedom of information request it shows that legally you have no obligation to tick that box at all, and indeed the accompanying box next to it on the form. I always inform claimants that this is the most important thing to do. 

You can imagine how alarmed I was to see that The Poverty Agenda Group Oldham And Tameside are in communication with the DWP. They are supposed to be helping people out of poverty rather than dragging them into even more poverty. 

You also might be interested to learn that Universal Credit has lead to an increase in domestic violence incidences. The lack of money, and one person controlling the household income has had a detrimental effect. People are suffering, that I and others have no doubt and the suffering will indeed continue. Universal Credit was created to cause suffering I’m sure of that. 

Update: I have been contacted by a member of Greater Manchester Poverty Action. This has absolutley nothing to do with their group. The group involved is The Poverty Agenda Group Oldham And Tameside. An email had been sent to Greater Manchester Poverty Action and the sender from the Poverty Agenda Group had included them without their knowledge. 

I have therefore amended my blog but I will not change my opinion that the original sender The Poverty Agenda Group Oldham And Tameside really need to think about their actions. Associating with the DWP is in my eyes morally wrong. 

I find it very disturbing that they are in communication with the DWP. 

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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Tameside hospital to hand out food parcels to patients. 

I live in Tameside and this is my local area. It’s a very poor area with small pockets of the more wealthier individuals, and sometimes I view these vast differences much the same as Charles Dickens did when he wrote A tale of two cities. Those with the extra cash sometimes have no idea that so many are going without the very basics. 

It’s not easy living in Tameside when you are poor, much the same as any other area in the country. Tameside is a name for an area which covers many small towns. Some of them quite rural, some of them urban. 

There is a very high level of unemployment in Tameside combined with evil zero hour contracts, a very harsh DWP sanctioning regime and also universal credit which was piloted in Ashton Under Lyne. 

We are hit from all angles. We have the bedroom tax to pay, the council tax supplement and combine this with the DWP sanctioning regeime it’s a disaster waiting to happen. 

Food banks aren’t everywhere and aren’t easily accessible for all. When you’ve got no money then you can’t even consider public transport, and the food that food banks provide are just meant to keep you going, mainly to stop you from starving. In my eyes it’s a travesty that food banks even have to exist. The government is quite proud of their existence when in reality they should be holding their heads in shame. 

When people are constantly hungry they become ill. Your immune system becomes depressed and I’m sure there has been an increase in doctors surgeries and my local hospital which is Tameside hospital. I can bet that nurses and doctors couldn’t believe the amount of malnutrition in their hospital. It must be like stepping back into Victorian times and is truly shocking. 

It’s a complete travesty that a hospital has to hand out food to patients to take home. It’s nothing short of a national disaster. But ask this government if they care and the answer will be no. 

But it’s getting worse. The local authority has got to make more cuts and many of them are going to be targeted at the poorest in Tameside and the services that are offered to the poorest in Tameside. I urge Tameside council to think again. By doing this then the situation is only going to get worse. I realise that your budget is being cut but please don’t take the lifeline away from those in the most need. 

 

  
Tell me Mr Cameron why are you doing this to the people of our country? This is nothing short of a national disaster and you Mr Cameron are breaching many basic human rights laws. Every human being should have access to food, water and a place to live. 

I will write later about our regular weekly demonstration yesterday. And once again I want to thank you for your support. Creative Commons License
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Our demo today demonstrating against the trial of the Troubled Families Phase 2. 

Today was a fantastic day and we were  blessed with very good weather. It had taken me a couple of weeks to organise this demo and I always get a bit nervous beforehand. Will anyone turn up? I always think that but I needn’t have worried.

Waiting for me at Ashton Town Hall was our newest member. He’s a young college student and an inspiration, he’s the voice of the youth and I’m really happy that he can join us. He brought along 9 placards that he had made especially and they were fantastic. Then everyone else started to arrive. I was amazed at the amount of people that arrived. People from all over the North west. They know that demonising the poor and targeting the poor with schemes such as this is very wrong.

As I started to speak people started to cheer and clap. People are not happy with this scheme and I’m so glad that people were listening. Some people were shocked to learn that Tameside council had agreed to this deal and everyone was in agreement that we have had enough of the people of our town being sold to the highest bidder, which is technically what they are doing. We handed lots of leaflets out and the atmosphere was fantastic.

Leaders of our local authority who had agreed this trial decided to sit at a cafe opposite and watch us. I invited them to come and speak but they didn’t respond, we wernt expecting them to but they heard us loud and clear.  The police were called but it wasn’t a problem a local PCSO turned up and left after 5 mins, and we wernt moved on like we usually are. The reason being I think was that most people were in agreement with us. Town hall officials attempted to move us but we stood our ground and when we pointed out that it is our the publics town hall and market ground they cheered in agreement.

I noticed a massive shift in peoples views today, people aren’t as accepting of the policies that our local government and the national government are forcing upon us. I’ve never heard as much cheering outside the town hall before and there probably hasn’t been a rally as powerful as today’s since Victorian times when it was a hive of political activity.

A massive thank you to members of Tameside Against The cuts, The Green Party, Unite In The Community, Left Unity and members of the public who attended.

The communist Party and members of the public that joined us. It was a day that I will remember for a long time.

Tears, chocolates and the poor should starve because they deserve it. 

Yesterday’s demo was a very mixed bag but very positive. Not long after we arrived a local buisness owner who claimed to be a Tory started shouting that the poor should go hungry. They do nothing but sit around doing nothing. They do nothing for society. You know the rethoric. He was very loud and very insulting to the unemployed that were talking to us and gathering leaflets off us. He claimed that they don’t turn up for interviews… We tried to explain that when the Jobcentre send people on these interviews they often force unqualified people to do so. People also can’t afford the transport if not local and they don’t do this on purpose. They know if they don’t turn up then they will get sanctioned, but sometimes it’s not an option. They just can’t attend. Then he stated that they mess interviews up on purpose… So we stated, no the Jobcentre send unqualified inexperienced people to these interviews and they haven’t got a clue how to even handle an interview. It’s an interview for a job that they aren’t qualified for and don’t stand much chance of getting. He wasn’t listening. At the time a young man was standing next to me. He was unemployed had been working for 10 years and had been made redundant. He said that he’s doing his best to find a job and I believe him. He was very polite, well mannered and did not raise his voice once. He could have been the opposite, he could have been shouting back but he didn’t. Why? Because he has the knowledge that being abusive like that to others isn’t the answer. He looked upon him with pity and said he felt sorry for the man that was shouting, because it could well be him stood in front of the Jobcentre in a few months. No one knows when or if it will be their turn and if you have a job you should hold onto it he said. The man who was shouting walked away eventually and peace returned.

A lovely 25 year old girl started talking to us. She was with her mum. Her mum was in temporary accommodation after loosing her home due to the bedroom tax. Her daughter is also homeless and is sofa surfing. She is close to giving up. She said she tried to do everything that the Jobcentre told her but she couldn’t. It’s so hard when your homeless she said. You can’t go on computers because you don’t have one and she had sold her mobile. She said her whole time is spent trying to to find food and somewhere to stay. If she doesn’t she will go hungry and cold. Being on the streets is a very dangerous place for a woman. She had a good moan and said that she has had to resort to shoplifting to survive. I understand why she is doing this, it’s out of desperation not because she just feels like it. She started crying and said that she was so glad that we were there because we care, so we told her about our tuesday advice session also. It’s shocking that people have to live like this no one deserves and should be living like this. We are the 6th richest country in the world and we have people starving living on our streets. Disgusting and it shouldn’t be happening.

Another young girl started talking to me. She’s a single mum and had been put on universal credit. She’s been sanctioned so far for 4 months with no money. What for? For not attending an appointment that she didn’t get. So now both herself and her child are going hungry. She spends her time trying to find food to feed her child. Why on earth in this country is this happening? Universal credit in my eyes was created to do just this. Before universal credit they couldn’t sanction tax credits… Now they can.. It’s all under the umbrella of universal credit. We have over 1 million children pushed into poverty by austerity. Do they count the children that are sanctioned? It won’t be long before a child starves because of a parents sanctioning. David Cameron you have blood on your hands. 

Whilst I was stood talking an unknown man ran up to me gave me 3 boxes of chocolates said thank you and ran off… We don’t know who he is but we all say thank you very much. We put them on the table and one box was enjoyed! We were very touched by this. Thank you so much. 

Don’t forget it’s our demo next Tuesday at 12 outside Ashton under Lyne town hall. We are peacefully demonstrating against the phase 2 troubled families scheme that I have wrote about in my previous blog. Please come along, bring your banners, placards, bring yourselves. We are also wanting to borrow a PA system. We have megaphones but a PA system would be much more effective. We have no money to buy one. We are also needing leaflets so if anyone can help please let me know! We don’t have any funding off anyone. This day of action is supported by unite in the community and our local rep will be there if anyone wants to join unite.