Sanctioned for not being able to sign on on bank holiday Monday. Tears, frustration and rain.

Today’s demo started rather hurriedly and to be honest I didn’t know if I was coming or going. This feeling was amplified because it was cold, rainy and my daughter was a bit fed up. understandable of course. But she soon settled down into our usual routine and all was well.

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We are seeing a lot of new faces due to Stalybridge Jobcentre shutting. They don’t know us and what we are doing, and we don’t know them or their situations either. So we have to start from scratch, which at times isn’t easy.  But it’s a whole lot harder for them.

I started a conversation with a man who had been previously attending Stalybridge Jobcentre for his appointments. The first thing that he said to me was that he couldn’t believe how rude the front desk staff are at  Ashton Jobcentre, and how rude some of the advisors are also. He mentioned that some of the advisors at Stalybridge could be awful, but Ashton Jobcentre felt positively hostile. I had to agree with him. The frontline staff has a habit of making a person feel like they are guilty of committing some heinous crime, when in fact their only crime and it isn’t a crime is being poor.

You really have to experience this to understand what I’m talking about. I experienced the same treatment when I used to have to sign on there. It was awful, with G4S security guards taking personal details to check appointments. Of course, this is illegal but the DWP and their employees seem to be immune to any type of action being taken against them. One day I’m sure that their time will come.

He also explained to us that he had failed his ESA medical and was in the process of appealing, so until he can prove that he has launched an appeal he has had to submit a claim for JSA. He knows the score and what to do but it doesn’t make it easier does it. So he is now in no man’s land, waiting for everything to be processed and it is a horrible place to be.

Whilst I was standing outside the Jobcentre I spotted a man walk in, who was very obviously disabled and in discomfort. He didn’t want to speak on his way into the Jobcentre but chose to do so on the way out. He has an injury to his knee and it’s in a large knee support, and because he was claiming Universal Credit he was handing sick notes in to cover him for this period of time. I advised him that he could claim ESA if the injury is going to cause a disability that might take some time to recover from and he took that advice on board. The DWP hasn’t made his life easy though and they are continuing to mess him about with his payments. Unfortunately, he didn’t go into great detail but I advised him and gave him a leaflet. I also asked him if he wanted a food parcel. He said no, he would be ok but his father who was stood behind him said: “Yes we do, I’m having to feed you and I have very little money”.  Having been in this situation myself, I gladly gave him a food parcel and at least they will eat better this week.

This is another hidden issue that not a lot of people speak about. I’ve been in this position myself and it’s very hard looking after a relative who has had their lifeline taken off them by the DWP for whatever reason that may be.

I felt a lot of stress and hardship when I had to do this, so this could well be what many people feel like when they are in the same situation. Cooking for one extra person might not seem to be a lot, but it soon mounts up. Also, there are the extra bills that have to be paid such as gas, electric etc. Managing from day to day is very hard indeed and demands on food banks and similar organizations grow as a result.

If a person has no family then it’s a dire situation to be in, so please have sympathy with those forced into this awful situation which wasn’t of their choice.

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I spoke to a man who was rushing down the road to talk to me. He was so upset. His situation has spiraled out of control, and he hadn’t followed up our advice on what to do and where to go. Seeking help is often very hard. It takes courage and swallowing of pride. Asking for and accepting help is very hard indeed.

I told him of a local organization that he can go to straight away to get some immediate help and that he must go now. The nights are getting cold and with his health conditions, I didn’t want him sleeping on the streets. I gave him a food parcel and a colleague (Karl) gave him a lift up to this organization. It was vital that he went, so we made sure that he did. Thanks, Karl.

We then started talking to a lady who had also previously attended Stalybridge Jobcentre. She also informed us of how different Ashton Jobcentre is. She wasn’t happy. She had been diagnosed with Bi Polar years ago but is new to the signing on  process and she was understandably overwhelmed. It was then that she started crying, saying that she is 58 years old and cannot physically look for work eight hours a day. She doesn’t know how to use computers and the system has confused her.

We advised her to make a claim for ESA and advised her of how to do this and where to go to get help to do so. She also said that she had no friends, so I told her that I would be her friend as did other members of the group. The tears disappeared and she felt supported and loved. This is exactly why we are there every week and will continue to be.

I also spoke to a young man who had been given a signing on appointment for the previous bank holiday Monday. Yes folks, bank holiday Monday. Of course, he couldn’t sign on and he informed the Jobcentre of this. The DWP were totally unsympathetic of course and informed him that he was now sanctioned for not attending. You really couldn’t make this up, could you?

It’s not the first time that we have seen this though and it isn’t unusual. He is appealing and he will win and overrule this sanction, but in the meantime, he is without money. We gave him appropriate advice and signposted to all local groups. Let’s hope that he takes this up.

I and a colleague started talking to a man who was a former policeman. He had taken early retirement and was attending the Jobcentre just to keep up his national insurance contributions. He told us of his struggles and that he is really struggling to manage on the pension that he has been given. I advised him to go to the local Citizens Advice centre where they can do a full benefit check for him. He says that he has now been forced back to looking for work, and will hopefully get one within the police force. He didn’t have a nice word to say about the Jobcentre and I don’t blame him.

We started talking to a lovely young woman who had lost her job due to no fault of her own. She had been working at a children’s day nursery and had been exploited, both of the hours and work that she was expected to do, but also because of her good nature. I can’t elaborate more due to the fact that she might be taking further action about this through her union. She might not, but I don’t want to ruin her chances of doing so if she does.

This is another issue that is growing sadly. The exploitation of staff by management at some private day nurseries. They usually employ young staff members and overwork them. of course, some don’t, and kudos to those that don’t. But for a long time now I have been hearing these stories. The apprentice scheme at these day nurseries can also exploit them, I’ve heard some awful stories about this also. It’s about time that all apprenticeships are properly regulated because young people should not be exploited. Young people should be respected because they are, after all our future.

We also had a few people in cars shout over to us saying the old ‘Get a job’ as if they were the first people to say it. It’s not clever nor is it smart. And to drive away as fast as they can makes them cowards in my eyes.

If they actually stopped and spoke to us they would realize that most of us are working, but on very limited incomes or retired. Sadly I’m used to it now.

Today we handed seven food parcels out, many thanks to Pat and the gang at Glossop for that. Many thanks also to Tom for the sandwiches that he donated they made a big difference.  We gave out lots and I mean lots of support and signposted everyone that we spoke to. I also confirmed arrangements for myself to support a lady through her ESA medical in a few weeks time.

We gave out lots and I mean lots of support and signposted everyone that we spoke to. I also confirmed arrangements for myself to support a lady through her ESA medical in a few weeks time.

It honestly never ends. The suffering never ends and it is getting much worse than it ever has been. Even if we by some miracle could change governments tomorrow it will take years and I mean years to rectify the damage caused by this awful government. I really don’t have a clue how people will survive.

Next week is our four-year anniversary demo and the theme for this one is ‘Prisoners of the state.’ Please come and join us 10-12 Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre 101 Old Street Ashton Under Lyne.  We also will hopefully have some special guests coming along. Tea and coffee will be available for all.

Please share my blog, talk about it, and there is a donate button below if anyone would like to donate.

Thank you.

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On probation, sanctioned and hungry and the case of the invisible man.

One issue that people don’t seem to talk about is the people who are on probation for whatever reason and are sanctioned. One gentleman came to us yesterday when we made an impromptu visit to Ashton Jobcentre. He was angry and quite rightly so. This man had been in trouble with the police in the past and was now trying to get his life on the straight and narrow. He attends probation which he said that he likes, they are helping him. The only problem that he has is the Jobcentre. He’s been put on universal credit and the Jobcentre staff are refusing to a knowledge his probation terms and conditions. They are saying that he has to go out of the house when his curfew is on and they have told him that they expect him to have the Internet at home. As a result this man has been sanctioned because he cannot break his curfew and neither can he afford the Internet at home. He’s been sanctioned and can’t afford it. They have told him that they won’t help him make telephone calls which is normal so he had to use his last £10 to buy credit to make a phone call to appeal to the 0845 number that they provide. He’s only just managed to get his own place to live after being homeless for a long while and had stopped committing crimes. He went in to say that he cannot starve but he doesn’t want to end up having to steal and loosing his flat. He said that the probation service are struggling enormously with problems arising from the DWP. They are struggling to cope and have tried to contact the DWP but they just get shunned away like a member of the public. They aren’t happy. They want their clients to make a success of their life’s but the Jobcentre are making this impossible. Universal credit obviously isn’t helping those who need the help most. A person is a person who deserves help even if they have committed a crime and they should be helped as much as possible so they don’t re offend again. This government are setting them up to fail and it’s very very wrong. I feel that this is an issue that needs to be taken further and the DWP needs to start recognising their complex needs. 

A lady who often talks to us was telling her about her ongoing issue last Thursday. She’s been sanctioned since October for allegedly having a man that she’s never heard of living with her. She has proof off this amd has submitted this proof on three occasions, even offered the DWP to put cameras up in her house!! She’s never heard of this man!! They still aren’t listening and she’s still sanctioned. Now this is very wrong. She’s provided every bit of evidence that she can but she can’t win. It seems that they have picked a name out of a hat and have decided that he is living there. I shall keep you posted on this issue.

Whatever happened to innocent before being proven guilty? According to the DWP you are guilty before being proven innocent. Now that’s something to think about because that’s how they regard you. Your just a number and your life doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters are their targets and reach them they must.

Join us at your local Jobcentre this Thursday in the national day of demonstrations against sanctions. We will be outside Ashron Jobcentre will you be outside yours? 



Sanctioned for not writing long enough sentences and new shiny windows at the Jobcentre.

Yesterday when I arrived at the Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre I thought I was seeing things. They had taken down the paper that was covering the windows. Great I thought, the claimants will feel much more secure knowing that they can see outside now. I would have thought that they would have felt very intimidated upon entering a building that you can’t see out of. I walked. Up to the building and I noticed that they had placed some kind of reflective film on the glass, presumably so we can’t see inside. We don’t look inside anyway we are too busy helping people and handing leaflets out. My question is this. At what expense was this decision to put up reflective coatings on the glass? And who’s decision was this? Once again we come in peace and this is not needed at all. 

Whilst standing outside a young woman approached me. She looked like she was in her early 20s and she looked very stressed. I asked her what was wrong. She replied “Ive had no money since October nothing. They sanctioned me for not writing long enough sentences on my job search. I’m not stupid I did everything right. I know I did. I keep asking for a hardship form and they keep refusing me, I know that’s illegal and I am appealing but I’m so frustrated. You see Im lucky because I live with my mum but it’s very hard on her. She can’t afford to keep me, ive got brothers and sisters that need feeding as well. I know she’s angry, she’s beginning to resent me being there but if I leave I will have no where and won’t be able to eat. If that happens Im thinking the worst because there isn’t any other way around it” I gave her some advice and a hug. She needed both. She said I know that I’m not alone because you lot are here.

Later on another young man walked over to me and spoke to me. It’s hard to tell his age because he’s so thin. Not being able to eat ages you dramatically.Ive wrote about him before, his sick notes aren’t good enough the Jobcentre say…. Even though they are. He suffers from clinical depression after a series of tragic events took him to nearly taking his life. He’s had no money since October as well. I asked him how is he doing. He said he’s so hungry he’s had a bit of food off a food bank but he has to make it last. He said he came over to tell us that he’s still here, that his sick notes aren’t good enough but he wanted to thank us for being there. He said we are the only reason why he is still here. “You’ve given me hope. Before I saw you all I had nothing. My world had been destroyed and I was close to taking my life. I know that you are all here for me and that keeps me going” I wanted to meet him this coming week but he’s got lots of appointments at the hospital. His doctor is very concerned about him. He said he would have lost his flat if we hadn’t told him that he could still claim housing benefit on a zero income basis.

Another man approached me he said “hello my diamond you will never guess what ive got a job!! Thank you for being there for me I will keep in touch” that also brought tears to my eyes. 

This is just a usual Thursday outside the Jobcentre. And this is why we are there every week. Next Thursday is the national day of demonstrations against sanctions. It has been organised by unite the union and I urge everyone to join us all in standing outside your local Jobcentre to demonstrate against the sanctions. We will be outside as usual.

And a big thank you to dispatches for making two truthful programmes about the whole corrupt system. We enjoyed working with you. A massive thanks to the Green Party for supporting us and to the Morning Star newspaper for publishing my articles. 

We don’t think that this should be allowed to continue. One death is a death too many.

The irony of this poster. We don’t condone violence in any way. We just wish the DWP would start treating people with respect…. 



Sandra Gives The Game Away: Jobcentres Given Sheriff’s Stars For Hitting Benefit Sanction Targets

Sandra Gives The Game Away: Jobcentres Given Sheriff’s Stars For Hitting Benefit Sanction Targets.