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.

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The end of tax credits implemented in a typical twisted  Tory way. Shocking. 

This week we had the budget and we weren’t expecting it to be a good one. It has specifically targeted the poorest in society and women with children. George Osborne announced that he was introducing a living wage of £7.20 a hour rising to £9.00 by 2020. This was the first lie. It’s not a living wage it’s just an increase in the minimum wage made to sound better than it is. This doesn’t include any pay increases for under 25s. He doesn’t think that they are important enough to be paid a decent wage. That in itself is shocking but I will start with tax credit changes.. 

If George osbourne had stood in parliament and had announced that they were officially ending tax credits there would have been total outrage. Instead he has implemented several things that will make it very hard to claim tax credits and if you manage to then you will certainly not get enough money to feed your children. Here’s a quick summary of it. 

There is a little clause in the two children only new tax credit ruling. If a child has been conceived because of a rape then it’s up to you to prove it.. Angry? I am this is obscene. 

I found this illustration online. I’m not responsible for it but it does add up. 

  
Now let’s talk about childcare… Some people will be rejoicing at the 30 free hours that you will get for 3-4 year old children… Don’t be fooled. This government already wants you to be working two jobs, on a constant treadmill of work and never seeing your children. This will most likely coincide with the lowering of the age limit on looking for full time work on income support. You will be moved from the much safer income support and onto either universal credit and JSA. Make no mistake the plans for this are in motion. Work more, contribute more for a pittance and never see your children. I’m a firm believer that children need to have a good strong loving relationship with their parents. This will be made far harder. 

No automatic housing benefit for 18-21 year olds. This will mean mass homelessness as there are often very good reasons for young people to be living away from home. This will devastate young people at the very start of their life’s. 

They are freezing working age benefits for 4 years… Nice touch… Everything gets more expensive so in essence the poor get much less. 

Benefits being capped at £20,000 (£23,000) in London. This is shocking. There is a huge amount of blended families in this country and often they have more than 2 children, this is going to affect everyone who is on a low wage as well. 

ESA will be cut.. Shocking. This is a lifeline for the ill. They really want them to suffer for their illnesses. 

The buy to let of housing association properties has been given the go ahead… This means even less social housing which is desperately needed. 

More devolution for Manchester. We don’t really want it we weren’t consulted. We are demanding a referendum as is our right. 

Maintenance grants for students are going to end from 2016/2017 and are replacing them with loans to be repaid once your salary reaches more than £20,000. Students aren’t happy this was a lifeline for families who cannot afford to pay to go to university. This will ensure that only the rich get educated. Disgusting. 

More encouragement to employ apprentiships… Yes this works because companies can legally employ a young person on the pretence of an apprentiship but pay them a very very low wage with long hours. Young people deserve a proper wage like anyone else. We need to stop this exploitation!!  

I could go on forever but I won’t. What you can see is the poorest being targeted and the richest being left to their own devices.

The idea of this budget is to get the poorer so low so demoralised that they won’t fight back. But we will. I’m poor and I’m fighting. We all need to. Incidently it’s not a coincidence that they have changed the definition of poverty just before this budget. I’m sure this will have broken many basic human right laws. This is why we have them, and this is why they want to end them. 

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