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. 

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Thursday’s weekly demo. The poor are not responsible for their own poverty.

As usual we held our weekly demo. It was well attended by people from the local area, all with the common belief that it is wrong to make people suffer in the way that the DWP do. The claimants are not to blame for their poverty, its very easy to fall upon hard times, but extremely hard to climb out of poverty. Every attempt is thwarted with yet another obstacle given to them by the DWP.

Its started to become cold now and therefore it gets harder for the claimants and ourselves. Heat or eat is a choice that has to be made and eat usually becomes the only option, that’s if they can afford to. I’m sure that many claimants and working poor claiming Universal Credit have sleepless nights worrying about how they are going to feed their families and themselves. I know that feeling well. It’s a horrible feeling and the government has no right whatsoever to punish the poor for their own poverty, whilst they languish in comfort, it’s a totally different world.

I spoke to a lady who was sent outside the Jobcentre for being ten minutes early. Now before anyone says that this happens all the time, I know it does, Ive been writing about it for two years now. But it always reminds me of the mind games that the DWP like to play. They like to keep control, a bit like an abusive partner. I know that there is room for the claimants to wait, but the G4S security guards turn them away. I inform claimants that they should wait in the lobby but most are too scared to do so. Claimants are terrified of the DWP and with good reason. The DWP in effect controls their life, where their next meal will come from and basically everything that they do.

I also noticed a few claimants runnning towards the Jobcentre, scared of being late. Your cannot be even five or ten minutes late. That will most likely result in a sanction which will take away most of their income. The DWP give no allowances at all, compassion is a quality that they are devoid of.

A woman rushed into the Jobcentre, she was very upset and panicking. “They’ve stopped my money, it wasn’t in the bank. I don’t know what I’m going to do.” She went on to say that she hadn’t received any notification either. This isn’t unusual, and I’m sure its not done by mistake. Call me a cynic but mistakes like this don’t continually occur fo three years. Everything is calculated carefully to ensure that a claimant remembers their place, so they are compliant, so they don’t argue back. A compliant society is very easy to manipulate and they count on that.

I would also like to say that claimants are not living the life of luxury. Anyone that believes this should spend a morning with us. They would be shocked.

We helped countless people. I say countless because I don’t keep a tally but maybe I should. We also spoke and gave advice to claimants whom we see on a regular basis. The Jobcentre staff tell them to ignore our advice, but our advice is correct and empowers people to fight back, to take a stand. And it works.

We handed out some warm coats, but we are needing to start stocking up for winter.

The campaign doesn’t end on a Thursday though. It’s a full time job, and anyone else campaigning like this will tell you the same. Its very hard work, both physically and emotionally. You’ve got to be very strong to undertake it and keep it up. Please donate if you can, it really helps. If you can’t then please share! Thank you!

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Next Thursday we will be holding a special I, Daniel Blake demonstration to coincide with the official release of the film. Its a fantastic, hard hitting film which touches on some of the issues that we deal with. Please come along if you can. Thursday 10-12. It’s going to be fab..

Also please support my Thunderclap timed to go out on the day that the film I, Daniel Blake is released. Let’s make it massive! That would be amazing! I\
If everyone who read this blog signed up it would take over Twitter for the day!

I also apologise with the delay of writing my blog this week. My health hasn’t been brill and I’m now on antibiotics. I will be feeling bettter soon thanks to our precious NHS.

Yesterday’s demonstration. A stark reminder that hardship can happen to anyone, Junior Doctors and buisness rate relief ended. The Tory onslaught continues.

It wasn’t raining for a change, and it wasn’t too cold. It was a little quiet, but I was expecting that. I’ve got my suspicions that the Jobcentre are shifting appointments around so the claimants don’t speak to us. Knowledge is power they say, and they don’t want claimants to have any knowledge.

A young man walked out of the Jobcentre. He had worked for all of his adult life, but had become ill. The gods of Maximus had declared him cured of course, and he didn’t know what to do. The Jobcentre told him that he had to sign on for JSA. Of course if he did this then he would be declaring himself fit, which he shouldn’t do. It was all new to him, and he was a little bewildered. I told him that he must appeal, that he has every right to appeal and that he must inform them that he is doing so. I signposted him to welfare rights, they will help him with his appeal etc. He said that he was glad that he had spoken to us. He had hope now he said.

A young woman stormed out of the Jobcentre. She too said that Maximus had declared her fit and the Jobcentre had told her that she couldn’t appeal, but she had to claim JSA. She did as they said because she was scared of having no money. I signposted her to welfare rights, I just wish that I had the time and place to offer solid advice. I, and my collegues have the knowledge but we can only do our best whilst stood outside the Jobcentre.

A young man that I know stopped me. He has a serious medical condition and his sickness money had been stopped. He didn’t tell me exactly which benefits he is on so I can’t elaborate. He had managed to sort it out over the phone. They told him that his payment had been released but he wouldn’t get it until the next week. He was starving so I bought him a plate of chips. Just why are people being made to suffer like this?

Each one of the people above are vulnerable and society should be taking care of them, and not discarding them like yesterday’s newspaper. They have feelings and deserve respect. It’s so wrong.

Right now I’m a bit fed up of society using the words “benefits” and “welfare”. These are American words and have been created to demonise the poor and those in need. Please can we all start using the words social security? We need to stop using Tory terminology!

I’m also devestated that Mr Hunt is now trying to impose the new contract on our junior doctors. Of course it’s all a part of the plan to privatise the NHS. He openly admitted it in a book that he wrote years ago. Please, junior doctors, don’t leave. This is exactly what he wants you to do. Stay and fight. We are fighting for our NHS! And we all need to support them. We will miss the NHS when it’s gone!

There’s been a massive blow to the small businesses and independent charity shops in the local authority that I live in. The discretionary rate relief that had previously been awarded has been stopped. Central government have stopped the money to fund this ensuring that my local authority can’t find this anymore. There’s simply no money on the pot.

One things for sure. We will see lots of small local buisness shut down along with the small, independent charity shops. This will result in our high streets being cleared of local businesses, with the big corporate, often non tax paying businesses taking over. A few small business owners and independent charity shop owners are already talking about shutting down.

This will be devestating. This weeks cruel onslaught by this evil Tory Government has left me almost speechless, but angry.

I’ve heard that Ian Duncan Smith doesn’t like blogs like mine. He’s not too keen on us exposing the truth. Well let me tell you Smiffy we will not stop blogging etc. Fellow bloggers, keep up the good work!

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Our Christmas memorial service. 

Today was a great day. We held our now annual Christmas rememberence service outside Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre.

Despite a lot of planning you never quite know how it will go and how many people will turn up. But we had a very good turnout which was fantastic.

Word has got round about our weekly demos and we get a lot of support from the public these days. But it’s taken a long time to get that support. We’ve worked very hard doing this and we will continue to do so.

Of course, whilst setting out we were “welcomed” by the police. There was quite a few of them. We are a peaceful lot and have never been a bother to them, but they feel that they have to give us this attention. I do feel that some of them actually support our campaign which I’m very thankful for.

We set out our table which had warm hats, gloves and scarfs on. Also we had mince pies, biscuits, some savoury biscuits and most importantly warm drinks that a member of our team had brought up in a large drink.

We also had a gorgeous wreath which was made by a member of The Green Party. I’ll put a photo of it below. It was stunning.

We started off with a speech by myself. I’m asked to speak publicly on occasion but I do get nervous. I explained why we were there and then I invited our guest to speak.

Our guest today was the Rev David Grey. He’s an amazing man, he doesn’t judge anyone and believes in peace, love and non judgement of people.

He gave a very moving speech that I will place below for you to watch. We then had the fantastic Eliza P Singer singing some very appropriate songs that she has wrote herself. She’s extremely talented.

I then spoke again and we carried on with the memorial demo. A fantastic man called Steve who is connected to a local pub The Station in Ashton spoke. They do such a lot for the homeless and anyone who needs help. He spoke about the amazing work that the landlady Pauline does. She’s amazing.

We then continued with our memorial demonstration handing out leaflets etc. I decided to speak again and a few members of the public joined in. They were disgusted at the way they have been treated. One of them a single mum with 3 kids had been sanctioned for months without anything. We all agreed that sanctioning people should never happen. Cutting off a persons only means of survival is never acceptable.

Whilst speaking I spoke about the evils of sanctioning, WCA assessments, workfare, ESA fit for work assessments and the obscene work programmes that the Jobcentre force you on. No one benefits on these except for the company providing them.

We decided that we wouldn’t leave our wreath outside the Jobcentre. They threw last years in the bin, so we had a procession up to the war memorial nearby. We placed it on the back of a memorial so not to break any rules and it is slightly hidden. Much like the poor who are dying everyday as a result of this governments actions.

We then returned to our homes. Weary, cold but feeling satisfied that we had managed to pay tribute to those that have passed as a result of this governments war against the poor.

Many thanks to everyone that came along today. I didn’t have time to thank everyone it was just too busy.

Please look at the videos and the photos. There’s some amazing people in them. Thank you so much.



Tax credit bill delayed in The House Of Lords.

Not my usual story but one that I felt compelled to write about once suggested to me by a reader of my blog.

The Tory party today expected a victory in the House of Lords concerning the tax credit bill. I spent the best part of today watching it from my sick bed because I happen to be full of the flu. 

I did expect him to win this but I was hopeful. The cross party opposition was strong but the rumours of threats to pass this bill from the tories did worry me. I do enjoy a good parliamentary debate and this did not fail me. 

Both sides were heard. The opposition being confident with their proposals and reasonings. Very convincing evidence given and honest words spoken. Especially those spoken by Baroness Hollis. She warned the House of Lords that millions of families will soon receive cruel “Christmas letters” from the government setting out how much they would loose in tax credits. 

She stated that “Those families believed the government when they said that work would pay. And the best route out of poverty would be to work because work would always pay” she said. 

They believed the prime minister when he announced before the election that tax credits wouldn’t be touched. ( This was brought up several times in the debate. The prime minister clearly lied and I do think this should also be dealt with).

She spoke very clearly and the silence in the room was deafening. 

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said “George Osbourne has got to think again. We now need a fair settlement that will reverse this policy”

Former Tory Chancellor Lord Nigel Lawson said that Mr Osbourne should think again”

Dispite the threats made by David Cameron to flood the House of Lords with more than 100 new Tory Peers it seems that members thought this too important an issue to ignore and threats were ignored. 

Baroness Tina Stowell the Tory leader in the House of Lords had warned peers that it would be an “unprecedented” step for them to “challenge the primacy” of the elected commons on financial affairs. 

Lady Stowell pleaded with peers that Mr Osbourne would offer ‘some concession’ if they didn’t inflict a humiliating defeat. What those concessions would be I would like to know, if indeed they existed. She went on to say “I can confirm he would listen very carefully were the House to express its concern in a way that is unprecedented for us to do so”

The Rev Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark said “families that strive, struggle and aspire will be thrown back. We risk stripping our fellow citizens of their dignity. 

So what happens now? We get a breather. A break whilst evidence is collected and presented to the House of Commons and the bill will be voted on again. This evidence should have been presented beforehand but wasn’t. Probably because none of it went in favour of the tax credit cuts. A positive decision on the governments behalf wouldn’t have been made. And they were desperate to get this bill through parliament and the House of Lords as quickly as possible with the minimum fuss. 

What the Tory party didn’t think of was both the public opposition to this and the cross party opposition. This wasn’t the ‘done deal’ that he wanted it to be. For many the thought of millions of people going hungry and very possibly becoming homeless was far too much for them. So they rebelled and you can bet that Mr Cameron isn’t happy. 

A number 10 spokesman has said “The PM is determined we will address this constitutional issue. A convention existed and it has been broken. He has asked for a rapid review to see how it can be put back in place”

Now whilst watching this debate it was explained several times very clearly how the convention hasn’t been broken. So I will be keeping my eye on this. 

So what does this mean? 

It means a delay. A much needed delay. Time to gather proper evidence against this bill, time to put in transitional support to cover up to three years for tax credit claimants. I also hope that they plan to take carers and the self employed into consideration. They don’t get the new living wage and never will do. This needs to be addressed when addressing theses changes. 

One thing I do know is that David Cameron will be seething. This isn’t a defeat it’s a delay and you can bet that he will fight this all the way. 

He was depending on the poor to take another cut and he won’t rest until he gets his way. 

Relax now, take a breather and follow this closely. We need to. Our future depends on it. 

We are not human machinery. 

Karl Marx wrote a book titled Das Kapital l many years ago. In it he quoted from a letter written by Edmund potter to the times during the cotton famine. 

This famine hit Lancashire and other areas of the country particularly hard. What struck me is the wording that is used in this letter. Living people are reffered to as ‘human machinery’. They didn’t think to keep their ‘human machinery’ in good order they just kept it so busy that it didn’t get ideas of reacting to the terrible working conditions that they were forced to endure. Profits were too important as was child labour which was more profitable and easy to obtain. 

And so capitalism was born. Nothing has changed, they just use different names for the same ideals. We are kept busy with constant unpaid workfare positions, constant job searches, working part time is now classed as underemployed and we must ‘strive’ hard to improve this with full time work even though it doesn’t exist enough to fill the criteria set out. We are sanctioned and made to live without anything if the masters at the DWP judge us as being unworthy. Make no mistake they will continue to do so unless we say enough is enough. 

We are not machinery and we must not allow them to treat us as such. 

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.