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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What is poverty? And does it define us?

This is a question that I get asked often. People ask me if I can define it. In reality  its very difficult to define. There are three definitions of poverty in common usage, those being absolute poverty, relative poverty and social exclusion.

Absolute poverty defined as having the lack of sufficient resources with which to meet basic needs. Relative poverty defines income or resources in relation to the average income. But how does poverty define us?

According to the Joseph Rowntree foundation there are more than a million people living in poverty in the UK. I’m sure that figure is lower than the actual figure due to the level of people finding themselves without work etc rising everyday. They say that 184,5000 households have experienced a level of poverty that has left them with no choice but to resort to charities for essential things and shelter. The Joseph Rowntree foundation also say that three quarters of people living in poverty go without meals and half cant afford to heat their homes. These are some very basic statistics, but how what does living in poverty mean to those living in poverty?

I live in poverty, I’m not ashamed to say it. I don’t think that it has ever left my side except for a very brief moment a long time ago. So I can say this out of experience. I live in an area that is one of the poorest in the country, and a lot of my neighbours live in some kind of poverty.

Poverty can be very restricting and isolating. It defines how you can travel and relate to others.   Socialisation is limited to mainly your local surroundings or your own home. Public transport is expensive and is often off limits. Walking distance is often as far as you can go. So you often only see your local area and your own home, and slowly you begin to isolate yourself. You might  stop talking to people because you feel ashamed that you are poor and you certainly don’t want to be reminded that you are. You avoid people and places, its easier that way because it numbs the pain. This very often starts a cycle of depression and illness, often from a very young age.

The media bombards the public with advertisements and television programmes promoting a richer, happier lifestyle. They also promote the scrounger rhetoric with programmes such as Benefit Street. Discrimination against the poorest in society has never been this bad. Names such as scrounger, fraudster, single parent, immigrant are thrown everywhere with such hatred and disgust. I see this a lot whist helping claimants, no one bothers to ask what their story is, they are given a label.

When you live in poverty debt becomes your worst enemy. High rents, the bedroom tax, council tax, sanctions, benefit delays, low wages all ensure this. Charity shops become your best friend that’s if you can afford them. Food and heating becomes a priority, often its a choice either heating or eating. Its a tough choice because both are equally important.

Poverty defines your every move, children grow up knowing no different but the gap becomes clearer the older they get. They will soon be growing up to accept name calling and discrimination, after all the media have done an extremely good job of turning neighbour against neighbour. People cant just snap out of it and find a job that doesn’t exist.

Everyday I’m reminded of the film Cathy come home. I have a daughter who lives with her partner and children in a privately rented house. The house is very damp, it floods all the time, but the landlord refuses to help. She cant move because she cant afford to pay the £1000 deposit upfront, she doesn’t have a guarantor and she owes rent from her previous sub standard flat which was a housing association flat. She manages, keeps the damp to a liveable level. She lives in relative poverty.  She says that she is lucky to have a home, and she is right, but no one should have to live like this. Sadly its not unusual, its commonplace but it shouldn’t be.

People are trying to get by, its not easy and the unemployed and the working are stuck in the same situation. I say that we will soon be back to the 1930s poverty levels, but I fear that it will be more like 19th century poverty levels. Poverty does indeed define us, we might try to deny this, but it has defined my life and it will continue to do so.

I urge the public to use compassion and kindness instead of hatred and discrimination. After all this can happen to anyone and everyone is three pay slips away from being in the same position.


 

 

 

Please read a report of our actions in Al Jazeera. 

Hi. This is a piece that took a while to get together. I worked alongside a reporter who normally spends his time reporting from war zones all over the world. He had read my newspaper reports and this blog, and felt the need to report on our activities. 

As you can imagine this man has seen lots of bloodshed and fighting, as a result he isn’t easily shocked. However after spending a few days outside the Jobcentre with us he was moved to tears. He couldn’t believe the hardship and cruelty that is inflicted on the poorest in our country. He said it’s as bad as reporting from a war zone, instead of bullets they are starving people into submission. 

He said that he would never forget this. He’s an amazing man. 

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/03/britain-benefit-sanctions-human-160314093900607.html

DWP workers please read. 

We’ve been working on this for a while now, this things aren’t quick to publicise because we have to ensure the legalities are correct.

For too long now DWP workers have been wrongfully implementing rules that aren’t set in stone, nor does the DWP care much for honesty, compassion and common sense. So we’ve outlined the rules, knowingly ignoring these could well end up with possible court action, with the DWP worker being taken to court. Before everyone starts laughing folk have had enough of being treated like rubbish, discriminated against. So take heed, read and learn.

Also for any DWP workers out there that want to do the right thing and feel unable to, this will empower you to be able to treat claimants fairly.

Please note we don’t sit around doing nothing. We work hard challenging and trying to end the barbaric sanctioning regime.

Print this out and share.


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Today’s workfare demonstration outside The Salvation Army charity shop Ashton Under Lyne. 

It was decided that as a group we would take a stand against the immoral stance that the Salvation Army have taken regarding workfare. Since writing the last blog I have heard many first hand accounts of claimants experiences there, and none of their stories were nice. These claimants deserve representation, many are too scared to speak out about it but we don’t mind. This is a situation that needs to be highlighted.

As mentioned in my previous blog The Salvation Army have been working with the Jobcentre to recruit “volunteers”. These claimants are told that they have no choice, that they have to sign up to “volunteer” with The Salvation Army otherwise they will get sanctioned. Refusal to comply will ensure that your voluntary position becomes mandatory, therefore you will incur all the penalties that come with that. The Salvation Army are only too happy to oblige.

We arrived at our location and decided to stand in front of the shop. As soon as we were spotted by the manager we were told that we had to move because we were stood in front of the shop window. We made it clear, that it was our intention to do so, and we had every right to hold a peaceful protest in a public area. We also stated that we wernt moving. This did nothing to lighten her mood, so she went back inside the shop and called for security.

Security arrived. Having been a resident of Ashton Under Lyne for most of my life I know a lot of people, and I happened to know this chap. He was very pleasant, asked what we were doing, we explained and he didn’t take issue. However his employer did. He seemed to be of the mindset that you can’t protest about a moral issue, but you can only protest about a legal issue. We corrected him and informed him that we wernt moving. We were causing no harm, indeed we had a lot of support from the public. Some members of the public had actually been forced to “volunteer” there and not one had a good word to say about the place. The Salvation Army tried to send a member of staff outside to attempt to intimidate us by taking our photo and telling us to “move”. We stood our ground and had a good morning chatting to members of the public about workfare and why it is wrong. One person disagreed, as is their right, but they also stated that they were an ex DWP worker so what else could we expect?

As one member of the public stated “if you are forced to volunteer the organisation isn’t going to get the right sort of volunteer. They won’t want to be there, they won’t want to do the work. Volunteering should be voluntary because when it is people are happy and enthusiastic.”

Forcing someone to “volunteer” for up to 30 hours a week is enforced labour, no matter what name you decide to call it.

The definition of slavery as quoted in Collins Dictionary is;

1″ The state or condition of being a slave; a civil relationship whereby one person has absolute power over another and controls his life, liberty and fortune.

2. The subjection of a person to another person esp in being forced to work

3. The condition of being subject to some influence or habit

4. Work done in harsh conditions for low pay”

Being faced with loosing all your income if you don’t “comply” falls exactly into that category.

We will be returning.

Jeremiah 22:13King James Version (KJV)

13 Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbour’s service without wages, and giveth him not for his work;

 

  
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#notinmyname

397 vote for war. They will be guilty for the death of thousands upon thousands of people. 397 people have now made our country a serious security risk. 397 people have now decided the future of all of us. 397 but #notinmyname

 

Art work by myself. Inspired by the hatred spun by the Murdoch empire. They have created division and hatred and I also feel that they have blood on their hands. 

Will the people who voted in favour of this war be volunteering themselves on the front line? I doubt that will ever happen. But in my eyes they should do. Creative Commons License
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Sick note refused under government new scheme. 

This is a true shocking account of a young persons visit to their G.P recently.  Sadly it’s true and I’m hoping that most G.Ps are refusing to implement this. 

I’m going to call this person X. It’s quite appropriate because that as I see it is how this government sees most vulnerable people in this country. This government has a great disdain for the poor, sick and vulnerable indeed I have been quoted in the past as saying that this is a war against the poor and those in need. This is another tactic that they want to employ. 

Many times now this Tory government has been quoted as saying that they they want to get rid of ‘the sick note culture’. They don’t want anyone off work. People are expected to quite literally work themselves to death. Getting a sick note is seen by the Tory party as ‘a conveyor belt to a life on benefits’. 

Indeed it is not. Most sick notes are obtained as a necessity to get over a bout of illness or to recover from an illness. Sick notes are no longer handed out like sweets at a sweet shop. It’s not easy getting one and you do have to be ill to get one. 

X attended the doctors on Friday. It was an emergency appointment. They were very anxious and depressed and wanted to take their own life. The doctor refused a sick note even though X was suicidal. Why? Because young people should be in work. The government wants you in work they quoted. X was very upset at this and it triggered another anxiety attack. They are now challenging this. I do hope this doctor is acting out of the ordinary. Being suicidal is a good enough reason for a sick note. 

This led me to undergo a bit more research. I have found out that the government have introduced a scheme where all GPs refer patients that have had a sick note for 4 weeks or more to a private company. Much like ATOS I suspect. 

This is supposed to be a trial but as with all government trials they quickly become permanent.

The new scheme will cost £134 million over 4 years and is aimed at people who are off work with long term illnesses. 

The new programme was piloted in 20 GP surgeries from February this year and will now be extended nationwide. Patients who agree yo be referred will undergo a telephone assessment of their physical and mental abilities from trained nurses and occupational therapists. It’s called the “fit for work service”. 

The British Medical association has said it will boycott the scheme if doctors felt it was forcing people back to work. Business leaders of course said it should be compulsory.

It’s wrong in my eyes that the sick are being targeted again like this. 

It’s also wrong that a young suicidal person was refused a sick note because “the government wants you to work” regardless of how sick and unable you are to do so.   

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