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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Is the government running an enforced volunteering cartel? How does this effect small local charities and businesses? 

I remember the days when you were allowed to choose where you wanted to volunteer. The Jobcentre actively encouraged you to do this. They said that i
t would encourage you to learn new skills and to improve your c.v.

On the whole it worked. Of course there were times when it didn’t, but if it failed the Jobcentre would send you on a course, you would get an extra few quid on top of your social security payment and you really did benefit from this. Life was much better, there was less conflict and most places could find volunteers relatively easily.

All that changed when the Tory party won the general election in 2010 and along with the Liberal Democratic Party they formed a coalition government, but David Cameron was clearly in charge.

He set about to punish the poor. He wanted to change the whole system, and indeed he did. But he didn’t do it overnight. He did it by stealth, bit by bit. All aimed I’m sure to take any decent quality of life away from the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

He introduced a scheme called workfare, marketed as a “work for your dole” scheme. This scheme operates under various guises, but the end result is the same. If you want to be able to claim your benefit payment then you must undergo the work programme.

It was marketed as the best idea ever. The government cosied up to their friends in the right wing press and they launched a full on attack on the poor. Let’s shame them, let’s treat them like criminals, let’s turn neighbour against neighbour. It’s the best tool in the Tory party tool box and they used it well. Before long the poor were criminalised and criticised for almost everything they did. Television ran countless programmes that actively targeted vulnerable people. This is when David Cameron must have decided that it was time to exploit the poorest as much as possible, and why not? There was no opposition now.

Multi national buisnesses were quick to take up the offer of free workers. I mean why pay someone when they are forced to work for nothing? When their allotted time of enforced volunteering is over the are simply replaced with another victim. No hope of a job, nothing to look forward to except very hard work for no pay. And so modernised slavery was created.

Very strict rules were put in place. Don’t be late, always turn up and you must turn up for work whilst sanctioned. Not easy when you can’t afford to eat and often have to walk miles to get to your workfare provider.

Now this has caused lots of problems, probably too numerous to mention here. Workfare workers turning up to “volunteer” unable to complete their work properly because they are too hungry, weak and demoralised. Many have been forced off their sickness benefits and forced to undergo workfare, many forced to undergo enforced volunteering as a requirement of being placed in the work capability group. Their health suffering to such an extent that they become very sick indeed and many give up.

There is also another side effect of big buisness and multi national charities using enforced volunteers sent directly from the Jobcentre. Small charities are finding it extremely hard to find volunteers. Many refuse to use enforced volunteering due to the ethics of the scheme. They don’t agree with enforcing people to undergo an activity that they may not be capable of undergoing.

They try to advertise for volunteers, claimants ask the Jobcentre if they can volunteer at their shops, but the Jobcentre refuse. They say either you go where we send you or you will get sanctioned. So volunteers become very sparse. Local small charities become at risk of closing or close altogether. These charities are often essential organisations within local communities. But the government don’t care. In their eyes, you should take enforced volunteers. If you refuse, well they must think that it’s the price that you have to pay. And it’s a very big price indeed.

I speak to people who run small local charities and organisations. They are stretched to the limit. They don’t know what to do, they have given their life’s to making it work, to helping others in need. They want to do it honestly without exploitation of any kind. But the dilemma is there, accept enforced volunteering or shut down.

Yes the government are indeed running a cartel which involves people being used as free labour to be exploited. Slavery is not dead, it’s now been modernised under the guise of whatever name the DWP wants to use for enforced volunteering. And the public have accepted this .  A good days work deserves a good days pay. A local charity should be able to employ volunteers who actually want to volunteer for them without enforcement. They want their charity to succeed, we want their charity to succeed. Let’s campaign to make this possible.



Disgusted. Please read. Learning difficulties? No problem.. The DWP will stick you on the work programme. 

Today I was waiting for the bus home with my daughter when I bumped into an old school friend. I hadn’t seen her for a long while so we had a lot of catching up. She has learning difficulties and she struggled through school not passing any exams as there wasn’t the support in schools then as there is now. 

When she left school the social security department as it was called then were very sympathetic. They encouraged her to be on the sick as they called it because her options for work were limited. They also encouraged her to take up voluntary work to improve her social skills and to give her a focus. As a result she was volunteering for a local organisation off her own back and did so for 24 years. She loved it and thought she would never have to leave. Then the Tories got elected.

She was told at a Jobcentre interview that she had to start claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance. They also told her that she had to leave the place where she had volunteered for so long and volunteer at a place of their approval. She was very upset, but did it because they had told her to. Before anyone states that she shouldn’t have done this  I must add that she didn’t feel that she could. In her eyes what they say goes and she hasn’t got a lot of self confidence.

She started on the work programme and was given the usual countless tasks that everyone is given. She struggled through it but managed and lasted the full two years without a sanction. Her love of routine and checking her actions constantly helped her. She said it drained her but because a job wasn’t found they were sending her to a work programme in manchester. She has to sign on there every week instead of the local Jobcentre and has to borrow money off family to get there. Her family have no money either. She can’t comprehend why they won’t send her to the local Jobcentre, and I did try to explain but it was too complicated for her to understand. What they say goes she says, it’s not right but it’s how she sees things.

Whilst attending the work programme so far she says that she has applied for 424 jobs and only 2 prospective employers got back to her. She finds this difficult to understand. She said why don’t people have manners?  I agree with her on this issue, even an automated reply would do. I tried to explain. 

She’s now stuck in a so called voluntary position at a local charity and I’m disgusted that this charity are using workfare, using free labour and gaining financially at the cost of vulnerable people is never good in my eyes. She has to attend everyday but she cares for her mother one day a week. The Jobcentre have told her to stop doing this, the workfare placement must come first. In this lovely ladies eyes and my eyes also her mum does come first. She’s very old now and needs her shopping taken care off etc. I did try to explain about carers allowance but she didn’t understand, she is so confused but she did say to me that she stuck up for herself in the Jobcentre and said no. I really do hope that she doesn’t get sanctioned for this. 

In my eyes this lady should not be in this position at all. Yes she can do work that isn’t challenging but she’s got a lot of difficulties and just tries to do her best and to live independently. The DWP have knowingly taken advantage of a very vulnerable lady and made her already difficult life even harder. She told me that she never used to drink because it’s bad, but she has started to. The reason  why? Because she is so stressed she’s finding life very difficult. 

There must be thousands of people like this lady being victimised by the DWP. She should be able to live her life in peace, but the DWP and the Tory government have put a stop to this. Please spare a thought for everyone in this position. Please don’t judge anyone because they may appear a little different than yourself. Everyone has a heart, everyone has feelings. Of course we know this but the Tories ignore this. Why? Because they sold their souls to to the gods of capitalism, tyranny and bankers many years ago. 

Please if you can donate to keep my blog going if you can. I’m on a very very limited income and do struggle myself. My Paypal add is seercharlotte@gmail.com

Hungry, thirsty and forced to attend the work programme.

Imagine this situation if you can. You have no money either because your sanctioned or your income is so low that you don’t have a spare penny. You are forced to attend your local work programme provider and have to attend everyday from 8.30am until 5pm. You are told that you have to spend all that time looking on their computers if there is one available for non existent jobs, which prevent you from going out and looking for real work. You feel demoralised, depressed and feel that your future is going nowhere. Let’s just add this to the equation. Your work programme provider refuses to provide you with even a glass of water. You have no money to bring sandwiches and haven’t got enough money to bring a flask. You ask for a drink and they say no we aren’t going to provide anyone with a drink. You aren’t allowed any real breaks and those with food have to eat it at the computer. Those without food and a drink look longingly at the people eating and drinking wishing that they could have a drink. By now they are dehydrated and the smell of cooked food from the cafe on the lower floor is really getting to you. So near but so far away.
Sounds like a chapter from a book by Engles or Charles Dickens but unfortunately it isn’t. This is an everyday reality at a local work programme provider in my town. I know it to be true because I know a person attending quite well. This person will be making extra sandwiches for hungry people. They are lucky enough to be able to afford to make them. In my eyes this is a cruelty behind words. Just question this and say is this right? Should this be happening? What can we do to change this?

The latest news….

So the government have now decided that they want to introduce biometric fingerprinting and signature recognition technology inside the Jobcentres… Correct me if I’m wrong but you are obliged to give your fingerprints when charged with committing a crime…, this is scary stuff. They are saying that this is for “security” reasons and it will make “things move quicker” but I doubt that is the real reason. They want to track our every move. After all we are worth money to them. And not just pennies. Whilst being made to undergo the work programme you are contracted to that work programme provider for two years (who thought slavery had been abolished?) and they get a bonus for both you being there and if you yes you find a job off your own back. They tried this with me but wasn’t successful. The hounded me on the telephone but I refused to comply with their requests…. Then they said that they would breach data protection laws to get my information….
You are under no legal obligation to hand over your personal details to them. They just want their bonuses which are paid every four weeks at first.
If you are forced to attend the work programme which does everything except let you look for work do not sign anything except the registers when you walk in and the various registers on the table to say that you were there. They have the power to sanction you so be very wary and question everything.
I wasn’t very popular whilst I was on the work programme for two days… I spent most of my time handing out advice and empowering the people there. Job well done I think.
Please join us at out usual demonstration on Thursday outside Ashton Jobcentre, remember we stand for the people. Anyone can join in as long as you are peaceful.
Peace and written in remembrance of those that we have lost due to this governments cruel and inhumane actions towards the poor.

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