Some people mistake the reason why we stand outside Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre. We stand there in protest of the disgusting regime enforced by the government. We also stand there to help and advise claimants, both are equally important. We don’t stand there shouting, our main purpose is to empower claimants, so they can feel confident enough to fight back against the system, and the advice that we give them is invaluable.
Today was a strange day, the weather was warm, and a good crowd turned up. We were busy helping a claimant who had been told to claim JSA (Job Seekers Allowance) because she had failed her ATOS assement. She is appealing this, and as a result now has to apply for JSA whilst her appeal is dealt with. She was given no information on how to conduct her job searches etc, and I’m sure that her advisor was expecting her to fail on this. She won’t however, because I instructed her on what to do and not to do and she felt happier. She had told us that her advisor had warned her not to speak to that lot outside, but thankfully she ignored her and asked us lots of questions.
Just as I was finishing helping this woman, two DWP workers purposely walked out of the building. This is a very rare sight indeed, because they usually prefer to use the back door, or they take their badges off. It certainly looked like they had had enough. They shouted that they only do sixteen hours work a week and will be punished for doing this. I said, yes you will be because it’s all part of the new in work conditionality of which everyone who will be shifted over to universal credit off JSA or Income support will have to do. ( I’ve wrote about this in an earlier blog.) Our answer to this was, yes we know that you are having a hard time, we do sympathise with you, and we also know that you will be sent to another Jobcentre to comply with the rules and receive any sanctions etc that you may receive. They were angry, but sadly are a victim of the system that they have helped to create, either knowingly, or un knowingly. I’m not going to go into the problems that exist within their union the PCS. There’s a lot of internal things that urgently need to be sorted out, and help from the top is much needed. But I sympathise with the decent workers and union reps trying to take a stand and to change things. This does not mean that I sympathise with the workers who actually enjoy applying sanctions and harsh conditionality for claimants. They need to be held accountable for their actions, as do those who prevent positive action. One day I hope that this will happen.
I’ve no idea if these women are unionised, a fair amount of DWP workers aren’t, and here also lies the problem. But what I can say is that you can never dance with the devil and expect to get away untarnished. Everyone working less that full time hours and claiming any type of benefit will be affected when they get shifted over to Universal Credit. And as I’ve said before, Universal credit has been purposely created to work this way. There’s no mistakes, it’s created to harm and demoralise people to push them to the edge.
I also believe, alongside others, that the only time that people will start protesting against Universal Credit is when they are hit themselves by the in work conditionality element of it. It will affect working people, people who thought that they were safe, will soon realise that they aren’t safe. Maybe the regular claimants won’t be demonised as much then, but I doubt that.
Many thanks to everyone who came along and supported us today. It makes all the difference. Thank you very much.