Our Thursday demo last week fell on the day of voting for the referendum. Lots of bickering was happening on the streets, people saying I’m voting out, people saying I’m voting in, but it was just another ordinary day at Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre.
To say Thursday overwhelmed me is a bit of an understatement. It completely overwhelmed me like it does sometimes. I’m not heartless, or have grown a rock in the place of my heart, nor have I become immune to the goings on inside that Jobcentre. Sometimes I feel it, and it hurts like nothing else because I cannot stand any kind of injustice, and I was reminded of injustice that day. And it hurt.
A lady who looked to be of around pensionable age was slowly walking into the Jobcentre. She was a small, slight lady and I could see that she was very worried, something wasn’t quite right with her at all. I asked her if she would like to talk, she muttered no and walked into the building. Less than ten minutes later she walked out. She looked visibly shaken. I stopped her again and asked her what was wrong, that she could talk to me. She looked up and said “I’ve got a problem, it’s a big problem” I reassured her and she went on to explain. ” I am 63 and I used to work 16 hours a week. I was looking after children and the government advised me to do that. I thought I could retire at 63, but only received my work pension which is hardly anything. It just covers the mortgage. I’ve not eaten and they won’t help me. I am full of arthritis but I failed my medical so I’ve put in an appeal. I’ve had no money except the small pension, but I’ve had to pay the mortgage because I don’t want to become homeless. She then explained that she had used food banks three times, but they were trussell trust ones and they wouldn’t let her access them again. She then said ” they are telling me that I’ve got to lie and say I’m fit for work. I can’t lift anything, my joints are really bad. I’ve never told a lie in my life. Who’s going to employ an old woman of 63 years old riddled with arthritis?”
It was then when she started crying. My heart broke. She’s someone’s grandmother, she’s a woman who should be enjoying her retirement but instead she’s cold, hungry and desperate. The whole team was shocked. I handed my leaflets to my comrade and took my purse out of my bag. I don’t have a lot, sometimes nothing myself but I will not let anyone suffer. Hunger is the worst feeling ever. I took her to the shop next door to the Jobcentre and bought her the basics that will last her until she attends the places that’s she’s been signposted to.
You might not understand why this upset me so much, but it touched my heart. Why? This government, not content with chasing the young, pregnant, middle aged are now chasing the elderly. By putting forward pensions for ladies they have made their futures become very unstable. It’s nit good enough saying that they will have to manage. All their working life’s they worked to aim to retire at a certain time but the government changed the goalposts. Very wrong.
As for the lovely lady, she has been signposted and looked after. She said she would return this week, and if she does I’ll be introducing her to a group that might help to give her a brighter outlook on life and help her with her everyday worries.
In my eyes it’s simple. You should look after the elderly, they took the time to look after us when they were younger. Making them suffer like this is deliberately cruel and I can never forgive the government for that.
Every week Charlotte sees desperation at first hand – outside the job centre | Frances Ryan | Opinion | The Guardian