I always start writing this blog by telling you how I feel that today’s demo has been. Well today felt somewhat similar to our early demos, when Universal Credit was being introduced and neither the claimants nor the Jobcentre staff had a clue as to what to do. The Jobcentre staff however at times took full advantage of this and tried to pull the wool over most claimants eyes. Today the frustration of a system and staff that are constantly working against them was very apparent.
As soon as I arrived so did the food parcels. I have a dislike of being late so I always make sure that I am on time. Gordon was on the ball with picking up the food parcels so this was brilliant.
The queue had already started to form across the road. There is a handy place to sit and keep an eye out for my arrival. It’s so sad that people have to queue like this though.
As we were taking the food parcels out of the car, they started walking over one by one, most likely because they didn’t want to draw attention to themselves. It’s bad enough that they have to collect a food parcel isn’t it.
I had a chat with two regulars in particular , and once again reminded them that it would be a good thing if they could access local services. They aren’t ready yet, and I can’t force them, nor can I attempt to. I really don’t want to scare them away. Engaging with me is a massive hurdle for them in itself.
Most of the food parcels were handed out within 25 minutes, leaving one waiting to be claimed. I’m so glad that we had this one left over because it was badly needed.
A man whom I estimated to be in his 40’s stormed out of the Jobcentre, tears streaming out of his eyes. At the same time he was furious, It was obvious to see that he needed help. Members of the team tried to ask him how he was, but he stormed off. Quickly I chased after him. It’s important never to let anyone walk off whilst they are this upset. it’s important that they are listened to. In fact it’s vital.
I caught up with him and I asked him if he was ok, he could see that I could relate to him. He said that he had enough, he didn’t know if he could carry on. I asked why.
He had failed his ESA medical, which is very commonplace, however the attitude of the staff in the Jobcentre was the thing that upset him the most he said. His ESA had been stopped and he had no money. To say he was distraught was an understatement.
I explained to him that he can appeal, and he must do so. He said that he would do. He’s had to do it before, so he knows the score. He said that he had no food, and had spent the last of his money on a bag of sugar so he can make a cup of tea. From experience, drinking tea and coffee does tend to keep the hunger pains away, so I totally understood this.
I went through our leaflet with him and then gave him the last food parcel and told him that he can contact me at any time. His mood lifted, and he said that he was glad that I had chased after him because it had given him hope.
We said goodbye, and he walked over to the council offices to inform the council of his housing benefit change.
From past experience its vital that we intervene in circumstances like this, to put it honestly a person can feel like there’s nothing to live for when they have been treated like this. A kind word can and does prevent anything awful happening, and over the 3 1/2 years of doing these demos, I really don’t want anyone to suffer like this. We’ve seen too many awful things happen.
I regained my composure and started to talk to a woman who is being hounded by the Jobcentre to find work even though she is on Income Support and her youngest child isn’t five until December. I informed her of her legal rights, and she went inside to tell them.
We spoke to a lady who had failed her ESA medical three months ago, but hadn’t put in an appeal. She wasn’t advised as she should have been, nor had we spoken to her before.
She told us that she had been forced to attend a training programme interview in Middleton, not local at all if you don’t drive. She suffers from COPD and cannot travel long distances on public transport. They said that she had to attend or be sanctioned. So she paid £30 for a taxi to get there.
The Jobcentre staff know she’s disabled, but her advisor is one know to be an awful one. Lets just say her reputation proceeds her. She refuses to recognise her disability and knowingly sent her for an training course interview to drive a fork lift truck. This lady isn’t capable of doing this job and the advisor knows this. She’s setting her up to fail and is doing this on purpose.
Advice was given and she then started to chat to the lady previously mentioned. By the looks of it they have formed a good friendship.
Today we noticed far too many ladies using the Jobcentre who should be retired, but the government changed the rules. This always makes me angry.
We spoke to many people with many different problems, but the one common element was that everyone was frustrated and angry.
Most of the people that we spoke to should be claiming ESA, but have been disallowed, so they are forced to appeal. They have to do this far too often.
I spoke to a young lady who was dropping her sick note off, she was supposed to be going into hospital that afternoon. She’s bi-polar and is going through a bad patch. I persuaded her to go, to reclaim her ESA and told her that she shouldn’t have to be forced to use the Jobcentre. She’s ill but the government will not make any allowance for illness will they.
We had run out of food parcels when a man that we help from time to time asked me for one. He too isn’t well, so I gave my leaflets to a comrade and went to buy him food. My heart went out to him, because he is desperate, and only asks for help when he is.
Today was stressful, but it was also good. We did a lot of positive work this morning, which isn’t easy when you are on the frontline. It was also nice to see a new member of the team arrive. Full of knowledge, I’m certain that he will be a brilliant asset to the team.
I’m tired now, so I’m going to have a cuppa. But I’ll leave this with you.
One kind word or action can make a massive difference to a strangers life. Pass a kindness on, say hello to someone, anything. It costs nothing.
This has become a full time job for myself, it never ends. Please can you share my blog, talk about it, tweet it, tell your local politician etc. Also there is a donation button below. Every penny helps! Many thanks to everyone that already do!
Thank you and you are all amazing people!
http://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=K47PHPHS5XYRC” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow noopener noreferrer”>.