Today was yet another stressful demo. They usually are, but some weeks are worse than others because people are getting extremely fed up with being treated like they are sub human.
I arrived at Ashton Jobcentre at 9.55. I was five minutes early, and in those five minutes, I could gauge what the mood would probably be like. The weather was awful, although not the worst that it has been and I felt cold.
Gordon arrived with the food parcels and the queue of people waiting around the Jobcentre for them started to approach us. I asked how they were, and how their situations were. One man told me that he was going to get some help later and he was taking a friend with him.
A lady that collects a food parcel every week looked a shadow of herself. She looked unwell and cold. I asked her if she was ok, and she told me that she thinks that she might have a chest infection. Poor woman, having to rely on food parcels and being unwell. The government are trying to suck the very life out of people. I gave her a hug and some supporting words. There’s not a lot more that I could do and that in itself is heartbreaking. I want to change things but I physically can’t.
I spoke to a young man fed up with the system. I said hello and asked him how he was. He’s a new face and I hadn’t seen him before. He said that ‘It was shit, they are shit and he is shit.’ He said with disgust that all they (the Jobcentre advisors) do is treat people like rubbish.’ All he wants is to be treated with respect and kindness. Such a basic requirement that is lacking.
I spoke to a WASPI lady who has to sign on every week. She’s not long off claiming her pension, and the anger at having to do this was very apparent in her eyes, that is when she looked up. A lot of people forced to use the Jobcentre avoid eye contact because they feel oppressed, targetted and have no confidence at all.
We spoke to a single father of children. He didn’t tell us how many but that isn’t the issue and nor should it be. He’s a good parent and doing his best for his children. He has been forced to claim universal credit, and he says that it has ruined his life.
He’s struggling to keep up with his job searches in between looking after his children, feeding his children has become a struggle and getting the Jobcentre to understand that he is a single father has been a nightmare. He went on to say that at last, they have reduced his job searching hours but that wasn’t without a struggle.
We gave him some much-needed solidarity and advice, made sure that he had food to take home and his mood lightened. He and others should not be living like this. The stress that he is feeling will be passed inadvertently to his children. I fear that even if this horrendous regime was stopped tomorrow, the effects would last for generations to come.
We attempted to speak to a young man who was furious last week. He returned this week, and he was angry but not as much as last week if that makes sense. You need to understand that even though he’s directing his anger at us, his anger is really meant for the DWP and the government. I think that he will speak to us in a few weeks, and I’m not easily swayed so I’ll wait.
Two young men walked in the Jobcentre walked in saying that they’ll never get sanctioned… ok… let’s see how that goes. We will be there to help them when something does happen to them. It’s very easy to be young and confident in situations like this. The system is created to destroy people though and we always keep that in mind as should you.
I had a lovely conversation with a lady who we had helped previously. She thanked Roy for the advice that he had given her. She also said that the survival guide has been a godsend to her. Today she just wanted to chat about how awful the government is. She pointed out that it isn’t fair that the government gave a billion pounds to the DUP whilst people are suffering. Nor is it fair that the sanctioning system exists. It’s cruel and kills people she said, and she is sadly correct.
Whilst talking to her she brought up a very good point, one that I have also been making this week when I and fellow blogger Kate Belgrave were having during a little rant that I had on Twitter this week. The Point was, that whilst all of Jeremy Corby’s policies and speeches were brilliant and are brilliant, they are still lacking in something. People like the lady that I was speaking to don’t feel like they are being adequately represented. They still feel left out of everything and are really wanting to be represented. Like she said, “I may not be working but I still deserve representation because I am a person and I do matter”. Well said to her. She does matter and I will continue to push this point across.
We spoke to many people today about so many issues, all important to each and every person, we never forget this because in my eyes they are all heroes for managing to survive this pernicious system.
Many thanks to all the team for coming along today and helping those who are in desperate need. Christine, Roy, Gordon, John, Gerry and Mervyn you are all amazing. Sue, who couldn’t make it today because she is unwell, get well soon we missed you. I am blessed to have you all by my side.
I didn’t take any photos today for a few reasons. It was raining, I was busy and using my camera phone really isn’t an option anymore because it’s worse than useless. I will hopefully take some photos next week.
Big shout out to DPAC for their ongoing support, solidarity and their amazing week of action this week. You all rock, and if I could be there, you know that I would be with you.
Another massive shout out for my comrades at Preston New Road protesting against the unwanted fracking plant being constructed there. This is being built without Lancashire councils approval and also without the local resident’s approval. You are all heroes, and you have no idea of how proud I am to have you as friends and comrades. I love you all.
Please read, share and talk about this blog. It’s important that we keep up this conversation, the government want us to go away and we refuse to.
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For anyone that’s interested, I’m speaking at the NUJs meeting this month and will be talking about the boycott The Sun petion that I started after the Manchester bombings. It’s free to attend and is at the Three Minute Theatre, Aflecks Palace Manchester 2pm. As a member of the NUJ it should be an interesting and lively discussion!