I arrived for our weekly demo a few minutes late, I unexpectedly met a friend of mine who wanted to join us this morning. I was so happy to see her because she has been a tremendous support to myself regarding my personal life.
I had a tough few years and both her and her brother who has sadly passed away were a tremendous support to both myself and my daughter. It cheered me up no end seeing her.
As we approached the Jobcentre out of nowhere Gordon had appeared and there was a small crowd of people waiting for help, advice and food parcels. My first job was to talk to them all individually and assess what their situation is and what help that they can access locally.
Some don’t want to approach local organisations for whatever reason but I do talk to them every week and one day I will succeed in getting them there. This can be hard work and I’ve built up a rapour with them so I’m keeping everything crossed.
Today seemed very hard, the requests for help and also just conversation was very high.
We now have people that used to attend Stalybridge Jobcentre requiring advice and solidarity. Most of them commented once again that they couldn’t believe the difference between Ashton Jobcentre and Stalybridge, there were also numerous complaints about the security guards. It is very daunting walking in that building.
I spoke to a young man whom I had helped a while ago. When I first met him he was down on his luck and having a very hard time. This was also compounded with the fact that he had addiction issues. He wasn’t getting the support that he needed and was like a fish out of water. Being homeless as well made his life unbearable, but we stood with him, didn’t judge him and ensured that he received the help that he needed and also gave him the strength and support to do so.
This is why we do these demos, and it also gives us hope..
He is an amazing young man. He gave me full permission to record the video below. I’m so proud of him.
Today was extremely busy and I don’t think that we had handed so many leaflets out for a long time. It’s a good job that we had arranged for a re print with some edits made to the back page to make them clearer to read. I think that we might use these up in record time at this rate.
I’m taking a lady to her ESA medical on Wednesday next week so she came to meet me to have a chat. She’s quite understandably very nervous. I will ensure that she gets the support that she needs on that day.
It’s taken me a long time to build up her trust also. I’m really hoping that she passes her medical but we know how hard that is don’t we.
I spoke to two very young girls that were having to use the Jobcentre, one of them had an appointment the other wanted to go in with her friend for support but was sent out of the Jobcentre by the security guards. She was informed of her right to do so and was given a copy of this in writing so that she could show them next time.
I spoke to an older lady who was leaving the Jobcentre out of breath and obviously in poor health. I informed her that given her circumstances she could apply to claim ESA and she should do so with the upmost urgency. She has to now travel miles to get to Ashton Jobcentre and I am very worried about her ability to do this, and also the cost. She is struggling so I handed her a food parcel and explained that we are there every week if she wants to talk to us. I also handed her a leaflet with details of other local organisations that might be able to help her.
Every person that we spoke to today that had previously been using Stalybridge Jobcentre were struggling in some way. I did alert people that this would cause immense suffering but it fell on deaf ears.
We also didn’t see any DWP staff members protesting about this. Not one. Maybe they were deployed elsewhere so weren’t that concerned with loosing their jobs there. This will be remembered if the same staff ever approach us to support one of their picket lines. I doubt that this will ever happen though.
I spoke to a young lady who was with her mother and her baby. They looked stressed and muttered something about how their benefits always being changed. They didn’t go into any details though they were in a rush to attend their appointment. We did however inform her of her right to have her mother with her for support.
I also had to do a very short notice demo for Radio 5 Live on Tuesday. So I went down armed with leaflets to do so.
It’s always a different atmosphere when I do impromptu demos. The Jobcentre immediately turned off their automatic door opening system as soon as they saw me. I’m no threat to them at all, I really am not. I’m a middle aged lady with a bad back and their behaviour sometimes strikes me as ridiculous.
That morning I spoke to a woman who was struggling with being on Universal Credit whilst her husband works on a zero hour contract. The Jobcentre are demanding that she also finds work, but with two children and never knowing what hours he is working its near impossible to find childcare. She also has no family in England to help her.
I spoke to a man who was in obvious distress and quite rightly so. His Jobcentre advisor was giving him the runaround, and trying every trick in the book to sanction him. He had done his job search, showed her but his advisor still told him that he was going to be sanctioned. This man was very vulnerable and his advisor knew this, which makes it even worse. He became angry which is also very understandable, so I did my best to calm him down and thankfully it worked.
I also spoke to a man who had previously had a struggle with his advisor who had tried to make him claim Universal credit instead of the JSA that he is entitled to claim under his circumstances. Not only would he have been much worse off financially, it wouldn’t have done his mental health much good either. Luckily he had stood his ground and won.
I spoke to lots of people that morning, and all were thankful for the advice and leaflets given to them.
I was freezing cold and extremely tired that evening but it was worth it because more people recieved the help that they needed.
This is just a few of the people that have been helped this week, can you imagine how many people are desperate for help up and down the country every day? This is an issue that certainly isnt being spoken about enough and it does feel like no one cares about them. Are they not worthy enough to make their issues become a priority?
I stand in solidarity with DPAC and agree that one and a half questions at PMQs this week in parliament is not enough, not by a long shot. I fully support Jeremy Corbyn, don’t misunderstand me, but people are dying every day as a result of these punitive measures being directed towards the disabled and the poor. Their voices need to be heard.
How many deaths will it take?
I’m sorry for the short blog, I’m tired and it feels like I never stop.
I’ve also started a regular vlog on YouTube to coincide with my blog. This week will be my first vlog and here is the link if you would like to watch it.
Please share my blog as widely as possible. I really do appreciate my readers that already do this.
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