I have just returned from our weekly Thursday demo and to say that it was busy was an understatement. We are helping more people than ever before due to the closure of Stalybridge Jobcentre. I know that I keep mentioning this, but this is the reality of the situation. When a Jobcentre is shut down it puts extreme pressure on the next town that does have a Jobcentre, and of course the Jobcentre itself. It is abhorrent that people are forced to often walk, some everyday to a Jobcentre that is miles away this doesn’t encourage anyone to get a job, it just demoralises them even more and often makes them ill.
This week I have decided to list a few of the situations that the people that are forced to use Ashton Under Lyne Jobcenre are going through. I say a few, because there are too many to write on this blog, and some people were in such a rush that they couldn’t stop to speak to us. Also some people are too scared to do so.
The first woman that I spoke to had attended her ESA medical last week. I couldn’t attend with her because I had commitments and she struggles to trust people. But armed with lots of information she went along. Upon seeing her assessor, she was questioned about issues that have nothing to do with her illness. She was set up to fail, but if she does get a letter saying that she has failed then she will be getting lots of support to appeal. This broke my heart, and I wish that I could be everywhere but I can’t.
I then spoke to a 62 year old woman who has been forced to volunteer for The British Heart Foundation as part of the workfare programme. Shes under no illusion that the system is cruel, and this is not helping her to find work. In her own words she said that no one would employ her at her age, her 29yr old daughter is struggling in a zero hour contract job and finding that job was hard, it would be impossible for her. Her daughter wants to further her education, but is under immense pressure to leave college and to obtain more hours at work even though gaining the qualification that she is working to get would eventually give her a better paid job. It’s a catch 22 situation for many people.
I then spoke to a young man who was sanctioned because his child was ill and he had to stay at home with them. He did inform the Jobcentre, but they saw this as not a good enough reason to miss his signing on appointment. He is appealing this decision.
I spoke to another young man. He told me that his advisor had informed him that he was being sanctioned because he hadn’t attended an appointment. The reason being that he didn’t receive a letter informing him of this appointment. This is not a new phenomenon, far from it we’ve seen this happen for four years now. I don’t believe that these letters are actually sent out in the first place. If you have time, scroll down the blog and refer to the post titled ‘The case of the missing letters’ it makes interesting reading. He is appealing this decision, and help and advice was given to him to do so.
Upon standing outside the Jobcentre, we noted a very elderly lady leaving the Jobcentre and crossing the road. She didn’t wish to speak to anyone, but I would have to question the very fact as to why she felt that she had to visit the Jobcentre in the first place.
A bit of good news, I spoke to a lady whom I had previously helped and advised. She told me that she had taken my advice and was now much happier and is in the process of claiming all the money that she is entitled to. This poor lady went through an awful time and I was so pleased to hear this. She gave me a big hug and said thank you. That made my day.
I spoke to a young man who had been sanctioned for applying for more than one job with the same agency. Yes folks, they can also sanction a person for applying for too many jobs. He was devestated because he had done exactly what he was supposed to do which is look for work. We gave him some good advice and he will be appealing this decision. This does prove that you can never do enough to make the DWP system happy, the advisor is supposed to use their discretion, and they obviously did, they chose to sanction him for looking for work.
I spoke to a lady who had previously failed her ESA medical and didn’t appeal that decision. I hadn’t met her yet and she had fallen for the rethoric that even if you are sick or disabled you have to work. She has been forced to attend the Jobcentre everyday and to achieve this she has to walk a long distance. She complained about feeling tired, and she said that she didn’t feel well. I signposted her to a local organisation that can sit down with her and talk her through the whole complicated process at a speed that suits her. It’s hard to do this whilst stood on the street.
I also spoke to a man who had just been sanctioned for missing an appointment in March. He had already spent his sanction (I may as well use this term, because they are treating innocent people like criminals). This hasn’t stopped the DWP from sanctioning him again for the same reason. He is appealing this decision, because this is very clearly wrong. However this doesn’t help him now does it. We did give him help, advice and signposted him.
This all happened in the space of two hours folks, can you imagine how many people are leaving the Jobcentre after their appointment In a state of dispair? Many give up, take themselves off the cruel system because the stress is too much for them. Many become ill or take their own life’s. This does happen to people that use this Jobcentre and most likely most Jobcentre’s. It’s a cruel system and is designed to be so.
What I can say is that they made no mistakes when designing Universal Credit. Everything has been designed purposely to make the poor suffer.
People cannot just walk into a Jobcentre to get help as Liz Truss stated this week. If you haven’t got an appointment you arent allowed any help, and they certainly won’t make any telephone calls for you even if you have an appointment.
The government has created a system that can never be beaten, no one can win against this system, the design makes it impossible to do so. They want the poor to pay for their own poverty, the very fact that Theresa May this week declined to answer Jeremy Corbyns question about the cost of the 55p per min helpline cost. They have no qulams about making it impossible to get help, advice and compassion. I’m certain that they think that we live in some kind of utopian dream, where everything that we need is easily available and easy to access. We know that this isnt true though.
The battle continues for us though, it’s never ending. I’ve committed four years so far to this campaign, and if I have to commit another for years to it I will do. The poorest of this country are being targeted injustice after injustice, and rather than just putting a sticking plaster over it I feel that it is necessary to challenge the system. After all, plasters fall off and the damage is still there isn’t it.
Many, many thanks to everyone that came along and supported the demo. You are all my rocks, you keep me going even through times when I am upset and angry at the system. You are all amazing.
It’s been a very busy week, if you would like to see the links to the various newspaper reports and media appearances then please comment below. I don’t want to bore you if you dont want to see them.
We don’t get paid for this, we do it, I do it because people need help and I’m certain that one day we shall overcome this evil regime.
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