Today was extremely busy, mainly because we now have a new influx of people needing help that had previously been signing on at Stalybridge Jobcentre which has recently been shut down. The impact of a Jobcentre shutting down is massive and it can’t be underestimated, especially in rural areas. How on earth can they expect claimants to walk miles to their nearest Jobcentre is beyond me. But i do know that this is a calculated and cruel move by the government to make it extremely hard for a claimant to fulfil their Jobseekers Agreement, therefore resulting on more sanctions etc.
Here is an awful case that shows that combined with bad advice, a lack of compassion and Universal Credit can and does ruin a persons life.
Please note that this is a true, honest account, and nor am I passing on any personal details as requested.
As soon as I arrived I saw a man shuffling out of the Jobcentre, I could see that he was unhappy and needed help. After four years I’ve learnt to recognise the signs.
As soon as I said hello to him, he started to tell me about his problems. He will remain nameless for respect for him and also so that he doesn’t get any repercussions from the DWP.
He told me that he had been sanctioned again, he didn’t know why and his advisor wouldn’t tell him either. He was told to phone up the 0345 number which at the moment costs a person up to 55p a min to phone. He waited for ages to speak to someone and then he ran out of credit, so now he can’t use his phone.
He had always worked since the age of 15, until he had a heart attack five years ago. this left him unable to work so upon advice given he then claimed ESA. This was going ok for a while until he attended an ATOS medical, when they declared him fit for work. He clearly wasn’t. So he appealed this decision, won his appeal and reclaimed his ESA.
The stress of this didn’t do him any good so he became ill and had to be admitted to hospital for a heart related illness. The consultant advised him to stay away from stressful situations. Easier to say than do though, especially when he was called up for another ESA medical.
They declared him fit for work so he then went to the Jobcentre to try and claim Jobseekers Allowance until his appeal was accepted. However his advisor told him that he had to claim Universal Credit. He had no choice and nor could he appeal the ESA decision. We know that this is wrong, but this is what they are doing to people folks.
He then went ahead made his claim and was told that he had to work, he had no choice. So against his consultants decision he found a 16 hour a week job, which was supposedly topped up by Universal Credit.
He ended up far worse off financially because the way that universal credit is worked out it actually makes a person worse off in work and he was effectively working for 33p a hour.
Then his hours were reduced to 10 a week. He knew that he couldn’t survive on this, and he also knew that he would be punished by the Universal Credit system for the decision that was made by his employer. He was told to find more hours to work or there was a possibility that he would be sanctioned.
As a result he became ill because of the stress and couldn’t cope. He has subsequently been sanctioned and has had no money for a few weeks.
Straight away I reassured him that we are here for him, that we can help him. He told me that he was close to committing suicide, and was serious about it, but our kindness has made him rethink this. He didn’t think that anyone would help, because no one cared. I told him that we do care and that we would help him to sort this out.
I gave him a food parcel which he was overjoyed at recieving, I don’t think that he has eaten anything decent for a while. I then telephoned his local MPS office and asked his team if they could see him asap. Because his case is complicated, and there is more to it than I have explained above, seeing his MP is essential. There’s nothing like a letter from an MP to get things moving, because if there is one thing that the DWP hate is an MP becoming involved in a case. I did also inform him of other local organisations, but he said that he wasn’t ready for them yet but maybe he will be after he has spoken to his MPs office.
I know that he will be treated with the upmost respect when he meets them, and they are a great team. Remember folks, go and see your MP if you can. Even if they are Conservative, because they need to hear your problems, even if some won’t deal with it then need to hear them. I’m now confident that his life will improve.
A massive thank you to Andrew Gwynnes office for helping.
I was then stopped by two gentlemen, they both looked undernourished and unwell. They asked for a food parcel each, and they told me that they had been sanctioned. I gave them both a food parcel and advised them to go to a local organisation that can help them further, and help them to reclaim their life’s.
I spoke to a person who had had their ESA stopped because they had asked to change their appointment, they agreed to do so and they then stopped their ESA. This is clearly wrong, so I telephoned my local MPS office and they is now getting the advice and help that they need. I also gave them a food parcel.,
Many thanks to Angela Rayner’s team for their help. Because this is also a complicated case it was appropriate that they get help from our MP.
I spoke to a man who had been sanctioned, he wasn’t very clear on why, but he was clear about the fact that he isn’t getting the help that he needs. Because he is getting some support from one organisation, another organisation is refusing to work with him because they don’t want to cross paths. But here is the problem, he cannot access a food parcel from them now. So I gave him a food parcel, some advice and signposted him to a local organisation that will work with him, and he will gain some confidence. Sometimes bureaucracy is our biggest battle.
I then spoke to a man who’s wife had recently died. He had never signed on before and had always worked. I had a good chat with him, reassured him, gave advice and signposted him to a local organisation where I know he will enjoy.
We then spoke to a young person who was 10 minutes late for their appointment due to their bus being late. They were aware of the possibility of being sanctioned, so we advised them, had a good chat and hopefully they will stay in touch.
We also spoke to many more people, most confused or angry, some both. We offer help, advice and foodparcels but we never ever just put a sticking plaster so to speak over their problems. We need to help them constructively and empower them. I then campaign, and do a lot fo work to challlenge this system and those in charge of it. Because it is just as important to do this.
We will be back next week and thank you to everyone for your kind messages and tweets of support. You all, and the team who are nothing short of amazing, keep me going.
Please share, tweet, talk about my blog and our campaign as much as possible. This is very important, because unless we tell the world about this no one will know how awful this system is.
The team holding Ray Woolfords book Foodbank Britain. And my first meeting with Elvis, the newest member of the team, my friends hearing assistance dog.
Here is my paypal add if anyone would like to daonate. I’m having trouble with the button which I can’t seem to rectify ATM.
Apologies for the inconvenience.