Well what can I say about today except that it was extremely busy and very cold. It appears that Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre have upped their targeting of claimant techniques, most likely because they are now meeting the claimants that have been transferred over from nearby recently closed Jobcentre, Stalybridge. Far too many of the claimants that I have been speaking to have been telling me how awful Ashton Jobcentre is compared to what Stalybridge was like, I’ve even heard murmurings from the DWP staff that were transferred that they dislike it. Sadly this isnt a surprise is it.
The food parcels arrived with Gordon of which I was really thankful for. So many people are experiencing the well known delays in waiting for a Universal Credit claim to go through, and also far more people than I have noted in the past are failing their ESA medicals. When this happens a person doesn’t receive any more payments, and in the case of Universal Credit obtaining an advance payment can also be hard. People still become hungry in the process so we feed them, we signpost them and very soon will be handing out warm clothes or referring them to places where they can obtain warm clothing.
Can I say that I hate winter, when you are poor there is nothing nice about it. People go into survival mode because as we know the combination of the cold and hunger kills people every year. It seems to never end, especially for those that are street homeless or forced to live in homes that they cannot afford to heat. Many cannot make the choice between heating or eating because they can do neither, and with Christmas on the horizon, thousands of new Universal Credit claimants will be in this postition, yet Theresa May seems to find this amusing.
I found it hard today especially because I developed a migraine en route to the demo, so my apologies if this blog isn’t up to scratch. Anyway I digress. Today was a tough day, so many people needing help which sadly isn’t unusual.
Here is a short list of some of the people that I and my colleges spoke to today.
The first gentleman that I spoke to was in the midst of claiming Universal Credit. He was astounded at how rude and unhelpful the staff were to him and to others, he just didnt understand how the DWP staff could act in this manner because it’s totally alien to him. He told me that he was brought up to respect others and to help them also and quite rightly so. He noted that we need to carry on educating people of their rights, because this empowers them and it’s one way of changing things. He also told us that he was so glad that we were there for people, because we are needed and to not give up.
I spoke to a man who has waited well over a month for his Universal Credit claim to go through. We know that this isn’t unusual, its been all over the news and we have known about this for around 4 years now. Being a pilot area for Universal Credit has it’s disadvantages because we have suffered for so long now that I’ve almost forgotten what its like not to live like this.
Not only was he hungry, hes been having a lot of hassle from his neighbours and the windows on his flat have been smashed. His landlord is refusing to fix them, stating that he has to pay to have them fixed first then they will refund him. We told him that this is not only ridiculous it is almost unheard of. He rents his property from a larger housing association and they should fix them. Maybe they are being prejudicial because he owns rent due to his Universal Credit delay, who knows. But we advised him that this is wrongful of them and we told him where to got to get some advice and to deal with this. Poor man, he didn’t ask for any of this to happen to him, nobody does do they.
I spoke to a young man who was attempting to make a new claim for Universal Credit. He had already checked to see what ID was needed when he attended his appointment and he brought it with him today. However, his advisor told him that because one of his proof of IDs didnt include his postcode then it didn’t count. This was an official letter from his solicitor.
To say that he was annoyed was an understatement. He was clearly hungry, so I made sure that he was given a food parcel, along with that I gave him some much needed help and advice and had a good conversation with him. He told me that he was finding the whole process far too daunting, that he had felt like giving up but knowing that we were there and spoke to him like a human being has given him hope. I also spoke to his sister, who for reasons that I cannot say publicly needed a food parcel also for her and her son. My heart went out to her and I could relate totally to her because I have walked the same path as she is doing now and it will get better for her.
His words were “I can’t believe that you have spoken to me like I am human, that I matter and that you care. They don’t inside that building, they don’t have any respect for us, thank you so, so much.” And this is exactly why we do what we do.
A lady, sat in her wheelchair was sheltering from the rain with her son. She called me over so I went to have a chat with her. She told me that she had been given zero points at her recent ESA assessment, even though she is very clearly unable to work. Yes I know that this isnt unusual sadly. I handed her a food parcel because she hasn’t had any money for over a week to buy food, with that I gave her some good advice and told her to contact her local MPS office asap. In my eyes this decision can and must be overturned and he can do this far quicker than any other organisation. She said that she would do this, but we had to leave before she came out of the Jobcentre. I really hope that she is ok because this should never have happened to her and the thousands of disabled people that are denied their rightful claim to ESA and PIP everyday throughout the country everyday.
I also spoke to several older ladies, all disabled that have recently failed their ESA medicals. They wern’t aware that they could appeal because their advisor hadn’t told them this, they thought that they had no option but to go through the Universal Credit, JSA rigmarole. They all were unhappy but found out words comforting.
I spoke to a local homeless chap who has had a bit of good luck and will hopefully be housed and living a far better life. I speak to him everyday, and usually buy him a cuppa. It was lovely seeing him wearing a nice new warm coat and having a whole new outlook on life. Many thanks to the guys from the local organisations for this, and also the magic of Facebook. Sometimes it can work miracles.
Many thanks for everyone that attended today, numbers were low but spirits were high. Thank you so much! Time to find some thermal underware when funds allow!
Also thanks to the wonderful Sasha for joining us today, more about that in the future. But I can say that I will hopefully be starting a weekly podcast in the near future.
I’ll end this here, because I have to go and collect my daughter from school. Remember that this is only a small snapshot of what we do on a Thursday and my work doesn’t end when I’ve finished writing this blog, infact its just the beginning of my week.
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