Dear readers, I found it particularly hard this week, not only because it was freezing cold but I think its one of those weeks when the enormity of the situation hits me like a brick. This happens every now and then because I’m all too aware of the situation, of our situation.
Anyway, enough about me, you probably aren’t here to hear about me. The weather was very cold and we were ill prepared for this sudden onslaught of winter weather. I had left my home after forgetting my telephone also. Not a good start to the day.
The Queue had already formed for the food parcels, all given to people either working and claiming Universal Credit or being shifted over to Universal Credit from another benefit. They had no choice but to take out a loan from the DWP which is now making their universal credit payments incredibly small, usually unmanageable.
It did appear to be a bit quieter than normal, but we also see this a lot. Some weeks are busier than others, but the problems are still life changing.
The first thing that I noticed upon arriving at the Jobcentre was the number of staff and security guards at the front desk. They may have put up a reflective screen to prevent us from seeing inside but I can still catch glimpses from the outside. It’s a tad excessive and is very intimidating upon walking into the building. There’s just no need for it. It’s simply to remind us of where we stand in the situation, an enemy, someone to take the pee out of, to abuse.
As Gordon passed me the food parcels I was handing them out to people, many of whom are hungry. When claiming universal credit it’s impossible to pay your bills and buy food, gas and electric at the same time. Food parcels keep people going, they keep people alive. Instead of condemning their use, the government actually love them. They take the problem out of their hands. As a nation, we should be constantly challenging the government about their use, many of us already are. Please join us in doing so.
I was stopped by a man walking out of the Jobcentre. Clutching a folded piece of paper he told me that he had been without money for months. He needed food and advice. We provided both happily.
A man then stopped me and told me his story. He had been released from prison not long ago and was told to go to the Jobcentre to claim universal credit. He did just that and he got an advance loan from them to tide him over. Out of that, he had to pay his rent and other expenses so now he’s left with nothing, yet despite struggling he’s very proud that he’s managing to stay on the straight and narrow “It’s almost as if they’re trying to send me back inside”. Makes you think, doesn’t it?
Another man stopped me and told me of his plight. He’s receiving his universal credit payments, he has to put towards his rent, he has to pay his bills, buy food etc. He’d taken an advance loan out whilst awaiting his universal credit payments which he now has to pay back at £30 a month. He also has to pay a debt that he was paying back whilst claiming his previous benefit at almost £30 a month, so he’s £60 down already.
Yes, people are expected to live like this because they just don’t care.
We then spoke to a young man desperately trying to make a good life for himself. He had lost his job and then subsequently lost his home and had become homeless. He’s not living on the street but instead was a sofa surfer until finding accommodation.
He honestly couldn’t try any harder than he is doing now. He dresses smart and is always looking for work, he would be a credit to any employer. However finding suitable employment is proving to be impossible because he’s got an unspent criminal conviction, that happened when he got when like he said ‘was having a bad patch’. His speciality of work is in finance.
Poor fella, trying his best and getting constant knockbacks. The only employment that he can find is fairly rubbish agency work. In reality, he’s most likely going to have to live like this until his conviction is spent, and he really does regret it. Magic wand anyone?
He told me that he feels so much pressure from the DWP and other organisations that it’s hard to stay focused at times but he wants to improve his life.
I spoke to an older man who told me quickly that the DWP have destroyed his life. He then walked off.
It was then when we noticed an older chap walking out from the Jobcentre clutching a piece of paper whilst looking confused. I asked him if we could help, he then told me his story.
He’s 60 years of age, in poor health and is recovering from a stroke. He’s also prone to getting more strokes. He was claiming ESA but he was declared fit for work at Albert Bridge house. To be brutally honest he didn’t have a clue about what he had to.
This gentleman was brought up in what seems now was a totally different world. A world where people were respected, elders were acknowledged and also respected and everyone was looked after. Now, he’s left with nothing, computer-like sentences uttered by people that are supposed to help him but don’t.
Can you imagine feeling this lost? It must be a truly awful feeling. We advised him, signposted him and showed him compassion.
We spoke to a woman that has just found a job totally independent from the Jobcentre. We were so happy for her, her life will now begin again.
We advised a woman to go and see the local council about a housing benefit enquiry. Universal credit is making her so skint that she’s struggling to cope.
Not long afterwards we spoke to a young man who had been made homeless but had totally changed his life around all by himself. He told us that this was because of his strong personality, he knew that he had to survive. He had also never become involved with drugs or drink. Anyway, to cut a long story short, he’s totally inspirational. a credit to his family and I’ll never forget our conversation.
So here we have it, another week and more awful stories. We left half an hour early due to being freezing cold and ill-prepared (we were freezing) and I had ran out of electric so had to return home to ensure that my daughter wasn’t freezing cold. You know the score, this happens to many of my readers.
We helped and signposted everyone that we spoke to. We offered words of hope and comfort, we fed people and gave them hope and we will return next week to do the same thing.
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