Dear readers it’s been five years almost to the day since I started writing this blog although I’ve been campaigning for much longer.
A friend encouraged me to write it but I honestly didn’t think that anyone would read it. I was proved wrong though, it took off straight away.
Back then we were chosen to be a trial area for universal credit along with Oldham and Wigan.
Hardly anyone else was documenting the day to day cruelty that universal credit and the benefit reforms.Most likely because it wasn’t happening everywhere and lots of people weren’t aware of this
We were ignored and called liars and suchlike.
Myself and other groups continued to fight against it even though every door was being slammed in our faces. No one wanted to know.
Through perseverance and determination we continued, we weren’t letting this go. People were and are dying as a result and that was and is unacceptable.
DPAC have been consistently supportive and they’re amazing. The work that they have done and are doing is outstanding. I can’t thank them enough.
When I started this blog almost everyone that I spoke to outside Ashton Jobcentre was or had been sanctioned.
Pregnant women were being sanctioned for three years, suicides of people that we had spoken to were a constant worry. I’ve lost count of the people that we have lost.
It breaks my heart and I’ve always got them in my thoughts. Thanks to Black Triangle for their work collecting this info and publishing it.
At the the time the DWP were a law unto themselves, they still are. I’m certain that they were given orders to sanction as many people as possible (remember Sandra’s stars anyone?).
I’m certain that they still have these targets but they’re not so open and brazen at displaying them. People are still being sanctioned and it’s abbhorant that this is continuing to happen. Being sanctioned can and does kill people.
The suffering continues and every week I’m told yet more awful stories from claimants about their experiences whilst on universal credit and other benefits.
Today a man told me that he’d been barred from the Jobcentre for loosing his temper when he was told that he’d been sanctioned.
When he was allowed back into the Jobcentre he had a G4S guard to escort him to his appointment and to take him out again.
The stress of this took its toll on him and he started to pull his hair out. He can’t believe how horrible this system is. Thanks to the DWP he’s mentally scarred for life.
The system hasn’t got better the DWP and government have become more devious, constantly putting unrealistic demands upon people that they know won’t be able to keep up with it.
We’ve handed hundreds of food parcels out because people were and are literally starving. I’ve watched a family open the tins of food and eat it because they were so hungry.
It’s hard to tell you what the worst thing that I’ve seen is. Everything about this system is awful. It persecutes children, women, men, women who should be receiving their pensions but were conned out of them. The DWP won’t leave anyone alone.
The fight continues though. The Labour Party have at last commited to stopping, scrapping universal credit. They’re going to replace it with a caring system and I know that they’re going to do this. The Labour Party have been working very hard on creating the new system for quite a while now.
But the changes won’t happen overnight and until they’ve been elected nothing will change its going to become a whole lot worse.
Every week we speak to disabled people who have been found fit for work. They aren’t fit for work though and we help them to start the appeal process.
We’ve handed out thousands of copies of of our survival guides. They’ve proved to be invaluable and have helped a lot of people. Thanks to Roy for your help with this.
The blog doesn’t end after I’ve published the blog on Thursdays though. It’s become a full time job. Myself or members of the team don’t get paid by anyone either. We do it because we care.
The fight continues week after week. We’ve had abuse from G4S, I’ve been spat on called a scrounger and worse.
The DWP have unsuccessfully tried to move us from outside the Jobcentre. We aren’t going anywhere, we aren’t stopping until the suffering ends.
Whilst the suffering continues we will continue. I made this commitment all those years ago.
I want to thank you all for reading and supporting the blog for these last five years. Its been a massive comfort to know that you all support this blog and the campaign.
I’ll end the blog here this week. I know that it’s a bit different than my usual blog style but I really wanted to thank everyone that’s helped along the way whether it’s on foot at the demos or online. Both are equally as important.
To everyone that does come and help though thank you so, so much. We’ve had a lot of physical support from Stockport Against Austerity and I can’t thank them enough as well as Gordon, Roy, Carol and everyone else who I’ve met along the way.
My local Labour Party and my MP Angela Rayner have also been hugely supportive even though I’ve been a pain sometimes.
Can I ask you to continue to read, share, tweet and email my blog. Thank you to those that already do.
There’s also a donate button at the top and side of this blog. Every penny donated ensures that the campaign and blog can continue. A massive thanks to those that have.
I’ll be back next week with my usual blog. Thank you for the five years of support and thanks to Mike for persuading me to start this blog.
Don’t worry I’ll be writing next weeks blog in my usual style.