First published a few years ago but nothing much has changed.
I notice a young homeless girl living on the street. She has her blankets and bags next to her ready for the night ahead. She should be excited about life but instead she looks lost. She has a can of beer next to her, she says to numb the pain and cold.
She’s sat with a group of men, also homeless but seems detached from them. I ask her if she is ok, and she says that she is and that there’s safety in numbers. She needs to keep safe. As a woman living on the streets life can be very dangerous. Even if you don’t like the people you are sitting next to you stay with them she says. They are her protection.
She wants to make enough money for a b&b for the night, but says she has given up all hope of finding a permanent home because she has addiction issues and feels unable to deal with them. She will one day she says. After saying this her facial expression changes as worry weighs down heavily on her mind. A weight that she feels can’t be lifted at the moment.
Whilst we are talking a young man rushes past, earphones on looks anxious. Perhaps late for an appointment. He doesn’t notice the homeless girl sat near him. He’s self consumed with himself and his journey. She says that she sees this all the time.
Her wish, she says is that people would be nice to one another. She would like more people to say hello, but they don’t and she looks down again.
A lady walks past walking her dog. People stop and compliment her on her dog. They don’t notice the young girl, but they notice the dog. I feel that this is rather sad. A vulnerable human life appears to be less important.
A teenage boy stands next to the homeless girl. He says hello to her and asks her if she would mind if he plays some music and starts rapping. She welcomes it.
His rapping consists of the story of his life, that he has encountered prejudice, loss and also some lovely things. People start to give him money, but instead of keeping it himself he gives it to the homeless girl. He tells her that she is important, that she is loved and not to give up.
He tells her that one day, life will get better because his did. She smiles and thanks him. Maybe, just maybe that one act of kindness gave her the strength to carry on. I’d like to think that she kept warm for that night.
As the never ending cold winter and the ever increasing cost of living and energy costs continues once again I took to the streets and interviewed several people in my local town Ashton Under Lyne.
Ashton Under Lyne is a typical northern working class town, drained of money by the government and the majority of people living in differing stages of poverty.
Mortality rates are amongst the highest in the UK and there’s a higher rate of people either being unwell or living with some type of disability.
Like any other northern working class town it doesn’t have a lot for people to aspire to despite the positive changes that Tameside Council are implementing and trying to introduce.
Years of government forced austerity policies has been and continues to cause a lack of funding for essential services with most things already stripped to the bare minimum.
As I headed off into the cold I spoke to a young woman that had two young children with her. I introduced myself and asked her how she is coping with the cost of living and the ever increasing energy crisis.
As I asked her this I could see that she was upset, telling me that she thinks that she’s failing her children because she can’t give them the things that she used to be able to do.
“We’re living in a cold house trying to keep turning the central heating on at a bare minimum. I usually turn the heating on for an hour in the morning and again in the evening at bedtime, that’s if I’ve got credit because I’m on a prepaid meter”
She went on to say that her health is suffering most likely because she’s cold and because she often doesn’t eat meals, if she does it’s a bare minimum. “I can’t afford to eat as well as my children and they always come first”
I asked her how she keeps warm when the heating isn’t turned on. “I wear layers of clothing and I have a thick blanket that we all snuggle under. I’ve got a little fan heater that I use just to keep the chill off because I don’t want the children to become ill and even that’s a struggle. Once I run out of credit on my meter that’s it it’s gone and I can’t afford for that to happen”
She told me that she often takes the children to the library that has a warm area and her children can have a look at some books and she can have a free cuppa.
However she continued to say that sometimes she found this very difficult because she doesn’t always want to be around other people..
I asked her if she had visited a food bank recently and she said yes she has and is now dependent upon them even though it’s still a struggle saying that they’ve been a lifeline for her and her children.
But despite getting help from food banks they don’t cover all of her food and every day living costs so she has to try and fill the gaps in.
“I’m always topping up my energy meters, I’ve never had this problem before. It’s bad, really bad I just wish that it wasn’t like this”
I signposted her to several organisations that might be able to help her but this is only a sticking plaster.
Whilst the government sits back and causes the suffering of those most vulnerable her experience is going to be repeated time and time again
Their inhumane policies will undoubtedly cause malnutrition and hypothermia related illnesses and worse.
Undoubtedly there will be recorded deaths of those suffering like this but how many will actually be reported as so.
Every death related to this needs to be reported and spoken about in parliament. The government is knowingly causing the suffering of thousands if not millions and they need to be reminded of this every single day.
This shouldn’t be happening at all.
I will continue to share the experiences of those that I interview in future blogs, hopefully weekly.
If you would like me to use your story get in touch I’m happy to do so.
Let’s be clear no one should be forced to live like this.
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A 87 year old woman died after developing hypothermia at home after expressing concerns that she was worried about paying her energy bills.
Barbara Bolton, 87, had previously told relatives she had felt cold after they had visited her at her home in Bury to check on her wellbeing. Sadly as a result she was rushed to Fairfield hospital where she was then diagnosed with hypothermia.
However despite the good care given by NHS medical professionals, her condition sadly deteriorated and as a result of her worsening condition she sadly died several weeks later.
Hospital notes given to the inquest indicate that her illness and subsequent death was linked to the fact she couldn’t afford to put her heating on.
Her son, Mark Bolton, 61, said his “proud” mum had refused his offer to help to pay her power bills as reported in the Mirror. She had been heating her home by using a single gas fire in her living room and used portable electric heaters to warm the rest of her two-bedroom house.
Ms Bolton had previously worked as a pharmacy assistant at her local Tesco until the age of 82 and she had lived at her home on Dawson Street in Bury for several decades.
Her son Mark told the inquest that he spoke to his mum every night and that she had told him that she was worried about her heating bills, despite assurances from him that he would cover the costs.
Mark said “She was concerned about all her bills because she was a pensioner. She was careful, she was mindful of the prices and worried about them going up,” he said.
Mark told the coroner that he had always told her to ‘just keep your heating on’ and ‘don’t worry about the bills mum.’ “But she was very stubborn and proud about paying her own way,” he said.
He told the hearing that his mum had ‘felt cold’ when she was found sat at her kitchen table by one of her grandchildren, who had gone round after the family had not been able to contact her.
Police coroner’s officer Jane Scullion told the hearing: “Barbara was admitted to hospital on December 11, 2022, with hypothermia, and a chest infection.
“During that time she continued to deteriorate. After a discussion, she was placed on end of life care and passed away.”
Assistant coroner for Manchester North Julie Mitchel adjourned the inquest and has requested statements from her doctor and asked for a medical cause of death to be provided.
“Her death was particularly accelerated by hypothermia and there is a possibility of self-neglect due to the lack of heating so her death has been referred to the coroner,” she said.
Hypothermia is caused by prolonged exposures to very cold temperatures and requires immediate medical intervention. Causes include not wearing warm clothes in winter, falling into cold water and living in a cold house.
Sadly I fear that her death caused by living in a cold house isn’t the first and will certainly not be the last. Thousands if not more people are being forced by an uncaring, cruel government to live in cold and in many cases, damp houses as a result of the ever increasing energy costs.
For those saying that she should have jut accepted the help offered, it isn’t always as easy for various reasons. Admitting that you’re poor and can’t afford to heat your home is a very difficult thing to have to admit, and as a parent this can be even harder.
Society deems that parents should look after their children and not the other way round, and asking your children for help can make a parent feel like an absolute failure, and she wouldn’t have made her decision lightly.
This nightmare isn’t going to end soon, I wish it was.The reality is that thousands, including myself are counting down the days until spring arrives and warmer weather returns, it can’t come a minute too soon.
The government has absolutely no intention of changing things for the better, they prefer to spend their time trying to cover up senior ministers deception and lies rather than help those in need.
It’s one rule for them and one for us and the death of Ms Bolton and others won’t bother them in the slightest.
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The DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) Independent Case Examiner also known as ICE has revealed that they are overwhelmed by a huge amount of complaints from claimants.
This was revealed when they responded to an MP’s written question recently in parliament.
ICE is an organisation used by the DWP to deal with claimant’s complaints against the DWP. This is the next step when a claimant has exhausted the DWP’s internal complaints procedure and is still not satisfied with the response given.
Complaints against the DWP can be for various reasons including and not excluding others;
A failure by the DWP to follow proper procedures
Excessive payment delays for benefits
Sub standard customer service given to claimants.
It’s also noted that there has been a 17% increase in the number of complaints made to ICE in the year 2021to March 2022.
In itself may not be seen as a huge increase, however it is an increase and should be dealt with in the utmost urgency
However the huge increase in complaints arises in the proportion of cases that ICE has agreed to look into. This has increased by an astonishing 68% in the last year.
This therefore means that ICE is receiving a huge increase in complaints where it believes that there is a case to answer than in previous years.
As a result of this increase there are now 1,249 cases waiting for an ICE investigator to be allocated. The average time for a complaint to be dealt with currently takes is 53 weeks,so in total this means that it takes over a year before an investigation begins.
Personally I don’t know any person making a complaint against the DWP that can afford to wait that long albeit for financial and other complaint reasons.
It takes a great deal of courage to make a complaint against the DWP and as a result many don’t make complaints when they should do.
The complaints procedure is complex and very stressful for everyone making a complaint against the DWP and as a result it can impact a person’s health and ability to manage their daily life’s.
It comes as no surprise that legal justice that claimants are entitled to is subject to long indefensible delays without question.
It’s also noted that the DWP can make a decision to apply cruel, harsh and often unwanted sanctions on the most vulnerable and in need of help whilst their real and valid complaints.
Once again it’s one rule for claimants and yet another for their oppressors.
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