DWP write to GP to advise not to give claimant sicknotes. Woman faced with eviction, man sent on a course miles away. Welcome to DWP hell.

Hi folks, I’m still here although some people and organisations like to wish that I wasn’t. It’s been a long week, it’s cold and I’m not that well AGAIN. Will this winter ever end? It appears not because yet another cold spell is on it’s way over and SWEP is in place for the street homeless folk in my area until Tuesday.

I arrived at Ashton Jobcentre 10 minutes early. This wasn’t planned, but I had my daughter in tow today as it’s the school holidays and we had ran out of shops to walk around. It’s the same in many small towns across the country, shops shutting because people are shopping elsewhere, and the communities don’t have enough money to spend in local shops. It’s a catch 22 situation.

I once had a dream that when I became an adult that I would own a shop similar to my great grandparents. I can confidently kiss that dream goodbye, and anyway I much prefer writing and helping people now.

Today’s demo was a cold one and it was slow to start, Ashton appeared to be slow to wake up from its night time slumber, maybe it was a mixture of the cold weather and the school holidays. I’ll list the problems that I encountered today. None are unusual, but they still matter and are a sad indictment of the awful state of this government and it’s distinct hatred of the poorest and most vulnerable.

The first person that I spoke to today was a man that I had spoken to on a previous occasion. He had then broke his leg, but it is now out of plaster and he was hobbling into the Jobcentre for his weekly signing on appointment. I asked him how he was and he said “Same shit, a different day and I’m sick of it”.

I spoke to a young man who was going into the Jobcentre to make his very first claim. I handed him a survival guide and gave him some advice. He was grateful of this and I hope that he takes heed of both.

I spoke to a man whilst he was leaving the Jobcentre. He was very thin, was wearing unsuitable clothes for the weather and looked fed up. He told me that his advisor had told home that he has to attend a course in another town for a period of time, he wasn’t certain of how long. I asked him what this course would consist of and he told me that he didn’t know, his advisor hadn’t told him but had told him that he must attend or he will be sanctioned. So thats a long journey, taking time away from real job hunting most likely to learn nothing that he doesn’t already know. The DWP spends millions I’m sure on expensive courses that don’t deliver anything of any significance.

I spoke to an older woman who has been sofa surfing for quite a while now. Her son is also street homeless and this breaks her heart. She told me that she didn’t want life to be like this, it used to be different and that she feels a failure. I reassured her that she is not a failure, that the government is failing her and her son. Luckily her son is now accessing help and will also be housed whilst SWEP is in place, and he is recieving on going support. She reassured me that she is going to at last access the same help and I’m praying that she does because I am worried about her. I will check up on her situation this week.

We spoke to an older man who is having trouble accessing his P45 from his previous employer. Sadly this isn’t an unusual situation and I have blogged about this before. His previous employer is refusing to hand over his P45, and this in itself is very dodgy. He’s been advised to take it further himself and to navigate the legal system by himself. That’s no mean feat I can tell you.

I signposted him to Manchester Law Centre, and I hope that he can get some good advice there. This is a problem that is becoming all too common sadly. Because he can’t access his P45 he can’t access any benefits, and that includes his housing benefit. They are also demanding a copy of his P45. The poor fella can’t win. I really hope that he can get some help at the Law Centre.

Good news folks! The couple that I blogged about last week are now in temporary accomodation whilst SWEP is in place. They took my advice after spending more than a few nights sleeping under a bridge in the freezing cold. Life on the street can be scary, especially for a woman and she had been very scared. I’m so happy that they are now accessing help and support. I know that my readers have been worried about them both also. Shelter are also fighting their corner so hopefully there will be a light at the end of the tunnel for them soon.

An older man stopped Gordon and told him that Universal Credit it a nightmare. We all agreed that it is. It’s your worst nightmare.

A man was sent in and out of the Jobcentre at least three times. Why on earth can’t they just let them wait inside for the 10 minutes for their appointment. It’s freezing outside, but they won’t because it would show a measure of compassion wouldn’t it.

I asked a man who looked so cold if he needed a food parcel.. He said that he didn’t deserve one. I tried to explain to him that he does, if he’s in need then he is in need. He walked off, but so many people think like this. I do hope that hes ok.

I very briefly spoke to a polish man who quickly took a leaflet from me. I hope that he’s ok because he appeared to be very stressed and unhappy.

I spoke to an older lady who had failed her ESA medical, hadn’t appealed it because she didn’t know that she could do so who is now claiming JSA. She told me that as a result of the benefit change, she had no idea that she had to now pay the top up on her rent. As a result she had fallen behind with her rent and her landlord (a local housing association) has told her that she will see them in court. She told me that she  hadn’t recieved any advice, so I gave her some advice and referred her to the relevant organisations that can help her. Life on the streets would be especially cruel to her. Shes older, in poor health and very vulnerable. The council would see her as being intentionally homeless and would most likely wash their hands of her. I really am hoping that she access the help available.

I spoke to a man who told us that his doctor had been advised by the DWP of not to allow him anymore fit notes. This isn’t unusual, the DWP can and do try to interfere with a doctors ability to treat their patient. Luckily his doctor, and many others ignore the DWP, but how many don’t ignore them? How many people are left without fit notes  when they desperately need them?

When I say that the DWP has total control over a person’s life, it is most definitely true, they have the legal right to contact a GP and attempt to stop them from issuing fit notes. It’s appalling and why aren’t the medical profession challenging this more?

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/dwp-told-dying-dads-gp-9529945

 

Just before we were about to leave a lady stopped to talk to me. She had just left the Jobcentre, and upon entering the Jobcentre she had asked a G4S ‘Security’ guard what we were doing outside. The guards answer was that we were ‘Wasting oxygen’. Says it all doesn’t it.

If anyone from Ashton under Lyne Jobcentre is reading this please tell the guard with the moustache that we are far from a waste of oxygen and that we spend two hours helping desperate people to piece their life’s together. If he has taken offence to this then also remind him that he is only one step away from being in the same position as the claimants walking into the Jobcentre every day. And anyway, working for G4S is no big deal, and they care nothing for him. Ta.

Whilst I’m mentioning G4S, I’m doing some research into intimidation etc by G4S security guards at Jobcentres and and I need your help. If any of my readers have had any bad experiences with the security guards at the Jobcentre then please contact me with your stories. Your name and details will remain anonymous. This is really important folks, so if you can please get in touch via email if you like. Thank you!

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Thank you to everyone that came along to help today. I know that it was cold, but your help and advice means the world to everyone. Thank you!

Many thanks to all my readers and all our supporters. Your support means the world and it keeps me going. Times are a tad tough at the moment for me so thank you so much!

Please like, share, tweet, email my blog if you can. I’ll put my donate button below also. I’m a single parent on a very low budget and every penny counts. Thank you.

 

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Family made homeless due to no fault of their own… Children taken into care. There’s no duty of care to keep families together. Welcome to Tory britain.

Sorry for the delay in writing my blog this week. After the demo I had to attend a meeting and time quickly drifted away. This sometimes happens so my apologies once again.

Today was freezing cold, horrendous for anyone who are forced to live on the streets, having no roof over their head. Not only do they have the weather to contend with they also have to cope with life on the streets, it’s tough much tougher than we can comprehend. My heart goes out to everyone in this situation and as I know we are all either one or two steps away from this ourselves.

I really didn’t think that I could despise this Conservative government even more than I did previously, but today has deepened my dislike of them. Let’s get it right, they really don’t care about anyone that isn’t a member of their club, and nor would many Tory MPs care about the homeless man that died near the houses of parliment this week. They’ll just exchange platitudes and that will be it.

I also make no apologies for my thinking this way, I’ve experienced too much now to think otherwise and every night I hope that the next day it will get better but it doesn’t.

 

Gordon arrived with the food parcels as soon as I arrived, he might have arrived a few seconds earlier than myself, I’m not sure but I was tired so my apologies. All food parcels were taken as usual, I shall list todays incidents, it’s probably easier that way.

 

The first person that I spoke to was an older man who had been sanctioned for not attending a meeting that he didn’t receive an appointment about. For any new readers of my blog this happens a lot, far too often for it to be a conincidence anymore. If you scroll down my posts, I think that I have mentioned this previously in an earlier blog.

I advised him of what to do etc and handed him a food parcel. Also, I gave him advice and solidarity because when a person is in that situation it does feel like your whole world is ending, for some it does. A kind word means more than you’d think.

 

I spoke to a man who often stops to talk to me. He is sleeping on a friends sofa, it’s his only option he says. He has a few problems with his accomodation so he likes to chat about it, and once again I advised him of his options. He took a food parcel and rushed home to get out of the cold. Cold weather and Asthma do not mix well.

 

I spoke to a young woman who was very inappropriately dressed for the weather. She looked very upset so I walked over to her and asked her if she was ok. She told me that she had attempted suicide the other day and was not long out of hospital. She had previously failed her ESA examination, and didn’t know how she was going to carry on. Shes also pregnant and worried about her unborn baby.

I gave her a hug, a food parcel and one of our leaflets. I also advised her of what she should do now as a matter of urgency and she assured me that she would do these tasks as well as access local groups for support. I reassured her that she isn’t alone, that we and others do care for her and are there for her. My thoughts are with her.

 

An older lady walked out of the Jobcentre, she stopped and stated that ‘They make you feel like you are a five year old in there’ and that the security guards are even worse. She finds them very intimidating and I can attest to that fact. Some of them must think that they are in the employ of the DWP, when infact they are employed by G4S and are only one step away from being in the same shoes as the claimants that they intimidate.

 

A lovely woman walked over and started to talk to us, she told me that her friend had mentioned us. She told us that she claims ESA and also PIP and already has a good support worker. Shes a very clever and articulate woman.

She told us that a representative of a local housing provider had been to see her to ‘advise’ her about Universal Credit which is being completely rolled out in Ashton Under Lyne in March. The representative panicked her and didn’t take into account her health conditions and left her in a state of panic.

Advice  was given to her and she is now arming herself with as much information as possible. The representative told her that she has to start saving money to pay her rent due to the wait for Universal Credit payments. Rent is a priority she was told. Thats as may be, but when you have no money how on earth can you save, its impossible isn’t it.

 

A young man stormed out of the Jobcentre looking very upset. He didn’t want to talk, I hope that he is ok.

 

I advised a lady who was posting a sicknote to send it by first class postage and to get proof of postage. This will back up her claim if it becomes lost as they often do. Shes had an awful time with her ESA and their crooked assessments.

 

I spoke to a lady who looked furious upon leaving the Jobcentre. She told me that her advisor was leaving, its an advisor that has worked at Ashton for some time. I used to have the same advisor on occasion and they are one of the more reasonable ones. Anyway today she had to see the person taking over their job. In her words this advisor was ‘horrible, didn’t listen to me, tried to catch me out on everything and I just wanted to get out of there’. I advised her of her right to complain and demand to change advisors.

Yes this is still a legal right and people should exercise this right whenever they encounter a problem like this. If you have a decent MP then go and see them, it doesn’t take long to sort out. Jobcentres hate MPS becoming involved because they know that they will be held accountable to some degree.

 

A man walked out of the Jobcentre and whispered to Gordon ‘The way they treat us in there is awful’. Says it all doesn’t it.

 

The last incident could be rather shocking to some readers, but not to others.

When the demo ended we made our way over to IKEA for a free cuppa and some warmth. We were also having a meeting.

As I was walking over to our table I was stopped by a woman and a man that I have spoken to many times in the past. Due to no fault of their own they were made homeless and are getting legal advice about this. This is bad enough isn’t it, but they have children and as a result of their becoming homeless their children have now been taken into care.

They asked for help regarding housing for both themselves and their children,but were told that the duty of care goes only to their children and not the parents.

I have mentioned this subject earlier in the week via twitter my twitter id is @charlotteh71 with fellow blogger Kate Belgrave, and I have also had personal experience of this attitude towards duty of care when my daughter asked for help with rehousing, and I do know that this does happen, it happens a lot in most local authorities up and down the country.

The duty of care used to go to both children and their parents, and it used to be a priority to keep a family together. This priority seems to have gone, most likely due to a lack of emergency accomodation and cost. The irony is that it costs a lot more to place a child into the care system than it does to keep a family together. So now the parents are street homeless and unless they find accomodation they are not likely to have their children returned.

It’s an almost identical situation as in Ken Loach’s film Cathy come home. The government are tearing families apart, children are being taken from good parents, who’s only so called crime is to have a run of bad luck, to loose their job and then their home. These aren’t crimes, this shouldn’t be happening in the first place.

We bought them a warm meal, gave them some good advice and signposted them to local organisations. They have done nothing wrong except to be poor, and in this governments eyes thats criminal.

 

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I’m sorry if I’ve ranted a bit today, I’m upset. Every week for over 4 years I’ve seen and heard some awful things and it does get to me at times. Everything that I write is a true account and has been witnessed by members of the team, who are wonderful.

How much more will it take before enough people want change? I know that many of us can’t take much more.

Many thanks to everyone that came along today. I know that it’s cold and this winter is never ending but I really do appreciate it and so do the people that are forced to use the Jobcentre.

 

Please share, tweet, talk about or email my blog to your local MP. Even if they are a conservative MP they need to know what is happening to the poorest and most vulnerable of this country.

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Insulin dependant lady fails ESA medical relying on foodbanks, wheelchair bound homeless man forced to live in rat infested hostel, missing gateway codes, welcome to Tory Britain.

Well today’s demo was busy. I was greeted by John as I arrived at Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre, he was very early today and that cheered me up immensely. Very soon after John’s arrival Gordon arrived with the food parcels and they more or less left as soon as they arrived. it’s an awful sign of the times when this happens and the cold weather certainly does not help. Everyone agrees that winter does feel never ending this year.

I have been pondering on how I should write this weeks blog, and I have decided that I shall list the accounts of what happened today. Please note that no one in need left without adequate help, support, signposting and when needed a food parcel. So here goes.

 

The First Lady that I spoke to stopped for only a moment. She told me that she had failed her ESA medical because the DWP had lost her form. Unbelievable isn’t it. Well sadly this isn’t unusual, she was given advice on how to appeal, where to get help doing so and was given a food parcel. She wasn’t given any help from the Jobcentre just a sheet of paper with a telephone number on it. Thank goodness we were there to help her.

 

I spoke to a man who was working but because his income is very limited he couldn’t afford to buy any food shopping. I advised him and handed him a food parcel, he was relieved that he had someone to talk to that understood and that he wasn’t on his own.

A woman stopped me to tell me that the DWP had lost her sick note, she was devestated and is trying everything that she can to sort this out. I advised her on what to do and handed her a leaflet. Gordon had a chat with her also. She will be ok, but shes a vulnerable person and she shouldn’t be forced to pay financially for the DWPS mistake.

We spoke to a young woman who was wearing totally unsuitable clothes for the cold weather. She appeared to be confused and told me that she had just found out that she is pregnant. We advised her, gave her a leaflet and food parcel and also signposted her to a local organisation where she can get a hot meal and get some solidarity. She appeared happy with that and hopefully things will get better for her.

I noted today that there was more people being turned away from attending their appointment for being ‘too early’. Being early counts as being 10 minutes early. The Jobcentre should remember that if a person were to attend a job interview then it is good practice to arrive 10 minutes early, and afterall they are supposed to be preparing people to return to work. It’s also flaming cold outside and a bit of compassion wouldn’t go amiss would it. It wasn’t overly busy either. I suspect that this is really all about control, afterall all claimants need to be constantly reminded to who is their real boss don’t they, the DWP are in total control of their life’s. it’s awful and soul destroying.

A young couple rushed out, they didn’t want to speak and they looked annoyed. I asked them if they were ok (daft question really) and the young woman told me “They are all pi** takers in there aren’t they”. Sorry I can’t elaborate more on that but they wern’t hanging around.

 

We spoke to an older lady who is insulin dependent. She has to take insulin several times a day and also eat decent food at regular intervals throughout the day. She had attended her ESA medical and had failed, so with the help of welfare rights is now taking her case to a tribunal. She is understandably worried about this because she needs to eat.

This lady is also a WASPI lady, who should be by rights receiving her state pension. Because the government wrongly changed the goalposts regarding this she can’t and is now at the mercy of a system that cares nothing for her at all. Roy quite rightly stated that she has been dropped off the cliff edge with her safety net being thrown away. She is still in shock that the government would treat her like this. We gave her advice, a leaflet and showed her compassion and solidarity, this did mean the world to her.

 

I spoke to two homeless men that are at the moment living in an area that isn’t in Tameside, but not too far away, a place called Openshaw. I recognised them both when I saw them because they had both been street homeless in Manchester and I had spoken to them both. One of these men is a wheelchair user.

They told me about the terrible living conditions that they are being forced to endure. They are living in temporary accommodation in a hostel. Whilst they are living there they have to pay a top up amount and they are supposed to get a breakfast every day. The landlord is refusing to feed them, there’s water leaking everywhere and they told me that the place is overrun by rats and mice. They hate it there, but it’s either there or the streets and it’s too cold to be out on the streets.

There has also been a mix up with their money and they are scared that they are going to be thrown out because they can’t afford to pay the top up and they are scared. I had a good chat with them, and I signposted them to a local organisation that might be able to help them with their situation and I also advised them of where to go for help with their payments.

Life is awful for them, hellish infact and it’s the same for thousands of homeless folk up and down the country. From what I have been hearing there needs to be far more stringent regulations put into place regarding these hostels. There are some awful ones out there, it seems that it goes from one extreme to another, from excellent accomodation where residents are given full support and the other end of the spectrum where the landlord just collects the rent and doesn’t want to have anything to do with the care of the vulnerable people living in them. This needs sorting out asap as a matter of urgency.

 

We spoke to a woman that isn’t entitled to claim contribution based JSA because she hadn’t worked in the previous year. She lives with her partner and he works more than 24 hours a week, therefore she is at the mercy of him for any money at all. She told me that she gets money to go for milk and the odd tenner every now and then. She doesn’t have a life, no independence and it’s eating her up inside. She told us that she had worked all her life, since she was 18 without a break except for last year. She’s paid into a system that refuses to help her in her time of need and it’s rotten. She told me that it’s a good job that her partner is a nice fella or it could be much worse. I agreed, I know women and some men who are trapped at home with an abusive partner because of rulings like this. This government cares nothing for victims of domestic abuse, infact by its own rulings it appears to encourage it. Shame on them.

There was nothing that we could do except offer her advice and sympathy, She thanked us for our kind words.

 

We spoke to a lady who was very upset as she was leaving the Jobcentre. She had been working previously and was working through her probational period at work. On her last day of probationary work, just before she was about to sign her contract for a permanent job she had a heart attack at work. The company refused her a job and she had to spend a long period of time in hospital.

Upon leaving hospital she claimed ESA and was put in the work related category. She wasn’t happy about this but didn’t know how to navigate the system. Because she was put in the work related category she was given a gateway code that she had to give to the DWP upon phoning them, logging on for work searches etc.

She told us that her code didn’t work, they told her on the telephone that she must find the correct one and she was going round in circles. They obviously haven’t been watching or reading the news because if they had been they would have known that the official policy for a situation like this is to help the person in need. They refused. In desperation she walked into the Jobcentre and luckily she spoke to a nice advisor (I know who you are but won’t name incase of repercussions but thank you) and they offered to help her, and to telephone her within three hours.

She is also telephoning our MPS office, and has hopefully visited the local organisation that we referred her to for some food and a nice hot cuppa. We had ran out of food parcels but I know that if she has gone to see them then they would help her.

She told us that she had 83p left to her name, she had nothing else. She had always worked and this is the first time that she has claimed any type of benefit except working tax credits when her children were younger.

This can happen to anyone folks, a sudden illness, a loss of a job, a berevement or a bit of bad luck can put anyone in this situation. There is an old saying, and I say it often ‘but by the grace of god go I’. Never take anything for granted we can’t because it could happen to anyone at any time.

 

Today was busy even though the town centre appeared quiet today. I know that there are a lot of people that are ill at the moment, my daughter included so get well folks I’m thinking of you all.

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Many thanks to everyone who attended today. Numbers might have been low but spirits, compassion and solidarity were high. We will return again next week and the week after etc etc. Come and join us we would love to see you!

 

 

Please share, tweet, email and talk about this blog. If we don’t continue to get these issues into conversation and the public arena this will never change. For everyone that already does, thank you and thank you to everyone that supports my blog and work.

Please donate towards the work that I do, it’s not easy and I live on a very low income and I receive no funding at all. Every penny does help thank you.

 

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What’s the point in trying to stop them from sanctioning me? They do it anyway. A man defeated by the system.

I’m going to start this weeks blog by thanking all of my readers, supporters, followers on Twitter and friends on Facebook. Also I want to than all my activist friends for their support.

Today was absolutely freezing cold. Not only did I have to contend with walking the mile to school on what was effectively sheet ice, the wind chill was awful. I really don’t know how anyone that is street homeless survives in this weather. I only stood for nearly a couple of hours and I was chilled to the bone. The national and local severe weather emergency provision is unsatisfactory also. All different authorities use differing thermometers and rulings. Once the weather on their individual thermometers reaches above zero then there isn’t any provision.

They don’t keep in mind that their thermometers can be wrong, and people can and do still die on the streets in above zero temperatures. Today with the cold, and wind chill it’s much colder than they think. Ultimately it’s all about saving money though and denying responsibility. A national system needs to be introduced, where every local authority uses the same temperature measure, ideally the Met Office and take things like wind chill, feels like temperature and rain into account.

Anyway I have digressed from the demo, but it’s a subject that I’m passionate about. I speak to many street homeless folk and I can’t imagine the hell that they go through on a daily basis.

 

Anyway like I’ve said it was cold, so much so that we had to leave 20 minutes early. There was only three of us, and a couple of friends came to say hello, thank you! I’m always wary that I don’t want anyone to become ill. But I apologise anyway.

 

The first person that I spoke to today was a lady who told me that she was grieving. There had been a death in her family and she was trying to cope as well as keep up with the DWP regime. She had handed a sick note in, but unfortunately it had ran out so back on the treadmill she goes. I handed her a leaflet which she was thankful for.

 

I spoke to a lady who was new to the DWP system due to a relationship breakdown. She has two children, one still very young, but her advisor has given her an unreasonable job search time in her claimant commitment. I advised her and she will be taking this further. I gave her a survival guide which she was grateful for.

 

We spoke to an older man who’s son is claiming Universal Credit . His told us that his son is 50 years old and has a degree. He is looking for work and is doing his best. He told us that the DWP staff are ‘buggers’ who don’t help anyone but themselves. It must be awful seeing his son in this position and worrying about him also.

 

We spoke to a man who had won two tribunals to reinstate his JSA payments, but the DWP are still refusing to pay him. The DWP have given him all sorts of rubbish excuse that don’t amount to any substance at all, and they are ignoring the tribunals order to pay him his money. He will be appealing this though, he’s very knowledgeable and will hopefully be visiting the Law Centre in Manchester for further help.

 

I spoke to a few people that were walking out of the Jobcentre clutching colourful, glossy brochures. They informed me that they contain information about a health and wellbeing course at a local college. I will endeavour to get further details of these courses.

 

We spoke to an older man who looked very despondent. We asked him what the problem was and he told us that he was sick of that place (the Jobcentre). We handed him a leaflet and told him that it would help him, and hopefully prevent him from being sanctioned. He looked at the leaflet, looked at us and said “What’s the point? They do it anyway.” That, readers are the words of a defeated man. His pride has gone, and the system has ground him down as much as it can. This is what the system does to people, it takes a person’s spirit from them, I’ve seen it countless times and it sickens me.

 

I spoke to a lady who I speak to on a weekly basis. She’s so lovely and always has a smile for us despite having a hard time. She has had the flu, works for 12 hours a week and relies on the top up element of Universal Credit. Because she claims the top up element she still has to do a weekly job search which she keeps to stringently. Today her advisor told her that she hadn’t looked for work enough. Luckily for her she proved that she had done so. She was so close to wrongly having her top up wrongly sanctioned, and thanks to our advice she had the evidence. This is how easy it is to be sanctioned and it angers me.

 

We handed out 6 food parcels, all full to the top, handed out extra bread, handed out copies of our survival guides, gave comapssion, understanding and sympathy. All of those qualities the DWP are devoid of. I’m very sad to say that we had to leave early, 20 minutes early but we were really cold. I’m still cold. But we will return next week as usual and will be there for the full two hours.

Steve if you are reading this get well soon!

Thanks to my rocks Gordon and Roy for coming today. I’m very aware that it wasn’t easy for you so a massive thank you.

 

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No electric, no food, failed ESA medicals. This weeks blog.

Dear readers, can I please apologise for the lateness of my blog this week. After the demo, we went for a cuppa to warm up and then went to a meeting. This took time, but it was essential. More news about this at a later date if everything goes to plan.

I’ve had a busy week, and combined with not feeling well it’s been tough. I made a short appearance on The Victoria Derbyshire programme yesterday morning (25th Jan 2016.)  Discussing the need for free school meals for all children, not just years 1 and 2. A doctors appointment has also been made for tomorrow so hopefully all will be well soon. Anyway enough about me.

I arrived slightly early because I was expecting a visitor at the demo. A lovely man named Stuart who wanted to come and help out. I jumped at the chance, its lovely meeting new people and he didn’t hang around, he got stuck right in and started to help. He has knowledge of where some work is available locally so he informed suitable people.

As soon as I arrived near the Jobcentre I was stopped by a lovely couple whom I have mentioned in previous blogs. Their run of bad luck never ends and even though they now have somewhere to live they had no money for electric. They had asked elsewhere but no one could help but I did. So they got food and electric which at the moment is all I can do for them.

The food parcels arrived and as soon as they did most of them were taken. Various people took them all with various problems. One lady is working but is struggling to get by. This happens A LOT and it’s by no means unusual. I referred her and everyone else to local organisations where they can receive extra help.

I spoke to a young man and his father. He had been refused his Universal Credit claim because he hadn’t responded to a letter that they had sent. The problem here is an old one, he didn’t receive a letter, nothing arrived. He challenged this and his advisor told him that it wasn’t their fault, it was his fault he should have somehow known that a letter was going to arrive on a certain day. He didn’t so now he’s having to go through the rigmarole of appealing etc.

I spoke to a man who had failed their ESA assessment. To be honest this is very common, hardly anyone passes their assessment these days. It was in the news recently that ATOS ‘Don’t mind” if recording interviews was permitted again, and equipment is easily available to do so. This then leads me to the question ‘Why aren’t you implementing this then?’ They aren’t and I think that they are just playing lip service, thinking that we are fools.

We spoke to several gentlemen who are finding life hard, they can’t cope really but carry on not knowing what for. They come for a chat and its lovely seeing them. Remember a kind word can make all the difference to someone’s life. We should all try to do this more.

We spoke to a man who is struggling with a previous employer. He had been working for a local factory through an agency. Why on earth they can’t just employ people themselves? It’s a ploy to enable them to pay employees less and dodge paying tax.

Anyway, the agency have told the DWP that he has earnt more than he actually has, and they are refusing to provide him with wage slips etc. The DWP will not tolerate anything that he tells them so now he has to appeal this. He’s frustrated, and understandably so. He was signposted everywhere suitable for help etc and I wish him all the luck in the world.

This is another reason what I don’t like agencies. Many exploit people and they often get away with it. Shame on them.

It was cold and busy today outside the Jobcentre.

I was talking to the man who arrived early on his mobility scooter. JC+ staff sent him outside to wait on the pavement in the cold wind as is their practice. He told me that he’d worked all his life and never been interested in politics. He’s changing his mind now I think.

We spoke to lots of people today, helped lots and handed out Survival Guides, food parcels, solidarity, help and advice. Please don’t underestimate the amount of work that we do and we help people when they are feeling at their lowest. Seeing people overcome their problems is the best thing in the world.

Apologies for the short blog, I’m tired, not feeling great and need to get some rest.

Thank you to EVERYONE that came and helped, you are all brilliant. I really do appreciate you all. Roy it was lovely to see you today, and thank you to Stuart andthe gentleman who reads this blog and came along. I really do apologise for forgetting your name, I’m hopeless with names and I really do apologise. Thank you so much.

A massive thank you to everyone who reads, shares, and supports the campaign and this blog. Thank you so, so much. If I could give you all a hug I would do.

Thank you!

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I was going to go to Ikea and steal some milk for my children.. Failed ESA medicals.. Long Universal Credit waits. Today’s blog.

It’s supposed to be the season to be jolly isn’t it.. well that’s what they keep telling us.. They being the media in general and the community, except that it isn’t a season to be jolly, not for the people that I spoke to today. Most of them didn’t have a Christmas, many that did spent it alone and it was dire. That’s the best way of describing it.

 

Temperatures have plummeted yet again, and ice was thick on the ground when I set off from my home for the demo. It’s supposed to be a quiet period, the period between Christmas and New Year, and it is for many, however when you are unemployed and are forced to claim Universal Credit and the like job searches still have to be completed, forms still have to be filled in and life just carries on as normal, well as normal as normal can get if you know what I mean.

 

I had my daughter in tow today and we arrived early because she wanted to buy some warm drinks for the homeless folk that are in our local town. She’s got a good heart she really has, and we did just that because even at the age of 11 she realises that it’s important to keep warm.

As we were strolling through the shopping arcades I was approached by a young couple that have had just about the longest run of bad luck that I’ve ever known. When disaster strikes, it certainly strikes at their door.

They and their children had been illegally evicted from their home just before Christmas and they have been forced to stay at a friends 1 bedroomed flat for the time being, because everywhere was shut for the Christmas period. It seems that their landlord certainly had taken a leaf out of Scrooges handbook, and illegally evicted them from their home whilst they were out. They weren’t even allowed to access their possessions, clothes and Christmas presents for the children. They had lost everything including access to their mail.

They have taken advice from Shelter who have appointed them a solicitor and they have started the legal proceedings. I can’t go into further details here because I don’t want to hamper this, however from what I was told this was illegal, the police are involved and they have a solicitor. It’s a start.

The woman was nearly crying when she was telling me about it all, about how awful Christmas was for them all and it was just awful. It was then that my friend Dan arrived for a surprise visit, and I think their story even shocked him. She told me that she was going to go to Ikea and fill a bottle full of milk. I told her that we would help them and we did just that. For crying out loud we are the 5th or 6th (can’t remember this exactly so please forgive me) and people are living a life like this. But hey, it’s ok because we can now have blue passports, well the people that can afford them that is. It’s sickening isn’t it.

 

 

Dan had travelled miles to join us, and both myself and Gordon were certainly relieved to have him with us today. He came laden with extra food parcels that were all distributed.. Thanks Dan. Anyway I digress.

 

 

 

I spoke to a man who had been looking attentively at the food parcels. He must have been freezing. He was wearing a very thin summer jacket and a thin summer shirt. I asked him if he was ok and did he need any help at all. He told me that he was three weeks into his long wait for his Universal Credit claim to go through. Looking at him, I doubt that if he hadn’t bumped into us today then he might not have survived the long wait for his claim to go through. I gave him food, had a good chat with him and signposted him. I asked him to come and have a chat with us next week as well if he can because a friendly word is what is needed when times are tough. I can then check if he is accessing other organisations. Sometimes this can take several weeks to happen for many different reasons.

 

 

I spoke to a young woman who went on to tell me how useless the work programme is. She’s correct, it’s awful and these so called back to work programmes actually take a lot of time away from actual job searching and attempting to improve a person’s life. They are soul destroying they really are.

 

 

I spoke to a man that is for the third time having to appeal a wrongful ESA medical assessment result. He was angry, totally understandable and we had a long discussion about the evils of the system. He took a leaflet and told me that he will be in touch with the relevant organisations.

 

I made comment that upon walking into the computer area of our library is akin to walking into a sea of lost souls.. Every time that I walk in there I see people that I speak to outside the Jobcentre, all looking for not suitable non existent jobs. I hope that they have been able to keep up with their job search whilst the library has been shut for Christmas. If they don’t then they will be sanctioned.

 

 

We spoke to an older chap who was waiting for his girlfriend to finish her appointment inside the Jobcentre. He hadn’t been told that he could accompany her, because she is vulnerable and has just failed her ESA assessment. They are appealing, and will be taking it to tribunal. ‘We have to do this every time’ she said. However, I did inform her of her ability to claim the appeal rate which she said that she would look into.

 

 

Another man started to speaking to me, he told me that he used to be a good employer and a fair one. He used to run a good business and had thought that he would be respected when he was older. ‘I can’t believe that I’m being treated worse than the crap underneath someone’s shoes’ he retorted. The pain in his eyes was obvious.

 

We handed out lots of food parcels, helped lots of people because help is still needed throughout the year. Every week my heart breaks a bit but is built up again by the people that I speak to and of course you, my readers and my Facebook and Twitter friends. You can find me on Twitter as @charlotteh71

Thank you for all your support, it keeps me and the team going. But most of all it keep the people going that have to endure this cruel system, and it’s cruel beyond measure.

This week was tough, maybe one day things will get better and I pray hard for that day.

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Universal Credit nightmare “I’ve had no money for 12 weeks” Disabled man forced to complete a job searching course 5 days a week (again). The nightmare continues.

I’d like to start my blog today by saying a massive thank you to Gordon, Jill and Christine for helping today. Also a really big thank you to a long time supporter Jan for coming to say hi and treating us all to a cuppa. Also thanks to my friend for making lots of warm curry to hand out and a thank you for the food parcels. The reason why I have started my blog like this is because the weather was awful last night and early this morning. We had an unexpected heavy snowfall and inches of the horrible stuff were lying on the cold ground within half an hour. Luckily it started to rain in the early hours of the morning and when I had to walk to school so almost all of the snow is gone, although I expect there to still be a little near my home. My thoughts go out to everyone who are street homeless, sofa surfing and living in their own homes unable to afford to turn their heating on.

I really expected to be on my own today because of the weather and illness but thank goodness I wasn’t. I was met almost immediately by Gordon with the food parcels, then Rose arrived to come and chat. We helped her along with members of Unite Community from Manchester a while ago and when she is feeling well enough she comes to join us. I love this lady so much.

Before Gordon arrived I spoke to an older chap, he told me that he was disabled and to be honest he was really struggling to enter the Jobcentre. The doors are extremely heavy and they turn off the automatic door opening on Thursday mornings especially for us. I suppose they think that we might charge through the doors or something… Well we have not done this in over four years of demonstrating and helping and we aren’t about to start now are we. Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre please respect your disabled job seekers and parents pushing prams. Turn the automatic door opening back on please…

I advised the chap of what he should do to remedy his situation, told him that he wasn’t alone and that it’s scandalous that he is even being asked to do this. The combination of his age and disability will make it near impossible for him to find work and no amount of courses will improve this will it.

To say it was cold is an understatement so when Jan arrived with the cuppas we were more than ready for them. I didn’t have our big hot water container today because Roy isn’t feeling well so couldn’t attend. Get well soon Roy!! We missed you! The large flask was donated by my friend Ray Woolford when he came to visit us one week. Thank you so much!

I spoke to a lady who was fed up to say the least. She told me that she was sick and tired of being put though the mill (as us northerners say) and is feeling tired and angry. She told me that she isn’t being given a minutes peace and quiet from the DWP. They are constantly hounding her, her life isn’t her own anymore. She said ‘Why can’t they just leave me alone to get on with things? I do everything that they say but still they hound me, I feel like giving up’. I had a good chat with her, gave her a copy of our survival guide and informed her of her rights concerning the DWP. She was very grateful, because like she told me ‘They tell you nowt in there do they, except that they will sanction you if you don’t do everything that they say’.

She is correct in saying this. Job coaches inside Jobcentre’s certainly do not sit at their desk with the rule book next to them. Good advisors will do things correctly and with compassion, the less scrupulous ones often make the rules up as they go along and I have heard of some rather bizarre rules that they have made up. Only this morning I was told of one claimant being told that they have to have a Twitter account when applying for their Universal Credit. There is nothing in the rules that states a person has to have a Twitter account at all, and they can dispute this. Please folks, its important not to simply agree with everything that they say. Research your rights if you can, and then get a reasonable Claimant Commitment drawn up because believe me they will try and get unreasonable rules in so that it makes it easier for them to sanction you.

REMEMBER WHEN DEALING WITH UNIVERSAL CREDIT RULES ARE OFTEN IGNORED.

I spoke to a lady who is sofa surfing at the moment because it has become too cold to live in her tent. I have signposted her again to a local organisation that will help her if she access them. I really urged her to do this.

I spoke to a young man who is homeless, but because the temperature has once again risen above 0 he is now back to living on the streets. He does access emergency accommodation when the weather is deemed cold enough. I asked him to try and access a local organisation so that they can help him access some temporary accommodation. Homelessness is a complicated issue, and therefore I would appreciate it if people would stop judging people that are forced to live on the streets. I do wish that their critics and trolls would actually take the time to talk to them and help them.

I spoke to a man who was waiting for his ESA claim to go thorough. Thankfully it won’t be long now, but I gave him a food parcel, and signposted him to a local organisation as well.

Christmas is round the corner and as usual this is the time when claimants tend to be sanctioned more either by the Jobcentre of a Work Programme operator. Also claimants that have applied for Universal Credit in the last two weeks or so will not get a payment until at least the 28th of January. Yes I know that they can get a ‘Loan’ but these loans come at a great expense and can put a person and family into extreme poverty for months to come. These advance payments should not be loans, they should be given to people because it is money that they are rightfully entitled to receive to survive on and it’s scandalous that the government actually does this in the first place, and that many in society accept this as they way it should be. It should not be like this, never and I won’t accept it.

Sadly I had to leave half a hour early to accompany my daughter to her Christmas dinner at school. It’s her last one at primary school so therefore was very special to us.

We will be outside the Jobcentre next Thursday as usual, although next week it will be our special Christmas demonstration. We will have extra food parcels and special Christmas ones. Thanks to Pauline for these and the group We Shall Overcome.

We will also be there the week after as usual because people still need help even after Christmas, all year round in fact.

I will be honest I was despondent this morning I was fed up with the weather, and the general mood of the country. I just don’t know how much more suffering that people can take, thats a thought that never leaves me.

Please read, share and talk about my blog. Send it to your local MPs even your Conservative ones, they need to be made aware of the reality of the situation regarding Universal Credit and real life.

 

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