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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Believe it or not there are still people that aren’t aware that this is happening.
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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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It was recently announced during a Commons debate in parliament that Universal Credit sanctions (UC) are “back with a vengeance”. This comes after the figures for the last quarter have been revealed.
According to the released figures the sanction rates are now 250% higher than they were for the three months before the pandemic.
It’s extremely worrying that the figures have risen so much in such a short amount of time makes me very concerned about the welfare of UC claimants.
The huge increase allows for the ever increasing number of UC claimants. In layman’s terms it amounts to 2.5% of UC claimants being sanctioned each month which is almost double the amount when compared to 1.4% before the pandemic.
Let’s not forget that in June 2022 £34 million was taken away from claimants as a result of being sanctioned. This was followed in July 2022 by £34.9 million and then in August taking the total to over £36 million.
When you do the maths this totals to £100 million which has literally been taken from vulnerable claimants that were already struggling to pay for basic necessities.
Upon questioning these figures Guy Opperman minister for employment speaking on behalf repeatedly avoided answering a question which asked why the number of sanctions had increased so rapidly.
The only other possibility being that the DWP may have changed its policy on applying sanctions but neglecting to inform everyone that would be affected by this. After all it’s not the first time that they’ve done this.
The only answer that Opperman eventually gave was “The hon. Gentleman asked specifically about the rise in the number of sanctions. Some 98.2% of sanctions are for missing a meeting with a work coach.”
Opperman declined to give an explanation as to why twice as many claimants are now supposedly choosing to miss appointments with their DWP advisor.
Of course this makes no sense because claimants are desperate to receive their UC payments. Methinks Opperman’s not being honest which comes as no surprise at all.
However Anne McLaughlin, SNP MP for Glasgow North East didn’t hold back from being honest in informing the commons the advice that she gives every UC claimant that has come to her after being sanctioned.
She went on to say;
“If you have your benefits sanctioned, do not take it lying down. Contact me and I will fight this for you, because this is wrong and nobody should have to live on less than the minimum income.”
This is of course correct, everyone that finds themselves in this position should fight it. The reality is that many don’t because they don’t have the strength to do so.
I have spoken to many people that had taken the decision to stop claiming UC because they can’t cope with it leaving them with little or no income to live on.
More MPs need to speak up about this in parliament but I won’t hold my breath. Only a few MPs including Debbie Abrahams actually speak up about this but others need to follow.
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TRIGGER WARNING. Contains mention of suicide and trauma.
A collection of stories that highlight the amount of cruelty that UC (Universal Credit) claimants are forced to endure has been recently published by Disability News Service (DNS). Sadly these stories won’t be a surprise for UC claimants
One such story article describes the death of a disabled woman who was left traumatized by the overbearing daily demands made by the UC system.
Upon applying for UC the DWP (Department of Work and Pensions)were told of the mental distress that the system was causing which in turn led to suicidal thoughts and an overwhelming fear of the DWP and the universal credit system.
Despite their knowledge of this the DWP continued to harass her.
Tragically she took her own life four days after being told she would need to attend a face-to-face meeting with a DWP work coach.
Another example describes how disabled claimant Philip Manion struggled enormously when he saw his UC payments cut from £1,260 to £500 due to a mistake made by the DWP.
Philip tried to attend a meeting to rectify this mistake but instead he was taken out of the Jobcentre by seven security guards. Their reasoning for this was because he found he was unable to log into his online journal from his mobile phone.
To add even more insult to injury he was then recorded as having failed to attend the meeting, despite attending and all of his UC payments were stopped.
Disability News Service went on to describe how former nurse Shirley Rudolph spent 10 years caring for her husband and was placed in the limited capability for work category due to suffering from generalized anxiety disorder.
Rudolph’s husband died in July and she subsequently informed her work coach that she wouldn’t be unable to attend their scheduled meeting because she was making arrangements for her husband’s funeral.
Rather unsurprisingly her work coach wasn’t sympathetic and moved her appointment to the following week. At the same time they sent Rudolph a job application to complete immediately.
As a result of the distress and the pressure Rudolph was forced to undergo she chose to end her universal credit claim and is now surviving on her NHS pension alone forcing her to struggle immensely.
Although horrible this comes as no surprise to many disabled UC claimants that find themselves hounded by the cruel UC system that deliberately targets disabled claimants forcing them to unfairly comply with rules that they are unable to achieve.
It goes without saying that no one should be forced to live like this disabled and non disabled, but sadly I can’t see this stopping for the foreseeable future.
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The new DWP minister Mel Stride recently announced that he is happy with the levels of UC (Universal Credit) sanction rates.
Upon taking his new job as secretary of state for work and pensions (DWP), Mel Stride, quickly proved that he will not be making any changes in any harshness inflicted upon the most vulnerable at the hands of the DWP.
Upon answering MP’s questions on the 31 October 2022, Stride made it very clear that he’s happy hat the level of UC sanctions is now double the rate it was before the pandemic.
Stride went on to say “People are sanctioned only if they fail to attend appointments without good reason, and fail to meet the requirements that they have agreed to meet.”
However stride failed to offer any acknowledgement nevermind explanation as to why claimants are now twice as likely to break claimant commitment agreements than they were two years ago.
Upon questioning Stride ignored yet another request to publish a DWP report on the effectiveness of sanctions.
As previously reported in an earlier blog his predecessor also refused to do so.
Stride also claimed there “is a long tail” of 2.5 million long-term sick claimants who want to return to work and that it will be “a prime focus” for the DWP to “support them back into the workplace.”
It’s no coincidence that this figure is exceedingly similar to the total number of claimants that are long-term sick, the majority of whom are not able to work because their condition makes it impossible.
It appears that like his predecessors Stride is either mistaken or believes that every long-term sick person could be moved into work.
Whatever happens there appears to be no plans to treat claimants better, I suspect it will become worse.
A new DWP minister certainly doesn’t bring any changes for the better and until there’s a change of government I very much doubt that there will be.
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A recent report undertaken by the charity Hygiene Bank shows that approximately 3.2 million UK adults are affected by hygiene poverty, 12% of these stating that they have avoided going into work because of this.
In the original report published by the BBC, Hygiene Bank chief executive Ruth Brock said it was a “hidden crisis”.
“It’s much more widespread than we feared, it’s increasing, and it’s disproportionately impacting the most vulnerable,” she said.
Hygiene Bank is one of many charities that supplies food banks, homeless shelters, schools, and other organisations with personal hygiene products including but not exclusively toothpaste, shampoo, soap, deodorant, nappies, period products and laundry detergent.
Hygiene poverty often falls under the radar with issues such as fuel and food poverty coming first leaving many unable to access essential hygiene products. The reality is that once a person is dependant upon food banks they have already stopped being able to purchase said items with priority going to heating and eating.
“I think it just doesn’t occur to people in the same way that fuel and food poverty do,” said Ms Brock.
In a survey undertaken by Hygiene Bank that questioned approximately 2,200 people, with the assistance of polling company YouGov it suggests that the amount of people impacted by hygiene poverty equated to 6% of all UK adults, rising to 13% from lower-income households and 21% of disabled people.
People experiencing hygiene poverty are most likely to go without shaving products, laundry detergent, household cleaning items, and deodorant, the survey found. The survey also reports that a quarter of respondents said they had gone without toilet paper or soap or shower gel, while three in ten women did not buy period products.
The survey also reveals that people are being forced to shop local thus costing more because they can’t afford to travel to a larger shop or supermarket.
A woman that the charity has worked with described how she is forced to dilute products to make them last longer. She also has resorted to tying up her hair in a certain way to hide the fact she often had not washed it for weeks at a time.
She also reported that she feels that she has to keep a distance from people for fear that she smells with many unable to afford to buy period products thus making them feel ashamed to go out
Hygiene Bank’s Ruth Brock is quoted as saying said that such accounts of peoples experiences may “seem counterintuitive” to some also saying: “But it’s so insidious, you kind of cut yourself off.”
The report found that 62% of people experiencing hygiene poverty with dependent children said they have had to choose between buying products for themselves or their children.
It’s a choice that shouldn’t have to be made, families are made to feel ashamed to leave their home and avoiding social contact at schools because they feel ashamed because of their situation.
“This is why we have mums telling us about being ashamed to leave the house and not seeing anyone for weeks on
It’s important to remember that the data in the report draws on surveys conducted between October 2021 and February 2022, before the recent surge in the cost of living. As a result the everyday pressures upon those in need are undoubtably going to worsen with more people being forced into this situation.
The price of toothpaste has risen 6%, and the price of deodorant is up 5%.
Hygiene poverty is also affecting students such as Adam, a college student whose attendance had fallen to 18%, in part because he could not afford basic hygiene products. This inevitably resulted in his grades suffering as a result.
According to the original report by the BBC his support worker approached Hygiene Bank in the summer of 2020 and they were able to provide deodorant and shampoo. Adam’s attendance rose to 100%, and he is now attending university.
“Hygiene is important enough,” says Ms Brock. “But the follow-on effects of making that change for people also mean that they can then start to access their life chances.”
Undoubtably hygiene poverty is having a detrimental affect on many and at the time of writing it appears to be unspoken about by many. We need to make this a very important topic of conversation both with the public and opposition MPs, after all Tory MPS are very unlikely to do so.
For anyone that can afford to as well as donating food products to food banks it’s also important to remember that donating hygiene products is also vitally important along with pets food and suchlike.
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Vodafone Group PLC has announced a new social broadband tariff for households giving them connectivity for £12 a month. They will also give small businesses free broadband for a year as part of their new cost-of-living package.
The new Vodafone Essentials Broadband deal will be available to anyone in receipt of Jobseekers’ Allowance, Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance, Disability Allowance or Personal Independence Payment.
As part of their new cost of living package they will be also offering small business owners and any new or existing customers that are eligible to upgrade free business broadband for 12 months on a 24-month plan.
Vodafone have based these new packages on research that shows that people are reliant upon connectivity to help them cope better with the cost of living crisis..
These new packages will also enable people to connect to the internet which is essential for people claiming Universal Credit and job searching.
Having access to the internet has become an essential part of daily life and life without internet access can be very difficult.
Vodaphone Chief Executive Ahmed Essam says “The rising cost of living is putting a million families at risk of falling on the wrong side of the digital divide,”
He goes on to say “We must not allow this to happen. So as part of our everyone.connected programme, today we are launching Vodafone Essentials Broadband at just £12 a month, the cheapest on the market, and 12 months free broadband for small businesses.
“Vodafone is the only network provider to offer social tariffs across fixed and mobile, meaning eligible customers can access mobile and broadband connectivity for 72 pence a day.
“These new tariffs complement Voxi for Now and the 750,000 free sims we’ve donated so far as part of our everyone.connected programme.
“We’re on track to meet our commitment to donate a million connections by the end of this year and will continue to put the cause at the heart of our business until the problem no longer exists.”
Original source Martyn Landi, PA Technology Correspondent