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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Thursday’s weekly demo. The poor are not responsible for their own poverty.

As usual we held our weekly demo. It was well attended by people from the local area, all with the common belief that it is wrong to make people suffer in the way that the DWP do. The claimants are not to blame for their poverty, its very easy to fall upon hard times, but extremely hard to climb out of poverty. Every attempt is thwarted with yet another obstacle given to them by the DWP.

Its started to become cold now and therefore it gets harder for the claimants and ourselves. Heat or eat is a choice that has to be made and eat usually becomes the only option, that’s if they can afford to. I’m sure that many claimants and working poor claiming Universal Credit have sleepless nights worrying about how they are going to feed their families and themselves. I know that feeling well. It’s a horrible feeling and the government has no right whatsoever to punish the poor for their own poverty, whilst they languish in comfort, it’s a totally different world.

I spoke to a lady who was sent outside the Jobcentre for being ten minutes early. Now before anyone says that this happens all the time, I know it does, Ive been writing about it for two years now. But it always reminds me of the mind games that the DWP like to play. They like to keep control, a bit like an abusive partner. I know that there is room for the claimants to wait, but the G4S security guards turn them away. I inform claimants that they should wait in the lobby but most are too scared to do so. Claimants are terrified of the DWP and with good reason. The DWP in effect controls their life, where their next meal will come from and basically everything that they do.

I also noticed a few claimants runnning towards the Jobcentre, scared of being late. Your cannot be even five or ten minutes late. That will most likely result in a sanction which will take away most of their income. The DWP give no allowances at all, compassion is a quality that they are devoid of.

A woman rushed into the Jobcentre, she was very upset and panicking. “They’ve stopped my money, it wasn’t in the bank. I don’t know what I’m going to do.” She went on to say that she hadn’t received any notification either. This isn’t unusual, and I’m sure its not done by mistake. Call me a cynic but mistakes like this don’t continually occur fo three years. Everything is calculated carefully to ensure that a claimant remembers their place, so they are compliant, so they don’t argue back. A compliant society is very easy to manipulate and they count on that.

I would also like to say that claimants are not living the life of luxury. Anyone that believes this should spend a morning with us. They would be shocked.

We helped countless people. I say countless because I don’t keep a tally but maybe I should. We also spoke and gave advice to claimants whom we see on a regular basis. The Jobcentre staff tell them to ignore our advice, but our advice is correct and empowers people to fight back, to take a stand. And it works.

We handed out some warm coats, but we are needing to start stocking up for winter.

The campaign doesn’t end on a Thursday though. It’s a full time job, and anyone else campaigning like this will tell you the same. Its very hard work, both physically and emotionally. You’ve got to be very strong to undertake it and keep it up. Please donate if you can, it really helps. If you can’t then please share! Thank you!

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Next Thursday we will be holding a special I, Daniel Blake demonstration to coincide with the official release of the film. Its a fantastic, hard hitting film which touches on some of the issues that we deal with. Please come along if you can. Thursday 10-12. It’s going to be fab..

Also please support my Thunderclap timed to go out on the day that the film I, Daniel Blake is released. Let’s make it massive! That would be amazing! I\
If everyone who read this blog signed up it would take over Twitter for the day!
https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/47840-i-daniel-blake

I also apologise with the delay of writing my blog this week. My health hasn’t been brill and I’m now on antibiotics. I will be feeling bettter soon thanks to our precious NHS.

Sanctioned for not writing long enough sentences and new shiny windows at the Jobcentre.

Yesterday when I arrived at the Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre I thought I was seeing things. They had taken down the paper that was covering the windows. Great I thought, the claimants will feel much more secure knowing that they can see outside now. I would have thought that they would have felt very intimidated upon entering a building that you can’t see out of. I walked. Up to the building and I noticed that they had placed some kind of reflective film on the glass, presumably so we can’t see inside. We don’t look inside anyway we are too busy helping people and handing leaflets out. My question is this. At what expense was this decision to put up reflective coatings on the glass? And who’s decision was this? Once again we come in peace and this is not needed at all. 

Whilst standing outside a young woman approached me. She looked like she was in her early 20s and she looked very stressed. I asked her what was wrong. She replied “Ive had no money since October nothing. They sanctioned me for not writing long enough sentences on my job search. I’m not stupid I did everything right. I know I did. I keep asking for a hardship form and they keep refusing me, I know that’s illegal and I am appealing but I’m so frustrated. You see Im lucky because I live with my mum but it’s very hard on her. She can’t afford to keep me, ive got brothers and sisters that need feeding as well. I know she’s angry, she’s beginning to resent me being there but if I leave I will have no where and won’t be able to eat. If that happens Im thinking the worst because there isn’t any other way around it” I gave her some advice and a hug. She needed both. She said I know that I’m not alone because you lot are here.

Later on another young man walked over to me and spoke to me. It’s hard to tell his age because he’s so thin. Not being able to eat ages you dramatically.Ive wrote about him before, his sick notes aren’t good enough the Jobcentre say…. Even though they are. He suffers from clinical depression after a series of tragic events took him to nearly taking his life. He’s had no money since October as well. I asked him how is he doing. He said he’s so hungry he’s had a bit of food off a food bank but he has to make it last. He said he came over to tell us that he’s still here, that his sick notes aren’t good enough but he wanted to thank us for being there. He said we are the only reason why he is still here. “You’ve given me hope. Before I saw you all I had nothing. My world had been destroyed and I was close to taking my life. I know that you are all here for me and that keeps me going” I wanted to meet him this coming week but he’s got lots of appointments at the hospital. His doctor is very concerned about him. He said he would have lost his flat if we hadn’t told him that he could still claim housing benefit on a zero income basis.

Another man approached me he said “hello my diamond you will never guess what ive got a job!! Thank you for being there for me I will keep in touch” that also brought tears to my eyes. 

This is just a usual Thursday outside the Jobcentre. And this is why we are there every week. Next Thursday is the national day of demonstrations against sanctions. It has been organised by unite the union and I urge everyone to join us all in standing outside your local Jobcentre to demonstrate against the sanctions. We will be outside as usual.

And a big thank you to dispatches for making two truthful programmes about the whole corrupt system. We enjoyed working with you. A massive thanks to the Green Party for supporting us and to the Morning Star newspaper for publishing my articles. 

We don’t think that this should be allowed to continue. One death is a death too many.

The irony of this poster. We don’t condone violence in any way. We just wish the DWP would start treating people with respect….