Ten minutes early.. go away and come back.. Long Universal Credit waits. Speak poor English.. given a telephone number to phone instead of help. Nothing unusual but this shouldn’t be happening. Today’s demo.

Hi readers, sorry for being late in posting today, we had a mini meeting after the demo and as a result I haven’t had time to write the blog.

Anyway todays demo was a hard one as usual. The weather was awful yet again and we were busy from the offset. Every week its different and I never know what to expect and it would be wrong to expect anything wouldn’t it. Every person is an individual and their problems and worries are different as a result. Also every advisor is different, some are harsher than others, much harsher. Some have got a good reputation so far and yes I know who you are.

 

 

As I arrived I was stopped by a man straight away. He’s in an awful situation, his ESA was stopped and he’s now awaiting his first JSA payment to be made. Because he is appealing the ESA decision he can do this and he is getting help with this also.

He just wanted to chat etc and his girlfriend needed a little help also. He was left waiting for her outside the Jobcentre with us and waited for well over a hour. They really interrogated her today about several back to work courses, which as we know are mostly farcical. I hope she does start a course thats actually going to help her, there is one that does so fingers crossed. I won’t get started on The Workprogramme because it makes me irate and I could write a full blog on that subject. Let me know if you want to hear about that.

 

 

I then had to help a lady who’s second language is English with a telephone call to the DWP. I mean for gods sake she had to come out of the Jobcentre to make the telephone call and was told to do so by her advisor. She couldn’t understand the person on the other end of the telephone line so I helped her. Come on Jobcentre staff! This lady spoke poor English, not her fault and you should know better. It’s almost as if you are setting her up to fail (which you are aren’t you). If I hadn’t had helped her she wouldn’t have got the information that she needed. The information that she needed was the freepost address to send her sicknote to. This should have been given to her at the counter, failing that they should have supported her needs and made the telephone call for her. They really are despicable aren’t they.

 

 

We were then joined by Gerry, Malcom and Jill from Castleton Labour Club Rochdale. Can I say that I have the upmost respect for Castleton Labour Club, they are fab, really supportive of the campaign and myself and seeing them really cheered me up. They also brought some food to go into the food parcels which was amazing. Thank you!

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I then spoke to a man who had been turned away from the Jobcentre on more than one occasion. They kept telling him that he was too early. Ok the first time he was 15 minutes early, so he went for a walk in the cold and rain. He returned and was told that he was now 10 minutes too early so he had to leave again. This is common practice, its all part of the DWPs scheme to remind people who their master is (them) and how they must remember their place. Let’s grind people down until they are completely subservient to the DWPs bullying ways. It’s actions like this that can push someone over the edge and it often does.

 

 

I then had a chat with a man that just likes to come over for a chat. He isn’t having it easy, his living conditions aren’t ideal and he struggles with this at times. We had a good chat and he said that this makes his day a lot easier, that was nice.

 

 

I then spoke to a lady who had been transferred from Stalybridge Jobcentre and as a result she has to walk a few miles to attend her appointments at the Jobcentre. She is finding this hard, really hard and also has children to look after. She had recently had to wait 9 weeks for her first Universal Credit payment to start and as a result she had gone through only what I can describe as hell. She managed though, she didnt say how but she did say it was awful. As a result of having to wait this long she had to take a loan from the DWP to help her out. Upon recieving her first payment they took 40% of her money and will continue to do so until she has paid it back.

We had a chat, and she took a food parcel. I can’t reiterate to you how hard it is to accept a food parcel let alone ask for one. It’s like admitting that you are failing both your children and yourself and its always a very last resort. Today she just wanted to get home but she was given a copy of our survival guide, as was everyone that we spoke to. She also took a food parcel so that they could eat.

 

 

We are the 5th richest country in the world, yet we are treating our most vulnerable like this. It’s obscene but happens all the time. The budget yesterday did little to reassure anyone claiming Universal Credit. They’ll reduce the waiting time by a week. Yep right that won’t make a jot of difference because we can already effectively double the waiting time because I’ve never known a claim for Universal Credit to go through in 6 weeks. It was also announced that they will reduce the repayment amounts but this money should not have to be repaid. It’s money that they are entitled to receive to survive on. It’s disgusting. And yes I already know all of this I’m just reiterating a point, Universal Credit is a monster that I know well and despise.

 

 

We spoke to many people today, all with different needs. We provide help and support when a person is at their lowest and that does make a massive difference. Please don’t underestimate the need for this. It’s hard work, when I talk about some of the experiences that we’ve had, the suicides, the people going hungry, children eating out of tins, people crying, running off and saying that they can’t take any more it upsets me. By the way I always catch up with a person who is in that state. 1 in 5 benefit related deaths are a result of suicides, often after an unfair ESA decision or after being ill treated by a Jobcentre Advisor. This government has blood on its hands and lots of it, and one day they will be made accountable for this and I will be waiting for them.

 

We also handed out 6 food parcels today and I have to respect their request for confidentiality. Their needs come first I’m afraid.

 

We are holding a special day of action against Universal Credit alongside Unite The Union on the 2nd of December. We will be meeting outside the Jobcentre for 10 and walking around with leaflets etc. Please join us it would be fab if there are lots of us doing this.

 

Also our special Christmas Demonstration will be held on the 21st of December, the last Thursday before Christmas outside Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre  10-12. We will be handing out Mince pies and warm drinks. The theme will be ‘A Universal Credit Christmas’. Please come and join us we might also have some music.

 

A big shoutout to Roy who was feeling out of sorts today and my thoughts are with you.

Also a reminder to join my sister page The Poor Side Of Life on Facebook, and Tameside Against The Cuts on Facebook. Thank you!

 

Please read, share, email, talk about my blog. We need to continue the conversation. let’s not fall into the pattern of thinking that any of this cruelty metered out by the DWP is normal. It isn’t it’s conscious cruelty at its worst.

 

Also please donate if possible. My paypal add is seercharlotte@gmail.com

My donate button is no longer working because WordPress have changed the settings to only paid WordPress Blogs can have one. I can’t afford to pay so this is the next best thing. I can’t change my platform because people known where to find me etc. Sorry!

Thank you to everyone that has and does support us. Thank you to everyone that reads the blog also. I have still got a long way to go with this campaign and the battle continues. Thank you again!

I have also been extremely busy this week a campaign doesnt just finish on a Thursday afternoon. It continues continuously so if I am delayed responding to anyone this is why. Sorry!

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Sanctioned for not being able to sign on on bank holiday Monday. Tears, frustration and rain.

Today’s demo started rather hurriedly and to be honest I didn’t know if I was coming or going. This feeling was amplified because it was cold, rainy and my daughter was a bit fed up. understandable of course. But she soon settled down into our usual routine and all was well.

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We are seeing a lot of new faces due to Stalybridge Jobcentre shutting. They don’t know us and what we are doing, and we don’t know them or their situations either. So we have to start from scratch, which at times isn’t easy.  But it’s a whole lot harder for them.

I started a conversation with a man who had been previously attending Stalybridge Jobcentre for his appointments. The first thing that he said to me was that he couldn’t believe how rude the front desk staff are at  Ashton Jobcentre, and how rude some of the advisors are also. He mentioned that some of the advisors at Stalybridge could be awful, but Ashton Jobcentre felt positively hostile. I had to agree with him. The frontline staff has a habit of making a person feel like they are guilty of committing some heinous crime, when in fact their only crime and it isn’t a crime is being poor.

You really have to experience this to understand what I’m talking about. I experienced the same treatment when I used to have to sign on there. It was awful, with G4S security guards taking personal details to check appointments. Of course, this is illegal but the DWP and their employees seem to be immune to any type of action being taken against them. One day I’m sure that their time will come.

He also explained to us that he had failed his ESA medical and was in the process of appealing, so until he can prove that he has launched an appeal he has had to submit a claim for JSA. He knows the score and what to do but it doesn’t make it easier does it. So he is now in no man’s land, waiting for everything to be processed and it is a horrible place to be.

Whilst I was standing outside the Jobcentre I spotted a man walk in, who was very obviously disabled and in discomfort. He didn’t want to speak on his way into the Jobcentre but chose to do so on the way out. He has an injury to his knee and it’s in a large knee support, and because he was claiming Universal Credit he was handing sick notes in to cover him for this period of time. I advised him that he could claim ESA if the injury is going to cause a disability that might take some time to recover from and he took that advice on board. The DWP hasn’t made his life easy though and they are continuing to mess him about with his payments. Unfortunately, he didn’t go into great detail but I advised him and gave him a leaflet. I also asked him if he wanted a food parcel. He said no, he would be ok but his father who was stood behind him said: “Yes we do, I’m having to feed you and I have very little money”.  Having been in this situation myself, I gladly gave him a food parcel and at least they will eat better this week.

This is another hidden issue that not a lot of people speak about. I’ve been in this position myself and it’s very hard looking after a relative who has had their lifeline taken off them by the DWP for whatever reason that may be.

I felt a lot of stress and hardship when I had to do this, so this could well be what many people feel like when they are in the same situation. Cooking for one extra person might not seem to be a lot, but it soon mounts up. Also, there are the extra bills that have to be paid such as gas, electric etc. Managing from day to day is very hard indeed and demands on food banks and similar organizations grow as a result.

If a person has no family then it’s a dire situation to be in, so please have sympathy with those forced into this awful situation which wasn’t of their choice.

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I spoke to a man who was rushing down the road to talk to me. He was so upset. His situation has spiraled out of control, and he hadn’t followed up our advice on what to do and where to go. Seeking help is often very hard. It takes courage and swallowing of pride. Asking for and accepting help is very hard indeed.

I told him of a local organization that he can go to straight away to get some immediate help and that he must go now. The nights are getting cold and with his health conditions, I didn’t want him sleeping on the streets. I gave him a food parcel and a colleague (Karl) gave him a lift up to this organization. It was vital that he went, so we made sure that he did. Thanks, Karl.

We then started talking to a lady who had also previously attended Stalybridge Jobcentre. She also informed us of how different Ashton Jobcentre is. She wasn’t happy. She had been diagnosed with Bi Polar years ago but is new to the signing on  process and she was understandably overwhelmed. It was then that she started crying, saying that she is 58 years old and cannot physically look for work eight hours a day. She doesn’t know how to use computers and the system has confused her.

We advised her to make a claim for ESA and advised her of how to do this and where to go to get help to do so. She also said that she had no friends, so I told her that I would be her friend as did other members of the group. The tears disappeared and she felt supported and loved. This is exactly why we are there every week and will continue to be.

I also spoke to a young man who had been given a signing on appointment for the previous bank holiday Monday. Yes folks, bank holiday Monday. Of course, he couldn’t sign on and he informed the Jobcentre of this. The DWP were totally unsympathetic of course and informed him that he was now sanctioned for not attending. You really couldn’t make this up, could you?

It’s not the first time that we have seen this though and it isn’t unusual. He is appealing and he will win and overrule this sanction, but in the meantime, he is without money. We gave him appropriate advice and signposted to all local groups. Let’s hope that he takes this up.

I and a colleague started talking to a man who was a former policeman. He had taken early retirement and was attending the Jobcentre just to keep up his national insurance contributions. He told us of his struggles and that he is really struggling to manage on the pension that he has been given. I advised him to go to the local Citizens Advice centre where they can do a full benefit check for him. He says that he has now been forced back to looking for work, and will hopefully get one within the police force. He didn’t have a nice word to say about the Jobcentre and I don’t blame him.

We started talking to a lovely young woman who had lost her job due to no fault of her own. She had been working at a children’s day nursery and had been exploited, both of the hours and work that she was expected to do, but also because of her good nature. I can’t elaborate more due to the fact that she might be taking further action about this through her union. She might not, but I don’t want to ruin her chances of doing so if she does.

This is another issue that is growing sadly. The exploitation of staff by management at some private day nurseries. They usually employ young staff members and overwork them. of course, some don’t, and kudos to those that don’t. But for a long time now I have been hearing these stories. The apprentice scheme at these day nurseries can also exploit them, I’ve heard some awful stories about this also. It’s about time that all apprenticeships are properly regulated because young people should not be exploited. Young people should be respected because they are, after all our future.

We also had a few people in cars shout over to us saying the old ‘Get a job’ as if they were the first people to say it. It’s not clever nor is it smart. And to drive away as fast as they can makes them cowards in my eyes.

If they actually stopped and spoke to us they would realize that most of us are working, but on very limited incomes or retired. Sadly I’m used to it now.

Today we handed seven food parcels out, many thanks to Pat and the gang at Glossop for that. Many thanks also to Tom for the sandwiches that he donated they made a big difference.  We gave out lots and I mean lots of support and signposted everyone that we spoke to. I also confirmed arrangements for myself to support a lady through her ESA medical in a few weeks time.

We gave out lots and I mean lots of support and signposted everyone that we spoke to. I also confirmed arrangements for myself to support a lady through her ESA medical in a few weeks time.

It honestly never ends. The suffering never ends and it is getting much worse than it ever has been. Even if we by some miracle could change governments tomorrow it will take years and I mean years to rectify the damage caused by this awful government. I really don’t have a clue how people will survive.

Next week is our four-year anniversary demo and the theme for this one is ‘Prisoners of the state.’ Please come and join us 10-12 Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre 101 Old Street Ashton Under Lyne.  We also will hopefully have some special guests coming along. Tea and coffee will be available for all.

Please share my blog, talk about it, and there is a donate button below if anyone would like to donate.

Thank you.

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Todays demo, desperate people and a visit from Ray Woolford, author of the book Food Bank Britain.

I’ve just returned home from our weekly demo feeling a bit elated instead of deflated. That makes a change these days.

To start with the weather was wonderful, not raining and a bit sunny which always makes things easier. Not only for us, but for the people having to use the Jobcentre. There’s nothing worse than the rain and cold weather, and we get lots of both.

Roy arrived early with the food parcels, which was fab because it’s nice not to be standing alone, and because they are needed straight away. People are waiting for them which is a sad indictment of the governments attitude towards the poor.

As we were setting up, I spotted a lady and her young child stood at the corner of the Jobcentre. She was looking at the food parcels, and she looked a bit lost. I walked over to her, handed her a leaflet and asked her if she was ok. She wasn’t ok, no surprise there sadly. She’s going through a traumatic time at the moment and her money had been stopped due to no fault of her own.

I had a chat with her, signposted her to relevant organisations and handed her a food parcel to keep both her and her child going. She was so happy to receive this and at least she knows that she has some food to tide her and her child over.

Two of my friends surprised me today and arrived unexpected at the demo. Karl walked over with a nice cup of coffee for myself, which I shared with Roy. How nice was that of him. Little things like that mean a lot because the work that we do is hard and it gives us hope.

My friend Lel arrived showing compassion and solidarity. She brought her little boy who is adorable and it was a joy to see them both.

I spoke to a man who to be honest had just had enough. He told me that he had total solidarity with us all because he knows that we are telling the truth. He went on to say that he had worked all his life, but sadly had become ill. He had lost part of one leg, and the toes off his other leg. He didn’t want a food parcel, he just wanted to chat.

He said that it is wrong that people are targeted because they become ill, disabled and fall on hard times. That’s what we pay our national insurance for he said, and he’s correct.

He told us how unfair he thinks the ESA medicals are and told of the struggle that his friend has recently been through. His friend had attended their medical, and despite several illnesses had been refused their ESA payments. They are appealing though and have been signposted to the relevant organisations that will help with that. We never leave anyone without the necessary information and help. Today, this gentleman just needed someone to listen to because he feels marginalised and discriminated against, which he is of course.

Then Ray Woolford arrived. What an amazing campaigner, activist, author and all round good person he is. He had travelled all the way from London but yet it felt like \I had known him for forever. We do chat on Twitter though, maybe that’s why, or maybe it’s because we take the same stance on issues.

He is the author of the book Food Bank Britain, and I will put a link to it at the bottom of the blog. It’s a must read and I urge anyone that can afford to buy it to buy it.

Ray arrived bearing gifts. He brought a big flask for keeping drinks warm which we have needed for a long time now. It gets very cold outside the Jobcentre so now we can offer a warm drink to people, so thank you Ray. Also he gifted us a hi vis vest, both are given in the memory of an amazing campaigner, Christine Archibald, who was killed in the London Bridge terror attack. She was an amazing lady, who was a support worker for the homeless and her work will never be forgotten #chrissysentus

Even though Ray is based in London, we are experiencing the same issues, although we have experienced Universal credit for a lot longer than most areas. It was amazingly good to talk about these issues, and discuss and share ideas etc.

Ray you are a legend thank you so much.

Some of the food parcels were handed out to people who wanted to remain anonymous and I respect that. They are struggling supporting themselves and family members. Some are working and suffering  because of the benefit cap. It’s a very hard position to be in, because they are working they can find it hard to find help. But they were signposted and given food.

I spoke to a couple of WASPI ladies again, this time different women, both suffering as a result of not being able to claim their rightful pension. They have been shown a massive injustice and I really hope that they get their pensions.

I spoke to a young man who is receiving help from local organisations, so we just chatted and let him know that we are there for him to chat to as well. He’s doing so well and is a lovely young man.

Another young man shouted over to us saying that what we are saying is true, and that we should keep up the good work. He went on to tell me that he had just witnessed a lady being badly treated by her Jobcentre advisor after receiving a sanction. So I waited for her to leave, gave her a food parcel and signposted her to relevant organisations. I hope that I showed her some hope on such an awful day for her.

It’s hard to describe everything that we do in the space of two hours, but we do a lot. And we do our best to help everyone.

Today we had a good morale boost, made a new friend and helped lots of people. This is what we do best and whilst people still continue to need the help we will be there for them.

Please, if you are local to the Manchester area, come and say hello. We would love to meet you.

Many thanks to everyone that came along today, and to Steph who also made a special journey today. It is appreciated.

I am furious that the government treats people like this, but it’s expected from a Tory government. They care only for themselves, and unless a poorer person is of some value to them they will deprive them of their basic needs, humiliate them and degrade them. This is because this government does not hold any value on a working class person’s life unless they can make some money out of them.

Here is the link for Ray’s book.

 

 

http://www.rochdaleonline.co.uk/news-features/138/community-news/111800/antiausterity-campaigner-charlotte-hughes-guest-speaker-at-castleton-labour-meeting

https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-e155-Mental-health-The-vulnerable-suffer-what-they-must

Please donate if you can, every penny helps! Thank you! Also sharing the blog is just as important and is appreciated also! Thank you!

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A hard morning. A man crying, rain pouring. It’s supposed to be August.

I’m not going to bother you with talking about the weather, I’ve said it in today’s blog title. It was raining AGAIN. Will we ever get a break, and have some good weather for once? My heart went out to Richard, a homeless chap who I buy a cuppa for most mornings and chat to. We always put the world to rights. He deserves a medal, such a nice man who has unfortunately fallen on hard times.

Gordon, who normally drops the food parcels off is currently unwell, get well soon Gordon! We missed you today! So Roy collected them also. He’s not feeling 100% well either, nor am I but we plod on and thank you so much, Roy, for your help and dedication.

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The food parcels went to people who had no food or very little through no fault of their own. it’s extremely hard to manage on the meagre amount of money that the government provides, that is, if you haven’t been sanctioned or refused your rightful claim of ESA. People still have to pay the bedroom tax and the council tax supplement. They also might have debts to pay, gas and electric to buy. The list never ends does it?

 

 

I spoke to a man who had been made homeless due to no fault of his own. He was living in very sub standard accommodation and had complained about it. The landlord then made the decision to evict him. I’m not sure about the exact details, but I do know that he hadn’t received adequate advice regarding how to claim housing benefit etc. If we had met him previously we would have done so.

He started to cry and went on to tell me that yes he does drink, but not to get drunk. Just enough to stop getting ill. “I’m 47 years old, I never expected that I would be living like this. I had a home, a life. I worked. Now I’m treated like crap and only a few care”

He took his phone out of his pocket and showed me the photos of his previous accommodation. To say it was disgusting is a massive understatement. No one should be forced to live like this and my heart went out to him.

We did signpost him to relevant organisations, and he assured us that he will work with them the best that he can do.

 

 

I said hello to a man that I’ve seen in my local area for a few years now. He’s a refugee and has managed to get permanent residence to stay and work in the UK.  His advisor is giving him a hard time though, most likely because his English is poor and from experience, they do target people with a poor grasp of the English vocabulary.

They have had him on daily signing on appointments for a long time now, he hasn’t been told why but he has to attend or get sanctioned. When a person is put on daily signings they are given a special card that gets them into the Jobcentre quickly. I would say a get out of jail card, but it’s more like a get in jail card. They told him that he wasn’t allowed to show anyone the card but I saw it. Their excuse is that it’s the property of the DWP. No, it’s not. If the gentleman has to carry this with him every day, then it’s his property. He can show who he likes when he likes.

Look out for people having to carry these cards. They are a sign that the person carrying it has been singled out for some reason, so it’s always worth asking them.

 

 

I spoke to an older gentleman who had been refused his ESA. I offered him help, but he is a man on a mission and was adamant that he will be appealing and he has it in hand. So hopefully he has, and hopefully, he will overturn that decision, as so many rightfully do.

 

 

I spoke to a young lad who has managed to find a bed at a local homeless hostel. He’s trying his best to sort his life out and to get on top of his mental health issues. It’s not going to be easy living there, but I could tell from what he was saying that he will do it.

 

 

We saw far too many older people forced to use the Jobcentre today, one man, in particular, looked very ill but didn’t want to speak to anyone. That place does that to you. The system can make a person shy away and become wary of society. They are treated like rubbish by their so called advisors, so expect the same from everyone else.

 

 

Once again, far too many WASPI women forced to use the Jobcentre and also far too many women with very young children. This also breaks my heart.

 

 

There were only four of us there today, I and Roy were on our own for a good while. It was tough, heartbreaking and stressful, but we will always be there to help others. They need the support.

 

Today should have been our 4th anniversary, but I made the decision to postpone our special demo because we have guests from other campaigns coming to visit in several weeks and I would like it to coincide with their arrival.

 

I couldn’t take photos because I left the big camera at home due to the rain, and the phone I’m using is rubbish so please forgive me. I am trying to rectify this though.

I’m tired, a tad fed up but I won’t stop helping those in need because their journey is far harder than mine.

 

 

Please donate help keep the blog and campaign going if you can. If not please share. It’s important that we keep talking about this all the time. This has become a full-time job for myself, and anyone spending any time with me will attest to that.

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!
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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.

Happy anniversary Bernard the Standguide work programme worker. 

I don’t normally name the people that I run into, but this fella deserves a special mention. He stalked me monthly face to face and over the telephone, paying no respect for my privacy; or indeed no respect for me whatsoever. Here is a reminder of my run-ins with the delightful Work Programme Standguide. 

To make things clear, Standguide is a Workprogramme provider and is owned by a bigger company which is called Seetec. They are employed by The Department Of Works and Pensions (DWP) to provide and oversee the dreaded Workprogramme. The Workprogramme is, to put it mildly a horrible place to have to go to. I was unlucky enough to have to experience it for three days, and I’m sure that they will never forget the three days that I attended their building. 

Disabled and non disabled people are herded into rooms after signing two forms to prove that they are actually attending. Those were the only forms that I signed, because otherwise I wouldn’t have received my money. I had already found a job previous to attending, but my so called Jobcoach who wasn’t the nicest of people, decided that I had to attend or I would be sanctioned my last three days money. I attended because I couldn’t afford to lose three days money, and also I had the foresight to realise that I would gain valuable research material there. So I went. 

It’s a long story, which I have covered in a previous blog over a year ago, but I saw some horrible things there. We had no privacy, we had to discuss matters in front of everyone. We were spoken to like we were idiots and not intelligent people, and people who were obviously too ill to attend were forced to attend, but to make matters worse they were put in the same groups as able bodied people. The rooms were small, crammed full of aging computers on which we were made to undertake some kind of so called intelligence test to test our abilities. I, personally, completed the same test with the same answers three times and it came out with a different result each time. Set up to fail and confuse? Yes I think so, it all seemed very deliberate. 

I, of course, refused to sign any of the forms thrust in front of us. I was already armed with my rights, and most of the group of people with me refused to sign also. This caused the so called teacher a bit of a headache. You see they get commission for each signature received,and a mass panic ensued. We refused to sign. I signed the register under duress, and they let me leave early on my last day. I had also photographed everything that I had seen, all the forms that they had tried to fool us into signing…. I had the distinct feeling that they couldn’t wait to be rid of me. But not signing the documents is where Bernard comes into the story. 

Because I had refused to sign the forms, and also had refused to tell them where I was working they felt compelled to phone me at home, first on a daily basis, which dwindled down to a weekly basis. As soon as they heard my voice they realised that they wouldn’t get any information from me, so they would put the telephone down in a huff it seemed. It was then that the home visits started. 

It was a winters evening and it had gone dark early as it often does in winter. Unusually there was a knock on the door. I don’t have visitors except by appointment, so I opened the window and shouted out to whomever it was. Out of the shadows walked Bernard. He was either a near retired, or retired gentleman, and if I saw him on the street would have thought that he was a harmless character. He told me his name, and that he was from Standguide. Immediately my heckles raised, Standguide as you can imagine are not my favourite company to deal with. I asked him what he wanted? He had no right to be standing on my property. I hadn’t signed any contract. Therefore he shouldn’t be bothering me. indeed he shouldn’t be bothering anyone. He was waving the forms that I had refused to sign, saying that it was in my best interest if I signed them. I replied, saying oh no you don’t, this does not benefit me at all, but it benefits your company. You receive a quite substantial sum of money for me signing, therefore I will not be signing. I shut the window, noting the rather expensive sports car that he was driving. 

Bernard then took it upon himself to visit me monthly. Yes, this was harassment, yes this shouldn’t be happening , but I had the strength to stand up to him, and I also enjoyed asking him questions regarding the cost of his rather expensive car, and was he proud of the fact that the money that probably paid for this car had been gained from exploiting the poorest in the area? This pantomime carried in until this time last year. After refusing to sign year again, he walked down my path and into the lovely sports car that he was driving round in. Happy anniversary Bernard! 

This did however highlight several points for me. 

He told me that he did this on a regular basis to lots of people in my area, he was proud if this, and didn’t quite understand it when they told him to go away under no uncertain terms. But for every strong person, there’s probably at least five that aren’t as strong. This is harassment and I urge people to contact the police if this does happen to you. They have no right to visit you at home, or to phone you constantly. 

It also showed me how desperate they are to get vulnerable people to sign their documents. This releases a large sum of money, but it also contracts you to this company for two years. Do you really want this company to control your life for two years? You don’t really, so don’t sign. 

It highlighted the terrible conditions that claimants were forced to endure. We may no longer have workhouses, but we now have the work programme and workfare. Both intended to exploit you as much as they possibly can. 

This is only a brief synopsis, therefore I haven’t included links etc etc. Those are in a previous blog. But I would like to wish Bernard a happy leaving anniversary and I hope that he learnt something from his actions, although I doubt this somehow. A leopard never changes its spots. 

New targets for DWP compliance interviews.

Sometimes I’m taken by surprise. Mostly I’m not. But this is a new tactic. A new target driven tactic employed by the DWP. 

For anyone claiming JSA, ESA Income Support or universal credit you might be familiar with a local service compliance interview. They send these letters out usually on a random basis or sometimes on the say so of a suspected fraud taking place. Now these interviews are compulsory and if you don’t attend then your money will get stopped. 

Whilst attending one of these interviews you are normally treated like a criminal, guilty before being proven innocent, most likely innocent of any wrongdoing as you have been randomly picked in the first place. You are taken to a room which looks just like a police interview room. They record everything like the police do, only in this case you are most likely innocent. You are asked to bring with you all documentation and proof to say you are who you are. This is what happened to a local lady who will remain anonomous to prevent any harrasment from the DWP. Here is what happened.

 After being admitted to hospital for an operation, she returned home to a “compliance interview” letter.Now the only “crime” that this lady committed was to become ill. She is claiming ESA and was previously claiming JSA. There has been no other change in her circumstances, but she is regarded as a criminal and will be treated as such. 

The lady concerned phone up the DWP on the number provided.To ask why she has been asked for an interview (interrogation ) and to inform them that as a disabled person and therefore classed as vulnerable she will be bringing an advocate with her. Here is a summary of the conversation. 

It took her a while but she eventually got through to a real person. This chap sounded quite nice apparently but wasn’t expecting any questions. People normally just comply, they don’t question the DWPs decisions he said. He sounded compassionate for a DWP worker, that he was under great pressure to perform these interviews. He didn’t say he was under pressure but I am presuming that he is because he has been told that he’s got to claw £1000 back from innocent people, people that have been claiming the correct amount of money and have committed no benefit fraud. So she is just a person on the list of targets for this clawback. He said that the DWP had supposed to have sent her a previous letter, which surprise surprise they didn’t. He didn’t argue the case for the DWP as he believed that she was knowledgeable and it was pointless doing so. She asked him why he had given her all this information… He said that he did because she had asked lots of questions and his tone wasn’t of a person happy in his job. She also informed him that she will be taking a witness into the interview and that she wants proof of all said letters from the DWP to herself that hadn’t arrived. After all it’s a well known fact that these letters don’t get sent out in the first place and the onus is on them to prove that they sent them and not on her for not receiving them. 

There are several issues that need to be spoken about here. The first is that these compliance letters are now being used as a form of target for the DWP. Never before have I heard of this. We all have heard about sanction targets, but compliance targets? Wow. That’s an all time low.

The second is the fact that you are proven guilty before you are even seen and are even interviewed in police like surroundings. This is shocking because even in a court of law you are supposed to be innocent before being proven guilty. The DWP doesn’t see it this way. And now they have a £1000 target to aim for innocent victims are going to be fraudulently accused of committing benefit fraud and will be asked to repay money that they do not owe, and have never owed. After all the DWP will want to reach that £1000 target so the most vulnerable will be targeted for this. 

The third is that the DWP are openly committing fraud. It’s much the same as demanding money with menaces. A very vulnerable person sitting in a compliance interview hosted by usually two very hostile DWP workers will agree to anything just to get out of the building. Their money will stop and they could well loose their home. 

The fourth and the last for now because I’m sure that I could think of more is that the decent members of staff working for the DWP are being put at risk by being forced to comply to enforcing these actions. The man concerned knew it was wrong but because he most likely he knows how bad it is to be unemployed, he has had to choose to enforce it. This is very wrong. Not all DWP workers are bad but the good ones tend to be the exception to the rule these days. They end up leaving or becoming ill because they cannot stand the stress and the wrongdoings anymore. 

Please share this blog. Let the DWP know that we are aware of their latest trick. If you receive one of their compliance letters always question it and demand a witness to any interview. That is your right so use it. We cannot allow them to get away with this fraud. Making the poorest pay for the banking crisis which was created by the richest is never acceptable. 

As my comrade States “With every twist of the screw that takes place it becomes more urgent that the jobcentre workers stand shoulder to shoulder with the claimants. Each generation has to relearn what solidarity means – that what the power of capitalist ideology does to us!”

Quick note. ESA is employment and support allowance. JSA is Jobseeker’s Allowance. Universal credit is what it says on the tin. 

  
It would be wonderful if anyone could donate to keep this blog going. I’m on a very low income and I need to continue this blog. My Paypal add is seercharlotte@gmail.com thank you! 

Please note none of this is hearsay it is based on good evidence from genuine people. 

For anyone who thinks this isn’t a true account of events, it was. I was accompanying this person and I have mentioned that it is a compliance letter. I have also attended many of these meetings with claimants. Some go ok, some don’t. It’s pot luck with who you see at the interview. I will not edit it because it a truthful set of accounts. Thank you.