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.
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!
You can follow Charlotte at her webpage The Poor side of Life