Freedom vs health

There are homeless people living in the Morrisons carpark in Blackburn. Their camp is on the second floor of the parking lot. There are no tents in the camp: just duvets on the wet ground, clothes in bags and trolleys, and sleeping bags spread out on the duvets.

I wouldn’t choose it – but there are guys drinking near the camp who say that people do choose it. Ed, 30, says that. Ed says the people who live in the camp could choose a hostel or shelter – “there are services in the town that can put a roof over the head for one night” – but they don’t. That’s because hostels mean strict rules and restrictions. In the camp, people can do as they like. Doing as they like often means getting blasted on spice – as Ed speaks, two camp residents suddenly stand up and leave, saying “we’ve got to sort something out” as they go – but that’s their choice and people set store by their right to make it.

Steve, 55, lives at the camp (I talked to Steve earlier). He says he’s been at the camp on and off for a year. “Gets violent sometimes, but that’s all part of the territory, isn’t it?” Steve says that he was recently diagnosed with Alzeheimer’s. His time at the camp might end soon because of that. “I think sooner or later, they will want us to go into sheltered accommodation…can’t drink in there… I like a smoke.”

“People do what they want to do…you know what I mean?” Ed says. I do. I’ve seen it a lot in austerity: people at the end of various ropes who decide that freedom beats lockdown. People in this part of the picture have been making that choice for years.

Ed has himself chosen a hostel and its rules this time around. Ed and his girlfriend Pat, 23, and another friend, Rob, who is in his 20s, live at the Salvation Army hostel in the middle of Blackburn. Another friend, Mark, has his own flat. All 4 come to the Morrisons carpark regularly to drink. “I’m an alcoholic,” Ed says. Rob says that he’s an alcoholic, too.

There are rules at the hostel – no drinking, no drugs and no sex, by the sounds of things. “We’re not allowed in each other’s rooms, or anything like that,” Pat says. “If I got caught in his (Ed’s) room, we’d be in trouble.”

“Even if I go near her,” Ed says. He laughs. He says the hostel is “like a 55-bedroom holiday camp… basically, it’s like when you see prison – like you get wings [different wings in a building]. It’s camera-d up everywhere – staff room, staff walkabout places…[you have] a single room there, lock on the door. [You’re] very safe there…toilets shared and you’ve got a main canteen…” Ed says that the hostel isn’t bad. “It’s all right… they give you meals every day and all that…I’ve been in there [in the hostel] like 3 times. It’s because of mad shit I’ve done in my life…”

For Ed, the mad shit involved working like the clappers in pubs and bars, and drinking himself to oblivion. Bubble [mephedrone] was Ed’s other poison: “…when you take a line of that stuff – ah…” The plan now – it’s the plan for everyone in the hostel, rather than Ed’s plan personally – is to achieve sobriety and and independence. “You leave there [the hostel] – you’re meant to go into your own place… independent living.”

“Can you do that?” I ask Ed. “Can you afford it?”

“No,” Ed says cheerfully.

Ed has parked the idea of sobriety for the time being. Ed, Pat, Rob and Mark take me to the Sally Army hostel via an off-licence where they buy more cans. At the hostel, they point out the security cameras. We talk in the hostel entrance until a staff member comes out and asks people to take the beers elsewhere. People head to the cathedral grounds. It’s raining, but nobody cares. They’re free to do as they like.


Transcript of Blackburn interviews, January 2020 (names changed on request):

At the Morrisons carpark camp on the second floor, there are two guys sitting on wet bedding. They are very out of it. They’re looking at a phone. They stand up and leave suddenly: “we’ve got to sort something out.”

Ed, Pat, Rob and Mark are drinking next to the bedding. Rob comes up to me. “Do you want a Haribo?” he says. He has a packet.

Me: Are you living up here as well?

Rob: Nah. I don’t live here.

Ed: Are you a journalist? So how come you’re coming up here?

Me: Because I heard that you guys were living up here [in the Morrisons carpark]… and I write about housing and benefits.

Rob: Some people live on here.

Ed: Do you know what… we went away for 5 years, yeah, and we come back to find that people are actually living here…do you know what the funny thing is, though… people do what they want to do… there are services in the town that can put a roof over the head for one night, but they do… do you know what I mean.

Me: Is it like the rules [that put people off asking for hostel rooms and shelters]? Like – if you stay in hostels and that?

Ed: So, most of us here live in hostels… nothing special or anything like that… like, I live in Salvation Army…like the one over there… it’s all right. Like, they give you meals every day and all that. You know what I mean… it’s not…obviously when you leave there, you’re meant to go into your own place…independent living…

Me: Can you do that? Can you afford it?

Ed: No… do you want to know what’s rife as well in this town as well? Spice. It’s a single person’s individual choice whether they take that drug or not.

Me: Do you?

Ed: No. I drink alcohol.

Rob: Do we look like we take it?

Ed: No. Obviously, it is up to that individual. I’ve got issues. I’ve got problems. My mum – she’s got problems. My brother – he’s got problems…us 4 here, this is like our group – family. This is family. We have to take care of each other out there… this my stepbrother. This is my girlfriend. This is my friend…

Me: Yes, he gave me a Haribo.

Ed: Sugar is a winner.

Rob: I’m living in hostels, but if I see somebody living on the floor, do you know what I mean, I’m going to help them…

Mark: I’ve known them for years [people who are sleeping in Morrison’s carpark] but you know, I’m still going to help them..

Me: Do you live in Sally Army as well?

Mark: No, I’m living in a flat, me.

Me: What’s the Sally Army hostel like?

Ed: It’s a 55-bedroom holiday camp… I’m joking… so, basically, it’s like, you know, sort of like when you see prison – like you get wings. It’s like that. It’s camera-d up everywhere, staff room, staff walkabout places…it’s like…single room there, lock on the door, very safe there…toilets shared, you’ve got a main canteen… they do food…the hostel has got like 6 flats on it. He [Rob] lives in the flats and he has to cook for himself…it’s cheaper rent in there, because he has to buy his own food…I pay £160 [a week I think]. He pays £130, but if you’ve got rent arrears…I’ve been in there like 3 times. It’s because of mad shit like I’ve done in my life…

Me: Tell me about the mad shit.

Ed: [Laughs] I can’t even believe I’m speaking to you, to be honest…I’ll tell you my stuff, but don’t ever put my name in it…I could tell you shit that would change your life perspective…

Me: Okay. Speak.

Ed: Say what, though? What do you want me to tell you?

Me: Well, you’re obviously young.

Ed: I’m 30.

Rob: I’m the youngest.

Ed: I’m from a place called Bury. I was born there, but my parents moved to a place called Prestwich when I was young, so the reason… I don’t even know what to tell you…

Me: Tell me your story. So you moved to Prestwich and went to school…

Ed: Yeah, I went to school, passed all my GCSEs and all that…I like started to steal off my parents and I stole a lot of money off them, so they kicked me out and then like…

Rob: Burnt your bridges.

Ed: Yeah, basically. Proper fucked myself up… everything I’ve taken… I’ve never took hard drugs like crack or heroin or hard drugs like that. I just smoked cannabis and bud and drank alcohol. That’s it – do you know what I mean [laughs] I’ve done a lot of bad shit…

Me: So, you did that and you burned your bridges and then you thought…

Ed: … and then I moved to Blackburn and the first time I was like in the Salvation Army [hostel], my older brother was there as well. He was there before me. He basically said to me – well, come to Blackburn. So, he basically got me there and then I lived in Salvation Army. I lived there for a bit… it was a time when bubble was… do you know what Mephedrone is? – bubble – it was at a time when that was proper at its peak…and I got kicked out of my flat…

Me: What it’s like?

Ed: Mephedrone?

Me: Yeah, what’s it like?

Ed: If I could take a gram of Mephedrone right now, I’d take it…

Me: You’d take it. What’s it like? What’s it do?

Ed: It’s like shards of glass.

Me: What – like in your head?

[Everyone laughs]

Ed: No! When you look at it. No, not in my head. When you look at it it’s like shards of glass and when you crush it, it obviously goes to a powder, but when you take a line of that stuff… ah….

Rob: I never took it.

Ed: Yeah, because it was well before your 2 times… I was taking bubble when I was like 23…

Me: Is it addictive, like… you need more and more and more?

Ed: I got off it.

Me: You got off it.

Ed: ….I couldn’t get hold of it any more, because it had become illegal…

Me: Does it get made here?

Ed: Not any more. It’s plant food.

Me: Someone was telling me that they used to smoke fish tank cleaner.

Ed: Crystallised…

Rob: Yeah – that’s what they do in jail…

Me: Yeah, it’s everyone come out of Strangeways – that’s their…

Ed: I used to do £500 of…

Mark: You are a gangster though…

Me: So, no glass in your head then…

Mark [laughs] It’s all in his fucking head.

Ed: …I feel like I’ve cut a bit of it [his story] out… so basically, yeah…bubble… that’s when I got kicked out for a year. I went to the foyer and that’s when I met… and I had 2 kids with this girl and I was with her for 5 years. Then I left her and then I got with somebody else. I spent 5 years with her. Built a full fucking life and then bang! here I am today…[laughs]

Me: Okay – what was the bit with the bang then?

Ed: Do you really want to know? I can’t believe I’m telling you this… so, my last relationship, we had 2 businesses. Well – I didn’t. It was hers, but I was manager. Even he [Mark} worked for me. Didn’t ya?

Mark: Yeah.

Ed: Well – he didn’t work for me. He worked for my ex-partner.

Me: What was the business?

Ed: Hotel. Hotel…I just drunk ‘em dry, me… no, but listen – I didn’t rob them. I used to just tip myself out – here’s a pint…

Mark:… You needn’t pay him back now. Just give him a pint. Here you are.

Ed: The pub ended, because the company that owned it sold it…

Me: What do you think of the government right now? The Tory government. Did you vote?

Mark: No. I never vote… why do we have to vote for our government?

Me: Well, there is that.

Mark: Why do we have to get put in these predicaments by 2 different people – where is this one lawful person who dictates what’s going on… they’re all into going to war, mate. You should be fearing for your life…

Ed: Fucking government.

Me: Who are we going to war with?

Ed: Iran.

Rob: They think we have a problem with ISIS, but ISIS is not a problem…

Mark: The only reason they hate us, like come to us, is because we interfered… interfered [in their countries] and then what, shit, they got involved. They tried targeting us… and then look at the shit that America are doing now.. with Iran he’s [Trump] threatening them and everything…

Ed: I’m not going to war.

Mark: But he’s expecting us to go to war with him… we’re allies now [the UK and the US].. America’s our biggest ally as well now.. if we don’t go to war with them…they’re going to say – if you don’t sign up for the British army, you’re going to prison for 10 years…

Me: You think you’re going to get conscripted?

Mark: Yeah.

Me: You really think so?

Mark: Yeah.

Ed: Deep down, I think Russia is planning some deep shit… he’s [Putin] got shit underground…

Rob: Yep – he’s after fucking Japan and fucking China and all of that… and then you’ve got ISIS attacking fucking Russia… big man whipping out the [weapon]…[laughs]

Me: Do you think ISIS could take on Russia though?

[All] No, no…

Rob: But have Russia got the capability man – suicide bombers and all of that…how many big cities are in Russia… they’re going to start targeting them, but it is the USA that is stopping them from targeting Russia…

Ed: Do you want to come with us? We’re going to get a drink.

Me: Why not.

Me: So tell me – what happened? You left the pubs and then what happened?

Ed: So I left the pub and my partner… she had like 3 strokes. She was in a bad way. It was a mad time… 2 years, smoking weed and doing head… She got all right to go back to work. She had the money to buy a lease on a hotel. Mark was there at this time. Mark started working. I had other things going on. Mark was like a manager… going through the whole building, checking like gas certificates and all of it…my partner – as time went on her priorities changed…

Me: What do you think of Blackburn here…?

Ed: It’s a shithole…

Rob: But you see all this [he points out the big, sterile-looking restaurants and apartment blocks that sit around Blackburn station now] – they make it too expensive for even one person on jobseekers [allowance] They’re taking the whole whack, man, just to get themselves off the street. Why have they built that [the restaurants and apartments] right there man – right the middle of the street? Look at the homeless situation in this town. They’re all right, those people. They’ve got the money to live in those places…

Me: What do you do?

Rob: Nothing. They don’t support me. I support myself. I get like that universal credit. It’s going okay… you don’t leave Blackburn. You may go out, but you come back in…

Me: So, do many people actually live in that carpark?

Rob: Yes. I’d say there is like 6 or 8 in an evening…

Me: Right. What time do they turn up…?

Rob: The people who are living in the carpark…? I’ve known L_ who is living in there for a very long time and he’s just always out here…

Ed: I didn’t get Universal Credit, but I do now, but I was working…she’s been paying my wages… but now I have to claim universal credit…they tried to say that people were going to be better off [with universal credit]. You’re about £50 better off and that’s it, and it’s worse, because it causes people to commit crimes…waiting so long for the money [people have to wait 5 weeks for their first Universal Credit payment]. I pressured them. It got to the 5 week deadline and I was like – you need to sort it out…waited for 5 weeks… they let them take the piss… I have to sign on, go in. It’s just the jobsearch. It’s all online now. Every time you upload your CV, you just apply for a job…

[We keep walking].

Ed: This is a Polish shop. This is where we get these beers from.

Shop owner: You can’t wear your hood in here.

Rob: Sorry boss.

Ed: Why don’t you come and stand outside Sally’s and see what it is like for yourself?

Me: Are there lots of you living in there?

Pat: I live there as well… we’re not allowed in each other’s rooms, or anything like that, though. Innit. If I got caught in his [Ed’s] room, we’d be in trouble…

Ed: Even go near her.

Me. Really? But you’re adults… so you’re adults, but you’re not allowed to sleep together…

Ed: If anyone says anything to you, just say you are with me.

Me: Are you allowed to take people in?

Ed: No. A lot of females live here and they are prostitutes and all that… for money, to get money…

Pat: That’s for females there… see, there’s a camera there and one up there and there are 2 or 3 on every corridor…everywhere in here…[to Ed] okay, I’ve got your key. Gave it me in the shop earlier…

Me: Not allowed to take anyone in? You aren’t allowed to visit each other…

Rob: Well, we can see each other, but we’re not allowed onto each other’s landings…

Pat: Can’t visit…

Ed: There’s 2 wings of female and then the rest are all men. There’s 55 rooms in here…

Me: So, there’s no cross pollination…[they laugh].

Pat: Cameras everywhere…

Ed: The staff coming out. Oh shit…

Rob: We’re alcoholics.

Ed: I’ve been here [living at the hostel] for a month… you have to demonstrate that you can do this by yourself…I know they smoke cigarettes, but we smoke weed…I’m an alcoholic… that’s why, it’s having that licence, with that licence, I can find a hotel to run because it allows me to sell alcohol…that’s what I want to do.

Mark: Everything we do is to do with alcohol…

Ed: I’d rather like serve the community – help people out and that…My kids have been adopted…

Me: Do you ever get to see them?

Ed: No…it still hurts me to this day man. I’ll smash this place up right now for them 2. I would. If somebody said to me – you have to kill somebody to get your kids back, I would…

Mark: He can’t kill a fucking ant.

[Hostel staff member comes out]: Please stand and move away from the front door if you’re going to drink alcohol.

22 thoughts on “Freedom vs health

  1. Its way past time for the Government to pull in all those Empty ‘student flats’ ; that would certainly go a long way to helping out the homeless community in Leicester

    • Similar situation in Cardiff, hundreds of student flats that can’t be filled simply because the rents are far too expensive and the council approved far too many planning applications.

      Like everywhere else in the UK, it’s more social housing that is needed, nit student accommodation, not speculative ‘executive’ housing, but places for ordinary people to live.

      Finland, and parts of the USA, (of all places) are well on their way to solving their own homelessness simply through providing people with somewhere to call home.

      Never mind, as is mostly the case in the UK, expecting people with problems, (largely caused by being homeless rather than the problems causing homelessness) to jump through the hoops the system expects; that they start to address their dependency issues etc before they’re considered for a place of their own, people need a home first, and then they can start to deal with their issues.

      Seems to be a no brainer to me. And, so long as they aren’t my next door neighbour they can party all they like 🙂

      • I’ve lived in the same house as heroin addicts and alcoholics and it ain’t fun, but they never last long before they get evicted, or die.

        • Yes, left to their own devices, i.e. just ‘dumped’ (as is also often the case with people released from hospital after having suffered mental health issues) people with those kinds of issues can be a nightmare to live near – and sometimes it can take months before anything is done, as housing associations drag their feet and even when they do get their fingers out, they too often get it wrong in my experience. Providing support alongside housing is a different matter, and it made clear that anti-social behaviour isn’t going to be tolerated.

          A quiet drunk or substance user is fine in my book, (though I absolutely detest the smell of skunk weed!) as they bother no-one, and hopefully will. As always, it’s a small minority, and their hangers on that cause the problems.

  2. There’s a large hotel in my town centre that has stood empty for years and is becoming an increasingly embarrassing eyesore. Could be converted into accommodation if the will was there, and the cash.
    Some people find the system impossible to cope with and hence are forced to drop out. I barely cope with the Benefits system myself and have often entertained the idea of walking away from it all and go live in a tent in the woods. But I don’t think I could survive that lifestyle, I like having a roof over my head, home comforts such as they are, a comfy bed to sleep in. So I just have to plod on, put up with the soul-destroying hassle of keeping Jobcentre appointments, going through the motions of never-ending jobsearch, facing the music once a fortnight like a criminal or a naughty child, being forced to attend one back-to-work course after another, mind-numbing employability skills ‘training’ etc. Playing the game, or at least seeming to, all the while dreaming of being old enough to finally Retire. Having a job is equally soul-destroying too in my experience, having to spend all day being somewhere you don’t want to be, doing something you don’t want to do, then getting up and doing it all over again, and again. And constantly living in poverty is not really freedom either, just that the misery of poverty can often be preferable to the misery of work, the lesser of two evils. God, no wonder people seek escape, or solace, through drink and drugs.

  3. Remember that Janice Joplin song, ‘Me and Bobby McGee’? There’s a line that says, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose…”. I never really understood that at the time, but I do now. Just about sums it up really. I guess neither freedom nor health mean much unless you have enough money to enjoy it. And there’s never really any freedom if you’re skint. Perhaps it goes deeper than that, “the Truth shall set ye free”, or from a Buddhist perspective we are all prisoners of our own Desires.

  4. Well our freedoms are certainly being challenged now, though social isolation is something I’ve got used to over the last few years living on JSA – pubs/restaurants/cafes/cinemas etc. have been out of the question for years. The only difference now is that I might start to whiff a bit after a few months now the laundrettes have been closed down.

  5. Well, it seems that UC claimants at least are now excused visits to the Jobcentre for the forseeable, and that payments are guaranteed for the next three months at least, though things seem to be changing on a daily basis. There are also some fairly reliable rumours that the rate of UC paid is going up by £20 a week, something mentioned by Polly Toynbee in yesterday’s Guardian, and on another site which suggested that this news, whilst welcome, was rather vague as to who would get it and when – a confusing message, which is pretty much par for the course for the bunch of fuckwits in government.

    One thing that does seem to be promising, (though with a frustrating level of predictability) is that there is a widespread disgust amongst the now unemployed professional classes at the low level of benefits paid out to those out of work – which is probably at least partly behind the quite sudden rise in the rate of UC payable. I’m trying hard not to gloat, (and no-one would see me anyway) and though an extra £20 a week will be most welcome, (should it transpire that I’m entitled to it) it will still only provide a very basic standard of living, rather than a constant dance with destitution.

    • Yes I think you’re right Padi, I’ve read that UC is increasing to £94 p/w, but not JSA. I still don’t know if the Jobcentres are open to the public or not, been told nothing, have a signing appointment on 31st but I’ll have to ring up before I go to see if I still have to attend. Could be that payments are being made automatically without need for a signature but no announcements to that affect have been made. And if so, nothing has been said about jobsearch requirements and sanctions. Can’t do much jobsearch apart from on my phone as library is closed down, and my phone data is down to the minimum and about to run out anytime soon. Haven’t received any DWP letter to explain the situation. Therese Coffey is sat on her arse doing fuck all. Only official statements made about Benefits so far are relating to UC, but nothing said, not even mentioned, about existing JSA claimants.

      • I’ve just taken a look at the CAB England advice page for coronavirus and this is what it has to say about benefits:

        “If you’re claiming benefits
        The government has postponed all face-to-face benefits assessments or appointments at the Jobcentre Plus until at least 19 June 2020.

        This means you don’t have to go to:

        interviews if you’re starting a claim for JSA, ESA or Universal Credit
        medical assessments for ESA, Universal Credit or PIP
        appointments with your work coach
        The Jobcentre Plus might still ask to talk to you by phone.

        You can still go to the Jobcentre Plus – for example if you want to hand in a form.”

        It was updated yesterday, but things are changing rapidly. I was due to have an interview over the phone on Monday, but that’s now changed, and it’s been confirmed by my advisor that there will now be no phone call as they’re far too busy helping with the processing of new claims.

        Conceivably JSA claimants are included in the changes, but I’d suggest trying to phone them just to be on the safe side, as you never know with this bunch of useless articles. I’ve looked at various websites, but as you say, all that’s mentioned is UC. The only website I’ve found that specifically mentions Covid 19 and JSA is the Northern Ireland website, where it states that the same rules as apply to those claiming UC also apply to those getting JSA. However, Northern Ireland administers both UC and JSA seperately to the rest of the UK, so what goes there might not apply on this side of the Irish Sea.

        Hopefully things will be clearer soon.

        I’ll just add that I hope everyone is keeping safe and not going too stir crazy due to the lockdown. I’m off out for the first time in about 5 days to do some shopping and to put some gas on the meter card as well as get some badly needed exercise. It seems it’s a nice Spring day here and the sun is shining – typical, it’s been nothing but rain and grey skies since January, and now that we have lockdown, the sun comes out!

        • Yeah it’s a beautiful day here too, warm & sunny, I’ve been indoors all week watching daytime Freeview tv, Kojak, The Persuaders, The Saint, and documentaries about the seemingly disproportionate amount of serial killers in Alaska. I nipped out for 5 mins. earlier to get a bottle of milk from the corner shop and it’s pretty eerie, a usually busy bustling neighbourhood now a ghost town, streets deserted, noticeably less traffic.
          As regards JSA, I suppose we are just left to assume that the info about other named Benefits also applies to the unmentionable JSA. Odd that they are deliberately ignoring it though. Perhaps that’s just indicative of the contempt they have for the long-term unemployed.

          • The only information that specifically mentioned legacy income based JSA was on the Swansea City Council website, but even there it was a bit vague and ambiguous, and no mention was made as to whether legacy JSA claimants would be entitled to the temporary extra £20 a week. The only divergence mentioned was that, unlike those claiming UC, JSA claimants still had to report sickness and submit fit notes after seven days’ self-reporting. I’ve left a query on the Policy in Practice website about the plight of legacy JSA claimants, and I’ll get back to you if and when there’s a reply.

            I’ve been binging Spooks on iPlayer for the past few days, but have had to take a bit of a breather, as I’ve done three of the ten series in as many days. Under the current conditions I think it’s now only a matter of time before we start to hear about cereal killers over here too 😀

          • I just got an email from someone at my local Jobcentre:

            “All appointments at the job centre are suspended until further notice.

            All benefits will be sent out automatically.

            If you have any change of circumstances please e mail us on XXXXXXX

            We will be in contact when we have more information.

            Take care of yourself and keep safe”

    • And yes, of course they are bastards. They’re giving the increase to UC but not JSA, which they froze for FOUR years, but have given the MPs an above-inflation pay rise to 82 Grand (+ expenses), and they wouldn’t have given the extra 20 quid to regular unemployed UC claimants were it not for the huge influx of workers now having to claim because of the lockdown. In other respects it’s funny how they’ve suddenly got loads of spare dosh for all sorts of things, after all these years of austerity when they were claiming to be skint and it turns out they had a secret grow operation going on all the time – an attic full of Magic Money trees probably grown under hydroponics.

      • Of course they wouldn’t have given the extra £20 a week to UC claimants under normal circumstances Trev, it’s just a rather cynical attempt to preempt an outcry as they became aware of the outcry about not being able to survive on £94 a week Sickness Benefit – despite it being okay with most workers for so long, so long as it didn’t affect them – then we were ‘scroungers’.

        The site I asked the question on about whether or not JSA claimants were to get the extra grand got back to me, and they echo what you say Trev, that, unfortunately JSA claimants aren’t going to get it as far as anyone knows. Here is the response:

        “The published government advice that we’ve been able to find is here. This advice states that the requirement for in person JobCentre attendance is suspended. If claimants are ill or self-isolating, sanctions and work search requirements appear to be removed if suitable notification is given. The advice doesn’t explicitly state whether digital or phone appointments need to be kept, so it may well be that JSA claimants will need to call the JobCentre.

        With that in mind, the £1000 topup to UC is not being applied to those on JSA. This means that come legacy claimants could be better off voluntarily moving to UC. Claimants can check whether they would be better off on UC using our online calculator. I would note that some groups (e.g., income-based ESA claimants) currently tend to be worse-off on UC, but that this may change with the addition of the £1000 top up. If there’s any doubt over the change in income associated with moving to UC, we strongly recommend that claimants seek personalised support from their local CAB.

        Unfortunately we haven’t been able to find any more specific information about the requirements on JSA claimants, but we are updating our Covid FAQ page regularly and will amend it as soon as we have clarification from DWP.”

        It’s bloody unfair that those on JSA are being discriminated against.

        As for Magic Money Trees, the Tories always seem to find plenty of them when the need them, like the massive bung they gave the banks which would have been much better spent on the wider economy – at least that way it would have had some genuine ‘trickle down’ effect if it had been spent on building the housing and infrastructure the UK needs. Instead it merely trickled into the offshore accounts of the very wealthy. We always knew that ‘austerity’ was a sham.

  6. Wow, my local foodbank has seen a 50% increase in demand in the last 10 days, and in the last 8 days have provided 552 food parcels! And that’s with 30% of the regular volunteers off in self-isolation. The Council are helping out with some extra staff and transport they’re donating during this emergency period.

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