Get to the office today or we’ll throw you off the homelessness list: how people with mental health issues are addressed

Update 28 Feb: the council says that it is investigating this situation – to find out how someone living in one of its homelessness hostels came to receive such a letter.

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Original post:

Seriously.

I wrote a fortnight ago about Lukia, a woman with serious mental health difficulties who lives (if “lives” is the word) in a Newham homelessness hostel.

Lukia has previously been in the care of a mental health unit.

She is battling Newham council for permanent housing.

Lukia came home last week to find this note under her door:

The note says:

“You are request [sic] to come into the office in Victoria Street today by 3pm. Failure to do so will lead to you being removed from the homelessness list and you will be asked to leave your home.”

I post this to show you again the way that people with no clout are addressed by authorities.

Every contact is a threat.

People aren’t invited to meetings with council or hostel staff. They’re told to attend, or else.

The “or else” part can be the threat of being thrown off the homelessness list and out of a hostel room, as in this case.

It can be the threat of street homelessness and child removal. Whatever form the “or else” takes, these threats are heavy-handed, dangerous and unjustified.

It’s high time that councillors and MPs addressed this. A shortage of housing does not justify a shortage of decency and care.

Lukia, as I’ve written, has a history of serious mental health difficulties and of being placed in temporary accommodation so vile and substandard that she’s been moved out of it.

She feels that permanent accommodation is her only chance at the stability that might lead to an improvement in her health.

Threats of homelessness hardly help people achieve that.

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Homeless mothers: we feel the ever-present threat of social services and losing our kids. That’s how they keep people quiet

Readers of this site will know that I’ve recently been interviewing Marsha, a homeless 30-year-old Newham woman who lives with her six-year-old daughter in a single room in a Newham homelessness hostel.

The two have been stuck in this temporary accommodation for over a year.

Marsha and her daughter in their one-room temporary homelessness hostel accommodation

In the last article, Marsha talked about a concern that many homeless mothers raise. Mothers worry that council social services will try to remove their children because they are homeless. Doesn’t matter what the council can, or can’t, actually do. The threat hangs in the air and that is enough. I’ve written about this before.

In that recent article, Marsha said that Newham social services said they could take her daughter and place the child in care while Marsha “sorted herself out”:

“Social services is telling me – “oh, we can provide a home for your daughter, but not for you.”

“So I am scared.”

There’s been more since then.

On Tuesday morning, Marsha sent an email to her housing officer (Marsha copied me in). She asked for an update on her housing situation and whether she and her child could be moved to a better place than the awful hostel that they’re stuck in.

Marsha is in the dreadful limbo that so many women in poverty are.

She’s facing eviction from the homelessness hostel she’s in.

She’s studying at a local college to try and improve her chances of work and better-paid work.

She doesn’t want to have to move to a flat miles away in Tilbury (which is where the council wants her to go), because Marsha relies on her mother for mental health support and childcare while she studies. If Marsha loses that support, she’ll sink.

Marsha has no-one else to help with childcare while she studies. The jobcentre certainly won’t. Her adviser already threatened to sanction her Universal Credit for spending some of her time studying rather than all of her time looking for work.

So, Marsha sent that email to the council asking about her application for better housing. There’d been earlier emails, too, as well as the stories posted here.

Enter social services.

The next thing Marsha knew was that social services was all over her – and asking questions about her daughter’s health and wellbeing.

Marsha said she felt extremely threatened by this. A woman asks a council questions about her housing application – and suddenly, social services is on the phone demanding meetings and firing off all sorts of questions about the woman and her child’s welfare.

You have to wonder.

Marsha says that first, she was contacted by someone from the local multi-agency safeguarding hub – one of the hubs set up to track children who could be “vulnerable”:

“I literally had to explain myself and my housing situation all over again. He [the MASH officer] was really like getting a bit personal… asking me questions about my doctor, my daughter, my wellbeing, [the] school that she [my daughter] attends, her attendance… just a lot of personal stuff…”

So, there was that.

Then on Thursday last week, Marsha got a call from Newham children’s services, demanding that she attend an appointment with them that very afternoon:

“Another lady called from the social services…she said to me that she’s been given instructions from her manager to call me to arrange a meeting with herself.

I said, “what is it in regards to, because I just spoke to somebody else in the department within the social services and they are saying something different to me…”

“[She said] that she has to do an assessment with me and my daughter to do with my housing issues, and I have to come and see her and I should bring my daughter…

“I said to her – “I’m in college until 4.15pm. Then, I have to pick up my daughter.”

“She was like, “this is important and you have to come and see me. You kind of just have to find time, basically.”

“So I said to her, “okay, well, I’ll grab my daughter from school early and I’ll come and see you.”

“I was really uncomfortable…”

At the meeting, the social worker questioned Marsha and her daughter about Marsha and the child’s wellbeing:

“It is… the stuff they were asking me, Kate, had nothing to do with my housing situation. They were asking my daughter if she sleeps well, how does she play, who helps her with her homework… It’s not relevant.

“It’s almost like I’m being investigated… do you know what I mean… everyone knows that my issues is strictly around housing. I feel so uncomfortable.”

“I feel like the council is just trying to use tactics to force me into a situation…I feel like I’m being punished. I’m trying to get my voice heard and I’m speaking to people and I’m raising issues. I feel like it’s a tactical to make me go away – like they are thinking, “let’s get social services to call around.”

Marsha said the social worker told her that Marsha and her daughter would soon be evicted from their temporary accommodation. Marsha and her young daughter are facing street homelessness.

That was the first Marsha had heard about her impending eviction.

She said that the social worker was shocked to hear that the council’s housing team hadn’t told Marsha that eviction was nearing.

The bed Marsha shares with her daughter

——-

You see my point.

I talk to too many homeless mothers now who say they feel ever-threatened by social services.

They don’t know if councils can take their kids, but Can or Can’t is beside the point. The point is that the spectre of social services is raised at the drop of a hat. An implied threat is plenty good enough to shut homeless people up.

People worry about challenging a council offer of housing, or complaining about the dreadful state of temporary housing, or drawing attention to themselves by asking a council any questions about housing at all. I wonder how many homeless people are disenfranchised – bullied into silence – in this way.

Said Marsha:

“It’s the normal thing that I’ve been experiencing with council, with social services – bullying, threatening, saying that you have to do this now and you don’t have an option…she [the social worker] sat down yesterday and she said, “as you know there is no affordable housing, affordable properties [in Newham]… it’s just been like 18 months of ongoing like turmoil with them.”

Indeed.

I have more on this which I will publish this week.

The Newham council press office has blacklisted me and so won’t give a comment, but too bad for them. I’ll be emailing the mayor and the head of housing with this article and asking the council what the hell it is doing.

This is sick.

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DWP: we don’t want you studying or improving your life. We want you in low paid work forever

On Saturday, I interviewed Marsha, 30.

Marsha is homeless and lives with her young daughter in one room in a temporary accommodation hostel in Newham. (I’ll publish her full story soon).

Marsha signs on for Universal Credit at Stratford jobcentre.

Marsha told me that she wants to study to become a nurse.

To get things underway, she recently signed up to study a module in health.

Marsha said that she thought her jobcentre adviser would be pleased with this initiative.

He was not. He was furious about it.

The jobcentre adviser told Marsha off for prioritising study ahead of jobsearch. She was threatened with sanctions for putting study ahead of her jobsearch activities.

Her jobcentre adviser told Marsha that finding work – any work at any pay – had to be her priority.

Study and increasing her chances of better-paid work were not DWP priorities for her.

“He said to me “they [the DWP] want you looking for work.”

I said to him: “how can I get a better job with more money to look after my daughter if I never get qualifications?”

Precisely.

Two things:

  • this is an excellent way for the DWP to make sure that people in Marsha’s situation never get out of such situations – that they’re kept in low paid, unskilled work and subject to Universal Credit conditions forever
  • it’s extraordinary that instead of encouraging her to study, the DWP would rather that Marsha spend her time on useless jobsearch exercises such as sitting in front of a computer applying online for hundreds of jobs that she’ll never hear about again. There is no greater waste of time for people than this – sending of hundreds of online job applications that are never responded to. Still, people are forced to do this in exchange for their benefits. I’ve written about this a lot.

This government is not interested in helping people achieve economic independence.

This government wants to make very sure that people who have nothing are kept in their place forever – desperate, stuck permanently in low-paid work and trapped by the state on Universal Credit, because they never earn enough to get clear.

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From May, pensioners will have to claim Universal Credit if they have a partner below pension age

Paul Treloar circulated this on twitter today:

Government announce that old-age pensioners will now have to claim Universal Credit from 15 May if they have a partner below pension age. Absolute cowards sneaking this announcement out today, to be drowned out in Brexit debate tomorrow

from 15th May 2019 https://t.co/QY39DLHnY6— Paul Treloar (@PaulieTandoori) January 14, 2019

For god’s sake. Who else can they target?

It’s bad enough watching government throw sick and disabled people off employment and support allowance and leaving them with nothing while they try to apply for Universal Credit. God knows I’m seeing that again and again.

Now they’re going for pensioners.

The full statement on the start of this change is here:

Made by: Guy Opperman (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Pensions & Financial Inclusion) HCWS1249

…”In 2012, Parliament voted to modernise the welfare system to ensure that couples, where one person is of working age and the other person is over state pension age, access support, where it is needed, through the working age benefit regime. This replaces the previous system whereby the household could access either Pension Credit and pension age Housing Benefit, or working-age benefits.

Pension Credit is designed to provide long-term support for pensioner households who are no longer economically active. It is not designed to support working age claimants. This change will ensure that the same work incentives apply to the younger partner as apply to other people of the same age, and taxpayer support is directed where it is needed most.

I set out to Parliament last year that this change would be implemented once Universal Credit was available nationally for new claims. Today I can confirm that this change will be introduced from 15th May 2019.

So much for Amber Rudd’s compassionate Universal Credit. If you buy into that woman’s bleeding heart routine, you’ll buy into anything.

Every member of this government is a sociopath.

Read the rest here. Thanks to Paul Treloar for the tweet and links.

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Amber Rudd’s fake Universal Credit news

I don’t usually bother to react when politicians guff on in the mainstream, but here’s an exception that has stirred me: Amber Rudd’s claim that there have only been a few bad Universal Credit experiences.

I swear to god.

Let me remind Amber how Universal Credit rolls.

As I said to Trev in the comments on my previous story (Trev mentioned Amber’s fantasy Universal Credit world):

I stood outside Stockport jobcentre for an hour on Thursday.

In that single hour, I spoke to four people whose lives had and/or were being screwed by Universal credit:

They were:

– a woman with small children whose husband was self-employed. The couple had never been paid their Universal Credit on time. Not once. The DWP could not properly process the varying amounts the husband was earning. This made trying to survive almost impossible. The woman was pushing her buggy around Stockport trying to sort out Universal Credit problems at the jobcentre and associated housing problems at Stockport Homes. She was not happy.

– a 59-year-old disabled woman whose ESA was stopped after a fit for work decision (I’ll post a longer story about this interview this week). She’d been forced to sign on for Universal Credit, because her ESA was stopped as soon as she was found fit for work. She had nothing to live on while she appealed that decision.

She had to take out an advance loan while she waited for her Universal Credit to start. She wasn’t sure if her Universal Credit was up and running properly, because so much money was coming out of any money she had from the DWP – for the loan, presumably. She was very confused and couldn’t find any support (so much for Rudd’s claims that people get help from DWP work coaches. Don’t make me laugh. People are left to hang).

This woman had been called to another work capability assessment, even though she is still waiting for an outcome to her mandatory reconsideration request on the last one.

– a young woman with a child who went without any money for four months last year because the DWP did not seem to be able to process her Universal Credit claim.

– a young man who said he tried to get thrown back in prison rather than cope with the “system.”

That was in one hour. JUST ONE HOUR.

I’ll be going into this in more detail this week. The DWP and Rudd literally say any old shit when they’re talking about Universal Credit and so many in the mainstream press just publish it.

That gives the DWP and Rudd all the space in the world to tell out-and-out-lies. Which they do. Rudd’s version of events bears so little resemblance to the reality I see week in and week out that she needs to be called on it.

She’s lying. Don’t print her shit.

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DWP: if you don’t close your ESA claim and move to Universal Credit, we’ll shut your ESA down anyway

Posted below is a transcript of another interview with an older woman who signs on at Stockport jobcentre.

I made this interview at a Stockport United Against Austerity leafleting session at the jobcentre just before Christmas – about three weeks after full Universal Credit rolled out at Stockport.

It’s another example of the bullying that the DWP engages in to move people from jobseekers’ allowance and employment and support allowance to Universal Credit.

It’s also another example of people’s utter powerlessness in all of this – of the fact that people who must live with Universal Credit have absolutely no voice in it at all.

That grates more and more.

This woman had two complaints. She said:

  • the DWP was forcing her to make a joint Universal Credit claim with a male friend who had moved into her flat for somewhere to live. The woman insisted that the man was not her partner. The DWP insisted that he was.
  • the DWP was going to force the issue of the joint claim by closing down the man’s ESA claim so that he would have to apply for Universal Credit with the woman. If he didn’t, he’d have no income at all.

Needless to say, the woman was furious about both of these things.

She said:

“Now they’re going to phone ESA and put a stop to his money – so he’ll have to go over to Universal Credit. It’s wrong,”

and:

“They’re trying to make us go on a joint claim for Universal Credit. He’s got his own claim for ESA, but they’re saying… we’re a couple, but we’re not a couple…”

She was utterly disenfranchised. Everyone is. It’s always the DWP’s word over yours.

—–

Universal Credit really does sweep through like the plague when it arrives.

We’ve really noticed this in the anecdotal sense since full Universal Credit rolled out in Stockport six weeks ago.

When you talk to people outside Stockport jobcentre, you get the strong feeling the DWP is rushing to move people from JSA and ESA to Universal Credit.

People don’t want to move to Universal Credit. They want to hang onto their existing JSA or ESA claims as long as they can. They must make entirely new claims for Universal Credit and they don’t want to. Claiming JSA or ESA was hardly a picnic, but Universal Credit is something else again.

People know all too well about the delays to first Universal Credit payments and the weeks and months without money. They know they are powerless on other fronts, too. Objections to issues such as the DWP’s interpretation of personal living arrangements are swept aside. If you’re a benefit claimant, you’re a liar by definition. End of.

Resistance is pointless. If you don’t close your JSA or ESA claim and move to Universal Credit when your circumstances change (and even when they don’t, in some cases), the DWP will close your claim for you and leave you to hang. Too many people report this sort of bureaucratic strongarming.

Never forget that poverty means powerlessness. People who must claim benefits are just pushed under the latest juggernaut. There’s no negotiation, or concern.

I hate authority as it is. Unchecked authority is something else again.

—-

A bit more from that discussion:

“My friend has just come to live with me… they’re trying to make us go on a joint claim for Universal Credit. He’s got his own claim for ESA, but they’re saying… we’re a couple, but we’re not a couple. We just look after each other. We don’t sleep together. We have separate beds, but because he’s in my property, they’re forcing us to make a joint claim for Universal Credit where I think it’s wrong…

“He gets ESA. I get Universal Credit, but because ESA is stopping and everybody is going over to Universal Credit, they’re saying that he has to come over to my claim. But it’s not going to be a joint claim, because the money is going to get divided between two of us… which I think is wrong.

“I’m sick and tired of going in there [into the jobcentre]. Three times in the last fortnight I’ve been in there now, because he has refused to go over to Universal Credit on my claim, which I don’t blame him [for] because he’s an individual, you know.

“I just told them that he won’t go over to Universal Credit on his own. Now they’re going to phone ESA and put a stop to his money, so he’ll have to go over to Universal Credit. It’s wrong.”

“…so what they’re going to do is they’re going to stop his money and send him a letter telling him that he has to go over to Universal Credit. That’s the only way to do it..”

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DWP already chucks people off JSA and ESA and forces Universal Credit claims. So much for managed migration

And I’m back.

Went leafleting at Stockport jobcentre with Stockport United Against Austerity yesterday.

I wanted to note this:

Since full Universal Credit rollout started in Stockport in November, we’ve spoken to a number of people who’ve been pushed off jobseekers’ allowance, or employment and support allowance, and told to apply for Universal Credit – for spurious reasons if you ask me.

People say they’ve been left with nothing to live on when their JSA or ESA is stopped and while they sit out the weeks they must wait for their first Universal Credit payment.

For example:

We spoke at length yesterday with a woman whose ESA claim was stopped at the beginning of December.

She’d been without money since – aside from a Universal Credit advance loan which she’d had to take out. She’d already spent that loan on bills. She’ll have to pay the loan back when (if) her Universal Credit payments start.

The woman said that as far as she was aware, her ESA was stopped because she’d gone on a four-day trip to see her sister who’d just had a baby (this trip had been paid for by a family member for a surprise, by the way. I say this to head off twits who want to moan in the comments about benefit claimants who dare to indulge in minibreaks).

The woman said she told the jobcentre that she would be away, because the trip coincided with a jobcentre meeting. She had to ask if she could change the meeting date.

When she came back from her trip, the woman found that her ESA claim had been closed.

She had to apply for Universal Credit.

She’d applied and had still not received a payment. Yesterday, she was making her third trip to the jobcentre to try and finalise her application.

She said:

“Four days… it [one of the days I was away] was the day I was signing on, you see, and I came back and they told me I had to sign on for Universal Credit.”

She’d been without income since:

“It’s the time waiting for this Universal Credit [that is the problem]. I got no money. I came down here to fill the form in and he was really nice the lad down here [the jobcentre adviser she saw at Stockport]. He was really nice.

“I came down to show me ID and now I’ve got to come down again.

“I don’t know why they can’t do it all [activate the Universal Credit claim] in one go. Got no money….they gave me an advance payment, but that’s gone on all my bills. I went [on the trip] at the beginning of December and they gave me an advance just before Christmas, but I’ve got more bills to pay.”

So.

We’re finding this too often: people who’ve been thrown off JSA and ESA, and left with nothing while they try to get their Universal Credit claims going.

It was news to me that requesting a new date for a jobcentre meeting counted as a change in circumstances that would mean someone had to make a new Universal Credit claim. Doesn’t matter anyway: the point is that people are left without money while they must make a Universal Credit claim.

I’ll tell you this – such conversations do not give me confidence re: the already-weak managed migration protections that government claims will shield people who must move from existing benefits to Universal Credit. Do me a favour. If you believe that the DWP is inclined or even able to shore up the incomes of people who must move to Universal Credit, you’ll believe anything.

The facts are that we’re meeting people who’ve had their JSA or ESA stopped and have been left in the shit. They must then go through the form-filling and meetings nightmare that is trying to start a Universal Credit claim.

The hell with this.

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What will happen to my disabled child in austerity after I die? What happens to my adult child who has learning difficulties when I’m not around to advocate?

The post below – Eddie’s story – is an excerpt from a collection of interviews I’ve made since 2014 with people directly affected by benefit cuts and welfare reform.

This collection is being made possible thanks to a Barry Amiel & Norman Melburn Trust grant.

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What happens to my adult child who has learning difficulties when I’m not around to advocate?

Mould in doorway entrance

In my interviews with parents of people with learning difficulties in the past ten years, there was a question which weighed on parents’ minds:

“What will happen to my child when I’m not around to insist that they have housing, income and care?”

This question wasn’t exclusive to austerity, but it took on a new intensity as Cameron-Osborne plans to eradicate public services became obvious.

Parents knew that housing, benefits and care services were being devastated by council funding cuts and welfare reform.

They knew that negotiating austerity’s brutal and labyrinthine public sector bureaucracies for housing, income and care could be devastatingly hard.

“What will happen when my child is an adult alone in austerity?”

That question didn’t really bear thinking about.

—————–

Except that people did think about that question.

I thought about it myself.

I thought about it a lot from about 2014 to 2017, when I came to know Eddie*, a Kilburn man with learning difficulties.

In many ways, Eddie’s life over that time was an answer to that question.

——

Eddie’s story (Eddie’s name has been changed)

Eddie was 51 when we met in 2014.

Eddie had learning and literacy difficulties. He’d received special needs education as a child. Eddie identified as Black British. I knew this, because we filled in a lot of job applications for Eddie together over the years and he always took care with the monitoring parts of the forms.

“I’m British born and bred,” Eddie often said proudly. He said that his parents had come to the UK from Jamaica – part of the Windrush generation.

Eddie had type one diabetes. He injected insulin several times a day. He had trouble managing his diabetes as he aged. He often caught colds and flu. He sometimes struggled to walk, because he had pain in his legs and feet.

Eddie had worked as a kitchen assistant for much of his adult life. He’d been made redundant about six years previously and had not found work again. Eddie signed on for JSA at Kilburn jobcentre. (I met Eddie at the jobcentre during a Kilburn Unemployed Workers’ Group leafleting session there. KUWG volunteers knew Eddie and gave him a great deal of support over the years. They pushed councils and the DWP to keep Eddie on the radar).

Eddie’s mother had died about a decade earlier: around 2004. Eddie had lived with his mother.

Things began to implode for Eddie several years after his mother’s death. He had to negotiate cash-strapped and dysfunctional public sector bureaucracies on his own. Post 2010, as austerity began to bite, the facts of that began to show.

An austerity state could never replace Eddie’s mother.

There was no question about it. I understood from conversations with Eddie that his mother had been the driving force in his life. She’d made sure that Eddie found work and stayed in work. She’d filled in forms and talked with employers about Eddie’s learning and literacy difficulties. At home, Eddie’s mother had kept their flat organised and clean.

Eddie’s mother was one of the few people who Eddie spoke about with affection.

He often said that he missed his mother.

I began to understand what that meant when I saw how Eddie lived.

——

How people with learning difficulties are expected to live

I took these photos inside Eddie’s Kilburn flat in 2014.

This was how relying on the state in austerity looked for people in Eddie’s situation:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The flat was disgusting – full of mould, dirt and vermin. It was all Eddie could afford.

Eddie relied on housing benefit to pay his entire rent. By this time, housing benefit only covered full private sector rents on London’s shabbiest flats.

Eddie’s private-sector landlord charged Brent council £1000 a month in housing benefit for the Kilburn flat in these pictures.

 

That was a benefits abuse in itself. Eddie’s landlord was paying a Zone 2 London mortgage with the housing benefit he collected by letting such places to councils.

The Kilburn flat had only one room. Eddie’s bed, kitchen, small fridge, washing machine, clothes and belongings were all crammed into that single tiny space. Wet clothes and towels hung from rails and chairs. The floors and benchtops were littered with rubbish, unwashed dishes and rotting food. Mice scuttled under the oven and bed.

Eddie never cleaned the bathroom – ever. There was no window in the bathroom. The whole flat stank of sewerage.

There was one ground-floor door in the flat which lead to a small and filthy backyard. I saw rubbish, used sanitary towels and dead rodents in that backyard. Eddie always kept the door to the yard closed for security. There was a tiny window above the door pane which he never opened. Condensation ran down the inside of the door in rivulets. Thick black mould blossomed inside the flat. It blanketed the walls and the ceiling in the wet air.

“It’s disgusting,” Eddie would say furiously of his accommodation. “I should be in a council flat with a separate kitchen, a separate bedroom. I’m getting sick. Look at this mould on my clothes.”

The noise from neighbouring flats in the house worried Eddie a great deal, too.

Eddie complained that he could hear his neighbours fighting. He called the police several times, because he said that his neighbours had threatened him.

His neighbours, meanwhile, complained that they could hear Eddie and his partner Linda having sex.

The problem was that low-rent flats such as Eddie’s were set in houses of multiple occupation – single houses which owners broke up into tiny rooms to rent out as flats to councils.

These landlords always planned to sell the buildings when the mortgages were finally paid.

Such landlords invested as little in the flats as possible. There was no soundproofing between the rooms. TVs and stereos screamed from each flat. People came and went all day – talking, shouting and slamming doors. The noise went on and on.

Eddie said that noise in the house was made entirely by his neighbours:

“They’re drug dealers. Shouting and yelling. Throwing furniture down the stairs last night. They never go to work. It’s disgusting. I shouldn’t be here.”

Eddie was furious about that.

Eddie was furious about everything.

Eddie’s anger worsened over the years as his living conditions, health and employment prospects deteriorated. He railed and ranted. He was hard to take a lot of the time.

He loathed council housing staff:

“They don’t do anything. They never help,”

He hated the jobcentre staff who he had to report to:

“They’re useless. They should all be sacked.”

He disliked his neighbours:

“They’re drug dealers. Shouting and yelling…they never go to work.”

and he hated immigrants:

“They should be put back where they came from…the problem is like a stray cat. Pick it off the street and then suddenly, you’re a soft touch…British and English people can’t get jobs, or flats, which they should have had, long time…When we had that other bitch in – she was so hard, she wouldn’t allow it. Margaret Thatcher. She was hard, that one. This one [David Cameron] has got no backbone.”

Eddie talked in a monologue which never changed, or ended.

His topics were always the same: he should have a job and a decent home, immigrants should be sent back where they came from, jobcentre and council staff were useless and everyone should be sacked.

—-

In 2015, Eddie was evicted from his Kilburn flat.

Kilburn Unemployed Workers’ Group activists helped Eddie find a similar-sized place – this time in Haringey. One KUWG activist in particular put a great deal of time into trying to solve Eddie’s housing and jobcentre problems. She set up meetings with council officers and pushed councils to provide Eddie with housing and support. She even went as far as to pay the deposit on the Haringey flat out of her own money.

Eddie was evicted from the Haringey flat in 2016.

The Haringey flat – like the Kilburn one – was in ruins at the end of Eddie’s tenancy.

That was because Eddie had exactly the same problems in Haringey as he’d had in Kilburn.

The Haringey flat was tiny – again, it was all that Eddie could afford in London as a housing benefit recipient.

There was only one room in the Haringey flat. The bed, kitchen, living space and all of Eddie’s belongings were crammed into that small, stifling space – a space that he could not air properly, or keep clean:

 

 

 

 

 

 

———————————————–

Continue reading

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Tories donating cans to foodbanks that people must use because of Tory welfare cuts. Do me a favour.

Me ranting in the Independent today about Tories tweeting photos of themselves donating to the foodbanks that people are forced to use BECAUSE THEY’RE PUSHED INTO POVERTY BY GODDAMNED TORY SOCIAL SECURITY CUTS.

For Christ’s sake. How much of this shit are we supposed to put up with.

From the article:

“This display of Tory MPs collecting for food banks and tweeting out photos to prove it is perverted. These fool MPs are actually prepared to highlight the fact that thousands of people can’t afford food on their watch.

“I can’t wait to find out whose brilliant PR idea this was. I also can’t wait to find out why the Trussell Trust thought that associating themselves with this deviant exercise would work in their favour. God has certainly left that building – along with irony.

“Let’s be very clear about the reasons that people visit food banks.

“People use food banks because they’re forced into poverty and insurmountable debt by the heinous damage that recent governments have visited on social security.”

Read the whole article here. 

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#UniversalCredit rolls out in Stockport this week. Bloody battles loom over this disaster

Universal Credit rolls out here in Stockport this week. People making new benefit claims will have to claim Universal Credit from this Wednesday.

This will be a disaster. The whole benefits scene already is.

Readers of this site will know that I’ve been interviewing Universal Credit and other benefit claimants at Stockport jobcentre for much of this year. Stockport United Against Austerity holds regular demonstrations outside the jobcentre, which I join. I interview people who sign on at the jobcentre as they come and go.

Stories of sanctions (sometimes one following straight after another and lasting for months) are already all too common among people who use that jobcentre.

People already talk about delays to the start of benefit claims and problems accessing much-needed assistance. I’ve talked with people who’ve been years out of work and can’t get basic help to secure voluntary jobs. Some already claim Universal Credit. Some claim JSA or ESA.

Stockport jobcentre is the only jobcentre in the borough. You’re dreaming if you think that the jobcentre has the staff or resources to manage a tide of complex Universal Credit claims.

Funds for people in poverty are being targeted for cuts even as Universal Credit rolls out

There’ll be a great deal of local attention on Universal Credit in Stockport in the coming months.

Stockport United Against Austerity is campaigning to stop and scrap Universal Credit.

Last week, the Stockport council cabinet agreed to a SUAA demand for full council to vote to call for a halt to the Universal Credit rollout. Council votes on that motion at next week’s full council meeting.

The council needs to do a great deal more than that.

It is not. Quite the reverse.

As we speak, Stockport council is preparing to plunge the borough’s poorest citizens into further hardship.

The council is consulting on plans to close its local welfare assistance fund – the all-important stopgap fund for people who are in extreme financial difficulties and who can’t afford food or basic household items.

This is an extraordinary step to take at exactly the time when Universal Credit is rolled out locally with its built-in debt problems and inevitable setting up of people for serious rent arrears.

Protest this Wednesday

Join Stockport United Against Austerity, Charlotte Hughes and supporters from Disabled People Against Cuts at a protest calling for the scrapping of Universal Credit this week at:

10am-11am
Wednesday 21 November 2018
Stockport jobcentre
Heron House
Wellington Street
SK1 3BE

Regular demonstrations and interviewing will continue outside the jobcentre in the coming months.

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