I have been sitting on this story since the 3rd of January, not sure where to begin, and really not sure how to best present it to you? So I have been rather silent over the past few days as I have struggled to bring it to shape in my mind.
Everyone should be aware of the Dickens Classic “A Christmas Carol” which inevitably in various of it’s guises is reproduced on our TV screens every Christmas time.
We all know the Story well. It focuses on the main character Ebeneezer Scrooge who is about the meanest man who ever existed it would seem. He cares nothing for others, not even his own family, and his only pleasure and goal in life is to achieve and hoard more and more money. Through the intervention of four ghosts, his previous mentor and business partner who Is bound by the chains of hell and doomed to follow the after life without any rest, The Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and future, Scrooge is eventually shown the error of his ways.
Dickens was adept at showing the unfairness and poverty and brutality of the Victorian era,with it’s class division, The poor houses, the work houses, and the squalor of it all. It would appear that we are fast approaching such conditions again in the UK. The inequality between Rich and Poor has been growing steadily since Thatchers era, and exploding obscenely under Blairs Labour government,until we have finally come to the point that recently the UN has confirmed the UK as the most unequal society in Western world in terms of wealth distribution. Unfortunately it is much worse than that, what we are witnessing now is wholesale implementation of a Social Cleansing programme instituted by this Neo-liberal Conservative coalition government, faced with little or no opposition to the measures which is their Austerity programme.
The measures with which they could easily attack the poor, the sick, the vulnerable were already set in place for them by the previous Labour administrations welfare reform bill, and the creation of the scheme which strips the disabled of their hope and dignity, where Labour handed multiple millions to ATOS to administrate their policy of destruction on the lives of those already crippled and terminally ill.
This Government has taken their baton with obscene glee, as we witnessed these very privileged people on the Government benches laughing, joking and making fun, when they passed the new welfare measures which reduces the income of the poor, the disabled and the working poor to a cap of 1% over the next few years,leaving them all in a worse state than ever. Unfortunately that too is but the tip of the iceberg as we head back to Dickensian times.
I have to be extremely careful how I relate the following story to you, as matters are still in progress, but I shall endeavour to let you see the sort of horror that is being laid on the unemployed today.
As more and more people lose their jobs, these jobs are not being replaced like for like, but rather big companies and employers are taking full scale advantage of the people and the government is helping them to do it.Good jobs have been replaced with minimum hours, many struggling to provide more than 16 hours a week. Others who have been made unemployed are forced into unpaid labour reducing the cost to companies still further, as they are rewarded by the government for taking temporary unpaid labour on, under the guise of training, or with the loose promise of the possibility of a permanent job at the end of it. The jobs rarely materialise, instead more free labour is taken on in their place.
We have disabled people being forced into jobs they are not fit for, and we have a suicide rate which is rocketing as people reach the end of their miserable existence and cannot see the way to continue.
Companies which they hire to help people into work, have been paid £436 million,and attendance at these schemes is obligatory after 12 months. These companies in the first year of operation had the remarkable success rate of finding 2 jobs for every 100 claimants in the last year. If you miss an appointment with them or the job centre(including lateness) you are removed off benefit for initially 4 weeks, and a second missed appointment will have you sanctioned for 13 weeks without benefit.
The best word to describe it in my book is “Brutal”.
And so this introduction brings me to my story.
As I have already said, I have to be careful how I put this, until the case has reached it’s full conclusion.
So let me take the role of the person who received a letter on the 3rd of January from the Job centre benefits centre, and make the story as if it were me.
It had been a hard time over the festive season, unemployed for a year, and despite my best efforts, no sign or any hope of finding a job.
I had applied for a number of jobs which I would have considered myself more than qualified to do, and with years of experience behind me. I had been initially quite excited to see them, as far too often the only jobs I see are for 16 hours shelf stacking in Asda or such like. These jobs are next to useless for me, as actually taking one of them, would actually leave me with less money to live on, and I struggle enough as it is, with around £2 a day left over to feed myself once my bills are paid. Contrary to some opinion, I don’t receive exemption from council tax and water charges, I still have to pay £28 a month which comes out of my job seekers allowance too.
Mostly I don’t complain, I just get on with things as best I can. There is nothing else for it really.
It had been a really austere Christmas though, the worst I can remember. I had no decorations, I bought no cards, I couldn’t send any presents to my children, and my Christmas dinner depended on someone else’s charity. Such was Christmas.
I hadn’t been checking my mail box for letters, as I didn’t expect any, and we all know what the post can be like over Christmas.
So on Friday the 3rd of January I checked my mail box, and lo and behold a letter from the Job centre people. It was dated the 24th of December, and what it had to tell me left me stunned.
They had come to the decision that I had missed an appointment with my workfare provider on the 20th of December without sufficient reason, and that my benefit would be stopped from the 25th of December to the 21st of January.
Ho ho Ho Merry Christmas!
Scrooge himself could not have done a better job, sanctioned on Christmas Day!
What is the worst of that, Is that it means I would not receive a penny from them until February the 7th.
In effect what happens is that I am suspended off benefit amounting to £71 a week until the 21st of January, but I don’t sign on again until two weeks after that date, and I don’t receive my first payment from January 21st until another 5 days after that, which makes it February the 7th.
I had used up my meagre resources over New Year, I have £70 left in the bank, and i have to pay by bills, and find £28 for my January council tax or I will be charged for the remainder of the year in one sum.
As for food? forget it..there is no food banks near me. The vast majority of these are in Conservative run Councils In England. So starvation here we come!
But how did this sorry state come to pass?
Well you see, I was supposed to attend an appointment with my work provider on the 20th of December, and they had given me a little card with the time and date on it, but I had mislaid the card.
The week of the 20th, I thought I had best confirm when that appointment was, and so I phoned them up.
I got to speak to an advisor and he informed me that it was the 2oth at 14.30 hours.
Fair enough, but at being told this news, something niggled at my head, and I was reminded that I had a dental appointment somewhere round about then too, but I couldn’t remember at that moment in time when it was exactly?
So I asked the advisor about this. What happens if this dental appointment clashes with your appointment?
Would it then be possible to arrange my appointment for a different time on the 2oth, or would I have to cancel my dental appointment and rearrange for another one?
No problem says he, I will just cancel this appointment and send you a new appointment, we will see you in the New Year, have a nice Christmas.
I asked if he could give me a new appointment time over the phone, but he said that he didn’t have access to that diary at present, but a letter would be sent out to me confirming it. So that was that, or so I thought!
I was entirely wrong as it turned out.
I received a phone call from completely out of the blue at 15.30 on the 20th of Decemember from the Job Centre people, enquiring why I had not turned up for my appointment?
They said that my workfare provider had informed them that I hadn’t attended my appointment, and that I had a dental appointment.
Now the thing is, I had since the initial telephone conversation with the workfare advisor ascertained that my dental appointment didn’t directly clash with the initial appointment with them, but thought nothing of it, as that appointment was no longer. It was a dead appointment.
Now here was the Jobcenter asking me about it, I explained the situation to them, and they said it would forwarded to a decision maker as to what action to take if any?
I thought no more about it, until I opened my mail on the 3rd of January.
In have leave for appeal, but that decision on whether to reconsider is up to them, and they will decide if the appeal stands or not. Unfortunately by the time that they actually come to their decision, I will have been penalised cruelly for that period, even if innocent.
In short, I am up shit creek minus paddle and starving.
This Is a true story of the UK today.
What is happening is much akin to what the Nazis did in Nazi Germany, when the mentally ill, the disabled and the ethnic groups including Gypsy’s and Jews were disappeared never to be seen again.
Such is the Social Cleansing we are seeing in the UK today almost. And much as the ordinary German people turned a blind eye to what was going on, there are very many in British society who are turning a blind eye to what is happening here and now.
And the British Government has it’s Jack boot firmly at the throat of the disadvantaged, the poor, the disabled,the unemployed, the homeless, and all vulnerable people in society.
Is this really the sort of country you want to live in?
NOTE: I was responsible for drafting a Letter of Appeal for this person yesterday.
and if it goes further then I shall represent them at an Independent Tribunal, which comes under the Court System.
In my letter yesterday I asked them how anyone could possibly be expected to attend an appointment which had been cancelled?
I noted that the individual had not made any request for a cancellation, so were not responsible for it.
I further noted that the workfare provider had rearranged the appointment themselves without the need to confirm, or check further, on whether or not there was in actuality a clash of appointments.
I also asked If it were now the case that merely making an enquiry could result in suspension?
And , given these circumstances, was it to be assumed that any cancellation of appointment made by the workfare providers and/or the job centre were to be regarded with extreme suspicion, and claimants should in fact turn up for such appointments, in the off chance that any more take up Lazarus type recoveries.
Having seen sight of the letter from workfare regarding the changed appointment, I noted that it was dated the 18th of December, with the next appointment date set at 7th January. Clearly implying that the appointment of the 2oth December was indeed a dead parrot.
We shall see how it all turns out?