A tale of two extremes the humanity of some wonderful people and the inhumanity of the oppressive sanctions regime …and a few arsehole social workers for good measure
Early this year I started writing about the bedroom tax and as part of that was asked to speak at many of the 20 – 30 local groups in and around Liverpool. I have met some warm wonderful people in that time and I regularly go down to a group called Reclaim to do a bedroom tax surgery every Friday evening. What started out as bedroom tax appeals and claiming DHPs quickly morphed into dealing with ESA and JSA sanctions and a whole host of other supports including finding rough sleepers accommodation and much much more.
Sanctions are becoming an outrage and I put out a post about a mother and her dyslexic son who had been sanctioned a day or so ago that caused a bit of a stir (and read comments under post.) We all know the expression ‘going above and beyond’ and everyone at Reclaim does this with no budget yet they do find a way to help the many hundreds of local, and not so local, people who come to them for help.
If ever there was a definitive grassroots organisation it is Reclaim.
I have been intending to post a few blogs about Reclaim as Juliet Edgar is running as an independent candidate in a local councillor by-election in Derby ward in Bootle, Sefton – the type of ward where you stick a red rosette on a monkey and the Labour Party walk in – and her election agent Mick Bennett is also a good friend and Mick, off his own back, has become an expert in sanctions over the past 6 months or more though he modestly doesn’t think so. Of course I wanted to use my blog to give them all the help they need. Then I read a factual Facebook post about what they have done today and I don’t need to put any gloss on what they do. It says it all.
Please read on as it restores any faith you have in human kindness.
Mick Bennett (in his own inimitable words)
A period of 3 weeks has passed since I opened up a thread to see that a young man had been sanctioned for the 3rd time, in essence losing his right to benefits for 3 YEARS.
This young man, whom I had never met had the virtue of being from the town of Kirkcaldy in Fife, site of the recent Bedroom Tax Tribunals. It struck me that his post was an honest, well constructed plea for support after doing everything in his power to fulfil his obligation of the Claimant Commitment to prove that he was looking for employment.
With the help of my colleagues at Reclaim I asked for his phone number and contacted him asking him to make an appointment with his local CAB and to seek a reconsideration of the sanction, I also informed him of his rights to appeal and hoped that CAB would start this process.
This brings me to today and the reasons for this overly long explanation. 15 hungry days have passed and although the reconsideration has been judged to be in favour of this man and his benefits have been reinstated he has not received a penny and has had very little to eat in that period of time.
That set off a series of phone calls, private messages and conversations between colleagues of Reclaim and the Emergency Assistance provision for the area to get a Crisis Grant and numerous phone calls to social services to get an emergency food parcel. A phone call was arranged to check this guys eligibility and we thought all was well.
We stayed in contact at all times and informed the guy to keep his phone handy as Juliet Edgar had arranged the phone call from Social Services. They did phone eventually to tell this man that, after giving his details and telling them of his plight that he didn’t qualify for support and continued to lecture him on his predicament ?????
It was then that we decided to try local Churchs and foodbanks in the area and after a time another phone call was set up between this young man and a coordinator called Alison Nelson from Levensmouth Foodbank .
Within the space of an hour and the wonderful actions of Alison and her husband a food parcel was delivered to the address of a very grateful man who had starved and was thinking that his only option was a 2 hour walk to his nearest Accident and Emergency.
What does this tell you about the Welfare Reforms and the DWP and the system of bureaucracy? What does it tell you about the power of ordinary concerned individuals and the solidarity and bonds formed in these groups and communities and what does it tell you about the power of social media , that can break down a distance of over 2OO miles to get support and kinship to a fellow victim of this madness.
He is now in touch with help nearer from Alan Wylie who will feel can offer him the help he needs to follow on from this debacle and all I can add is that an extraordinary chain of events have shown the role we can all play.
Pleasure knowing you all and those that do know you will not be surprised at your fabulous actions today, and of the other wonderful people mentioned.
Mick, I genuinely have an open invitation to visit Fife and we should all go up there soon. Unfortunately we will have to find the money for a hotel as nobody up there has a spare bedroom
Juliet, Mick, Mark, Paul, Jill and many more fabulous work people!