Job Centre Demo Southend on Sea by Carl Green
Job Centre Demo Southend on Sea by Carl Green
It was a good demo at Southend Job Centre, a little short on numbers – there were two of us again but add in all the people that joined us for a chat and that number would be around 30.
I did know from a previous demo I did not attend that the staff there did not want people demonstrating at the doorway which is laid back from the pavement but I was determined from the start not to have my rights infringed. Article 11 of the Human Rights Act the right to gather peacefully in a public area and I do consider the Job Centre a public area. I expected grief and got it, though nothing I wasn’t able to deal with in a calm and determined manner. See vids to follow.
Deciding I hadn’t seen a job centre for many years I went in to suss the place out, boy have things changed. No boards with jobs and more security than staff, G4S were expecting us, later I learnt they had extra staff at the Atos office too as they expected us there too. The extra costs of security another result in my mind. I checked out the Job Centre computers of which there were four, three not working and an hour long wait to use the one available, apparently. Notes covering the screens of the three stating they had been permanently decommissioned awaiting a DWP upgrade – see pic at bottom. With three job search computers out of four out and an hour wait for the fourth it certainly seemed unlikely you would be able to do much Job searching – the information I received later from people attending reiterated that and how things were much worse.
I went from there back to the car to pick up the banners and kit and set myself up on the doorstep despite knowing they would attempt unlawfully to move me, Get up Stand Up by Bob Marley still ringing in my ears from my Facebook post. Paul Stygal joined me within moments with his Atos banner. I was grateful to see him although I would have stood alone. Paul is dependable, a member of Left Unity since Labour left the working classes and he is an asset when dealing with the public, a likable social guy and a veteran of many demos. No sooner had I started put up the banners than G4S pounced and stated it was private property and we’d have to move down onto the pavement, I was having none of it. Job Centres are public places and I wasn’t inside – I quoted Article 11 of The Human Rights Act. Unsure of himself now the bouncer…Sorry security guard backed off and went to report to whomever – I carried on setting up but was soon taking a barrage of “Orders” from the lady Job Centre manager – I simply repeated Article 11 again and again. She retreated inside and within moments a surly impolite man came out demanding we move and stating he didn’t five a monkeys for the Law, reference Article 11.” You move or I call the Police and then you move” went his argument…..”Call the Police” was my reply, knowing my rights and not willing to be bullied. I was determined to be polite but firm, the law is the law despite Duncan Smith and obviously others thinking the DWP is above it.
Watch the vids it is quite interesting, the Police of course at first thinking they will have complete obedience and I will just roll over to the “It’s private property”. I didn’t, both Paul and I stood our ground and after much chatter and radio messages, DWP staff were left with the Police telling them it was a civil matter as no criminal laws were being broken.
One nil to Anonymous without any animosity on our part but much egg on the face of Job Centre Managers.
The stories, the injustice, the people.
I want to relay some of the stories of people I spoke with today, like most of you I have read of the injustice but today was able to hear it from the horses mouths and witness some of the incompetence of the DWP.
You’ve read already how three of four Job Search computers were decommissioned and the fourth had an hours wait for a single user to use. JSA recipients depend on these computers to complete the tasks of a Job Seeker else they get sanctioned. It is unbelievable these machines are not working and putting people at risk of sanctions. The story gets worse.
Many we spoke too did not have internet access at home, some relied on the LIbrary for a computer and were being charged £1 for the first hour. Out of the feeble amount they get five or more pounds a week is a lump. We heard the stories of sanctions and how people were forced to rely on loans from family, friends and others to get by. Many said if they had been sanctioned in winter they would possibly not be around.
Too many of the people we saw were obviously unwell, a couple with walking sticks around the 60 year old mark barely making the walk up the incline, worse tales were to come but I was reluctant to video because of privacy and possible retribution by staff. The latter being something even the younger fitter people were worried of just for talking with us. Tales of DWP staff arrogance and maliciousness were common themes.
Barry is a 60 year old man with bladder cancer and spinal problems, has trouble walking but was kicked off of ESA by an Atos test finding him Fit for Work. Short and overweight he was obviously struggling and his lack of access to the internet and the Job Centre decommissioning of Computers making his life virtually impossible. He should be on the sick, that is obvious to anyone, no one will employ him now or ever. His weekly visits to hospital take a large chunk of his Job Seekers Allowance and living alone he receives no moral support.
John appeared a fit man until you spoke with him, at first it appeared he had been drinking but it was soon revealed he had a serious brain injury. Along with that was sciatica and loss of a finger. Another whom lost his ESA to an Atos fitness test and one that will struggle with finding employment.
From Cancer to Motorcycle crashes we heard the stories of people obviously incapable of work being forced to use a system that was not fit for purpose, it’s computers decommissioned and it’s staff arrogant, bolshy and mostly uninterested – though to be fair we did hear of one or two who did show compassion to claimants and tried to help.
The odds are firmly stacked against Job Seekers and we heard how many had been sanctioned wrongly or for reasons they could not avoid. A 4 week sanction for changing address and not getting an appointment letter from the Job Centre being one, even though he had informed them of his new address.
One very bright, very intelligent lad came and spoke with us. Twenty years old and not long out of college. His Dad had supported him with food and heat whilst he waited almost two months for his claim to be processed, his Dad on JSA too. He was told his claim would not be back dated to when he first claimed due to his Dad supporting him. His Father naturally has a real sense of anger and this extremely intelligent youth should never be there at all – far too clever but as he said with no experience for an employer.
There was a real sense in a lot of people that immigration was to blame and many spoke of Ukip being the answer which saddened me that so many are being deceived. Everyone agreed with the demo some being less than polite about the staff of the DWP.
The system is a mess, the staff unhelpful to Job Seekers being there to judge on their own terms whether someone is doing enough to look for work or not. The decommissioned computers, which I was reliably informed had been that way for months, meant it was impossible to honestly meet targets.
There is much I have missed, the guy who has to sign on daily, other ill people and more stories. I am sick to the stomach that this is what people in the UK have to suffer now and the Daily Mail readers think fair – they really need to see and know the truth.
The DWP is unfit for purpose and the system is broken, irreparable.
No wonder people take their own lives, it is insufferable.