It's been an interesting few weeks. First of all, the revelations coming mainly from Walthamstow Job Centre have entirely blown my mind (as this is where I sign on, incredibly), and secondly the fall out from this new information.
To say it has been a kind of important story for me is somewhat of an understatement. The dates in this blog correspond directly with those in the story- I was sanctioned on the 1st February and staff were allegedly told they must start sanctioning more to complete their targets by the 15th February. There was also the whole cock up with the form (their fault) which definitely increased the chances of me losing my money. I think what happened is that they read my appeal and decided I might not get sanctioned as my reasons for not doing MWA were actually very good. So then they pretended I had to submit the information differently, in a way that did not give the whole story. I plan to complain.
Since starting this blog I have spoken to many people in the same situation as me, all of whom talk about the negative effect it has had on their lives. I have thought on some level that this has been my fault- maybe I was being unreasonable not going on the A4E course, or by making a fuss- perhaps I am just being lazy, or reactionary- or as Iain Duncan Smith calls it 'one of those clever people' politicising my reluctance to do menial work or whatever else they try and make you believe about yourself. But having read about targets and also by learning about other people's stories I have realised that I am not to blame. This may seem like a small thing, but for me it is enormous. It's tied up with my self-worth and by extension how much I like myself in general.
After it all kicked off, my MP Stella Creasy put the word out that she wanted to get to the bottom of what was happening so I got in touch and showed her this blog and spoke to her assistant at length about what has been going on. Yesterday I also went along to a meeting that she called, which was pretty interesting. Weirdly enough, Stella and I practically went to school together so it was odd to see her doing her politician thing- it has to be said she is pretty impressive. I wonder if this is the main job of a politician- to be convincing and seem trustworthy? Probably. My own political beliefs could be viewed as being somewhat radical, so I felt very much like a fly on the wall.
I met some very nice Socialist Party members who were pretty pissed off with Stella over the Emergency Legislation issue. Her get out of jail free card is that voting no wouldn't have brought about an end to Workfare. Stella emphasised the point that this bill wasn't about sanctions but rather the intent of Parliament and she reckons that she didn't trade down, as they wouldn't have got the right of appeal had they voted no. Furthemore, she says she is being consistent as she believes in sanctions when they are used appropriately (such as within the Future Jobs Fund).
It was all very convincing. However there was a lot of anger in the room, primarily from TUSC Candidate Nancy Taaffe who was not convinced at all. I wonder if that was ever an option though? The disillusionment with the process was obvious in the room. People just don't trust politicians anymore. Is it worth it for an MP to send a message or become a symbol anymore? Is that not just a way of losing influence ultimately? Most of the people at the meeting thought that standing up for the people is really the only way.
Ms Taaffe's mother Linda especially thought that the time has come to make a stand, start a movement- get people down to Parliament and take action, and I also thought she was very convincing, possibly in a more human way. I liked it a lot when she said we need a 'system that plans for need'. Linda said what many of us believe ie: if Labour were in it'd be exactly the same. However, I could see what Stella was saying, and I understood why she'd done the things she had- maybe my personal history with her was part of it, but I also think she is intelligent and well meaning, and all you can really go on is gut feeling, which is an interesting notion isn't it.
I'm hoping there will be more revelations, more leaks. I would like for the DWP to be exposed as liars and be made responsible for basically wrecking people's lives. I'm one of the lucky ones as I am not living in poverty and I have a network of people around me who look out for me. What upsets me is that many of the people who have lost their money do not. We are supposed to be civilised yet all this points towards a huge disregard for some of the weakest people in our society. Really, if you are not angry, then why not?