Moving from humiliation and exclusion to participation:
Ending poverty in all its forms
The International Committee for 17 October wrote a document where they explained in more detail why the theme was chosen this year. It highlights how important it is to recognise and address the humiliation and exclusion endured by many people living in poverty.
An extract from this document mentions about people having to “endure with rude, demeaning, condescending or judgemental behaviour on the part of social assistance office staff”.
I've had that several times from the job centre. My job advisor, in her eyes, thought I wasn't doing enough to look for jobs and would regularly tell me I would get sanctioned.
You can do job searches online or at the job centre. You can do it on your phone if you've got wifi, if not it will eat up your phone credit. A lot of people do the searches at the job centre, I saw that when I had to do work experience there. Many don't know how to do it properly, I ended up helping them with the computers. I also helped them to fill in their benefit forms. A lot of people will struggle with the Universal Credit's forms.
I applied for a job recently and I didn't go to the interview because I found out it was for an agency. I've had bad experiences with agencies in the past, where I've worked and not got paid. So I ended up getting sanctioned from July to October. Luckily I found a job with another agency. Yes, I ended up going with another agency but I had to otherwise I would have been evicted from my flat. My benefits have been stopped because of this sanction.
I have to apply for jobs that I know I can't even do because of my health. Often, you apply for jobs and never hear anything back. I was shocked when within minutes of applying online for my current job, that I was offered an interview. I found out it was with an agency but they have been good with me up to now.
I was sanctioned a couple of years ago when I was on the job centre's work programme. They told me that they had sent me a letter and a text about an appointment. I never received either and they didn't believe me. I got a letter telling me that they would be stopping my benefit for a month.
I had to phone up the Council's emergency service. They put me in touch with a foodbank and credit union to get money for my electricity. I was surprised they gave me cash for my electric, I was really tempted to spend it on something to eat but I used it for electricity. Any other money I had went on my oyster card to get around. I was lucky that a local cafe gave me credit so I could eat. I felt bad though that I wasn't able to pay for my meals. I saw all the other customers pay for their own food.
I've never received help for getting to job interviews or money for clothes, the job centre say they can help with this but they never do. I have asked several times about it. Now I can apply for universal credit, but my shifts at my new job in the train station mean its been hard to sort out. I hope my sanction won't get in the way of this. I'm waiting until my sanction ends before applying so nothing will go wrong.
I like working in customer service at the train station, I never thought I would ever say that I enjoy working. I like earning my own money so I don't have to worry. I enjoy getting paid weekly.
My induction for this new job was on the same day that I had to sign on for the last time. My job advisor said I needed to leave the induction early. I told them it was my induction but they said I needed to come and sign on. When I got to the job centre and explained again that it was actually my induction day, they said “why didn't you tell us? We could have automatically signed you on”. I did tell them, you feel like you are banging your head on a brick wall. I thought the job centre was there to help us but they make things harder and harder.
Another extract from this document says:
“An important commitment is to honour the human dignity of people living in poverty and to fight to end the discrimination humiliation and social exclusion they suffer.”
You get people treating people in poverty as stupid with no brains. It's nice for people in poverty to get their point across and be listened to. This time next year, I would love to not be claiming benefits. I know I'll have to watch what I spend. I want to have a job and earn money. You feel really small when you go to the job centre, it's like you are begging.
They always ask for your national insurance number. They need to make things more human, we shouldn't be treated as a number but as a person. You have to apply for jobs you can't do, to keep people happy. People are under so much pressure, it's wrong.
Recently my housing association organised for me to have new windows. I was working at the train station, and had to tell the window company to come another day. I was so grateful that they rearranged the time and date. I could have cried because they were so helpful and understanding. I thought, my god someone actually cares. If I could I would have taken the lady on the phone flowers and chocolates to say thank you. I don't come across many people like this, I really appreciated this kind gesture.
By Pat ATD Fourth World UK
Presented at the Octobet 17 events 2016