Reverse advent calendar campaign

The back ground
Many of us love the Xmas advent calendar, especially those with children who get a chocolate each day don’t we? (And just where did those advent calendars go that just had the picture??) But many families are sleeping in bed and breakfast (that’s a just a term by the way, there is no breakfast).  The breadwinner has simply lost their job or fallen sick  and/or most have fallen foul of the failure known as the benefits system and the chaos that Iain Duncan Smith started. And let’s not forget he resided over it for some time before completely messing up the Universal Credit system for someone else to take the blame! But hey that’s just my opinion! Many of these families are local to you and their children go to your children’s school.

It is just so wrong that whilst many of us over indulge this Christmas, so many people will be struggling to feed their kids at all and/or will go hungry themselves through no fault of their own. With no school meals over the holidays and the need to heat homes, the struggle is even worse at this time than any other.  The use of foodbanks rises by 45% in December. The reverse advent calendar is just one small way in which you can give something back and it’s helping your local community too.

What is the Reverse Advent Calendar?
This reverse advent calendar is a great idea. It’s been happening for a few years now all over the world. The UK Money bloggers have launched a campaign to really give it a push this year and as one of the bloggers I am helping to promote it.

Each day for 24 days you put something for the food bank in a box and at the end of this time give it to your local foodbank. Some sites start on the 1st December and hand it in on the 24th December. But please see Tips and ideas below as most of us are doing it through November. We are doing 30 days too so it’s all up to you!

Statistics
The Trussell Trust’s Foodbank network of over 425 foodbanks handed out 1,182,954 three-day emergency food supplies given to people in crisis in the year April 2016 – March 2017. But remember there are many more foodbanks all over the country which are not part of this network so the numbers are far bigger that need to use these services.

Early Warnings: Universal Credit and Foodbanks, highlights that although the rollout of the new Universal Credit system for administering benefits has been piecemeal so far, foodbanks in areas of partial or full rollout are reporting significant problems with its impact.

The Trussell Trust commissioned an 18-month research project from the University of Oxford, led by Dr Rachel Loopstra where the key findings were:

• Households using food banks face extreme financial vulnerability. All food bank users
had, in the last month, an income well below the threshold for low income. More than
1/3 of households experienced an income shock in the past three months and over 2/3
reported unexpected and rising expenses during the same period.
• Almost half of households reported their incomes were unsteady from week to week or
month to month.
• Half of households included someone with a disability.
• Lone parents and their children constitute the largest number of people receiving help
from food banks, though single male households are the most common household type.
• Over 78% of households were severely food insecure. For a majority of households, this
was a chronic experience, happening every month or almost every month over the past
12 months.
• Food bank users experience multiple forms of destitution – 50% had gone without
heating for more than four days in the past 12 months, and 1 in 5 had slept rough in the
last 12 months.

20 Reverse advent calendar tips and ideas

  1. Think about when you want to do this. Doing it through December may seem like a good idea but if you are going to put some Xmas related food things in there, it may be too late for the food bank to donate. Find out from your local one when would be best to donate, it may want a mix as donations may be fewer in January.
  2. Google foodbank and your local area, not all foodbanks are run by Trussell, many are by other charities and churches.
  3. Contact your local foodbank and see if there are items of which they particularly short, and when would be best for you to drop off the box.  Although they will be grateful for anything 20 cartons of UHT milk maybe something they are short of possibly more useful than 20 different tins of beans and soup.
  4. Remember that some foodbanks also welcome toiletries so that families can maintain dignity and this will last them longer than the 3 days of food that they get too.
  5. Obviously foodbanks need non perishables, but look for long term use by dates too to make it easier for foodbanks to manage.
  6. Get the children involved, decorating the box, ideas of what to put in and perhaps even donate some pocket money or sweets?
  7. Drawer full of toiletries gift sets? Donate them
  8. Share the idea on social media with #FoodbankAdvent to spread the word
  9. Pastas, dried fruit, tins of soup, vegetables, rice pudding, custard etc., packets and jars of sauces, biscuits, tea/coffee, UHT milk, long life juices, baby food, rice, cereals, noodles, health bars, lentils, cakes, mince pies, Xmas puddings, bread/similar which keeps longer than fresh, such as part baked bread, waffles, wraps etc., crisps and other savoury items, soap, deodorant, shower gel, toothpaste, toothbrushes, sanitary products, toilet rolls, baby wipes and shampoo. Think of things that don’t need to be heated too, such as cold meats and fish so a substantial meal can still be had and boxes of Smash that only need water to make. Also, carrier bags! Or conference totes/canvas bags for life instead for more eco friendly use! There is talk too of some Foodbanks needing pet food. If you want to support pregnant women and families with infants see the First Steps Nutrition advice. (Note, Foodbanks won’t take formula.)
  10. Remember users of foodbanks are struggling to feed their families, as well as the essentials, so think about putting some treats in such as chocolates too (think of buying when buy one get one free on those tubs for even more!)
  11. Get the bargains when you see them in the supermarket and bargain shops which will good for toiletries. When you get the buy one get one frees consider giving them both that day!
  12. Keep an eye out for coupons and discount codes for items that you wouldn’t use yourself but would make ideal items for the foodbank
  13. Don’t forget to look in your cupboards for food you bought or were given but are now unlikely to use
  14. If you are going to get things with shorter life span such as part bake bread get them nearer the end of the 24 days!
  15. It was on one of those food programmes about saving money a few weeks ago showing that if you go down the World Food aisle that you will often find similar products just with a different name to that you are used to but are actually cheaper
  16. You don’t need a fancy box! Anything will do, everything gets sorted when it arrives at the foodbank and you don’t have to think what goes with what, the volunteers will sort into bags for users for you.
  17. Consider throwing in some sachets of herbs, remember that a lot of those emergency food bags will be full of bulky plain food, herbs and spices will add some flavour and take up little room in that bag
  18. Foodbanks are run by volunteers, consider volunteering or donating long term
  19. Think about getting your workplace colleagues to run some boxes, make it competitive between teams if you work in a big workplace! Or use it as way to spread the cost, you could also do this with your neighbours and your children’s clubs and groups

20. Great Tip! Shopmium and Checkoutsmart
Now, here’s a great little app. If you go to Shopmium you can get food with discounts or even for free. That’s a referral link, so if you go through and sign up on that I’ll get a freebie, you get a freebie and you will see the offers on at the moment which change all the time. Then you will have your own referral code too. I am using the offers to get discounts on perishables plus perishables that I don’t like so that the foodbank can get extra too taking advantage of every bargain I can get to be able to give more. Wins all round! All you need to do is take a photo of the bar code and receipt and you get your cash back. Shopimum uses all the major supermarkets.

Checkoutsmart no referral codes but works same way. Seems to have more looking through at the moment.

Iain Duncan Smith and politics
Can’t really do a post about foodbanks without mentioning this really.

Those of you who have been following my blog for some time will know that I interviewed Iain Duncan Smith when he was Director of Death and Destruction because he is my MP (don’t blame me I didn’t vote for him). The Complaining Cow Meets Iain Duncan Smith #IDSfail and Round 2 The Complaining Cow Meets IDS   when I went a second time much to his displeasure. I used the fact that I could go to his surgeries and took him to task in the limited time I had. One of the things, amongst many, was foodbanks.

I did let the food bank know of his request but I don’t think they wanted him there! One can understand why not.

And whilst we are about it. Jacob Rees-Mogg is one of the wealthiest MPs in Parliament. He has reportedly made millions of pounds in high finance and is due to inherit £100 million from his family estate. Know what he said about foodbanks? “The rise of food banks across the UK is actually “rather uplifting” because it shows the British people are charitable” and “The real reason for the rise in numbers is because people know they are there and Labour refused to tell them.” Idiocy for a supposedly educated man. One of those academics with no common sense. Or empathy. Or compassion. Or understanding of issues facing millions of families in the UK.

So who is first against the wall come the revolution do you think? Duncan Smith? Rees-Mogg? May? Farage? Gove? It’s ok I think there will be enough of us to take them all.

Foodbank volunteers donate at least £30million a year in unpaid work Foodbank volunteers ‘perform £30million a year worth of unpaid work’, shock study reveals Volunteers do a staggering 2,909,196 hours of unpaid work distributing food – and calculating the value of their time using the minimum wage, currently £7.50 an hour for the over 25s, it equates to £21,818,967 a year; or 55,945 hours, with a value of £419,587 each week. Should feeding children with no food or heating really be down to volunteers and donations?

Universal Credit
Trussell Trust and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau is calling for the Universal Credit to be suspended  to tackle and amend the poor administration in the system  before it can be rolled out effectively: reducing the 6-week minimum wait for a first payment and providing more support through programmes like Universal Support which would make a real difference to people navigating the new system. More here.

Pause the roll-out of Universal Credit, particularly until appropriate emergency financial support is available and accessible to all people left with no income or food.

Quick word on donating Advent calendars
It may cross your mind to donate some chocolate advent calendars. However, for those of us who have them, it leads up to the big day. Most families, if not all using a foodbank, will be using food possibly not even heated for Christmas day. Just another day, no big build up. I am going to donate a load of selection boxes with the calendar box instead.

Rounding up
So, are you going to do your box with me? I’m starting on the 1st November. Share on social media using the #foodbankadvent hashtag to encourage others. If you have any more tips, or ideas to share please do add them in the comments and please share the word wherever you can, it is such a good idea and helps so many people who really are in a desperate situation.

I’ll leave the last word to Lisi, daughter of Becky Goddard-Hill who blogs at Babybudgeting. So get your kids involved too. My son has decorated (ish!) the box but wouldn’t do anything on camera so well done Lisi!

Day 10
A third of the way in. The more eagle eyed will note that there are more than 10 items in here! That’s because so far I have got 3 jars of baby food, some chick pea puffs and some baked pea snacks for free so they are bonus items!

They came from 3 different shops using Shopmium (referral link) and Checkoutsmart.

Day 13
One of the UKMoneybloggers, Andrew, MoneyTree Man (remember I listed him in my 25 top finance blogs (saving, making, investing, tips & more ‘cos he made me laugh with his style of writing!) has made this video. I particularly like his tip regarding telling at least one of the  shop assistants what you are doing and inspire them to join in and share the word.

Day 15
Half way in (we are doing 30 days)day 15 items for the foodbank, baby food, biscuits, broth, chocolates, tuna, mackrel, toothpaste etc
Day 22
Two thirds (and a day!) in

Day 22 foodbank box, cereal, crisps, biscuits, rice, tins etcDay 30
Finished and ready to donate
2 boxes full of stuff for foodbankYou can still do one if you haven’t and can continue to donate whenever you like. You can even make Tesco donate a further 20% of your donation if you donate in there from 3oth November to 2nd December Tesco doing more than their “Fare Share”?

 

Holding the DWP to account and how to complain when your benefits go wrong

Nick at The Complaining Cow

Nick  Dilworth writes a guest post on the state of the benefits system and what to do if you have problems with benefits.

 

Holding the state to account
Having helped many hundreds of people battle with the Secretary of State over benefit decisions which are often full of flaws, badly reasoned and which are all too often overturned by independent Tribunals allowing appeals in favour of the claimant, I am increasingly concerned about the gross erosion of access to justice following cut backs in legal aid and cuts backs in the advice sector.  As a front line benefit specialist we are fully stretched in trying to help more people than our limited resources can adequately properly provide for.

I’m seeing large numbers of people turn to social media in an effort to find online solutions, its soul destroying to see so many people out on a limb and alarming that much of the advice available simply isn’t right.

So here’s a few handy hints.

What should you do if you find your benefits stopped, reduced or subject to sanction?

  • In all cases you should try and get help from a reputable advice agency such as the CAB or a recognised law centre. Despite savage cut backs the advice sector is still there to help you and even if they can’t offer you one to one help you can access updated advice resources which enable some people to resolve their problems by empowering them to follow the correct procedure.  Agencies have proper indemnity insurance if anything goes wrong and rigid training is in place for staff who provide advice, so speak to someone in the know.
  • Make sure you know which process to follow. If your benefits have stopped or been reduced or you are subject to a sanction, you will generally have a statutory right of appeal and a right to request written reasons as to how the decision was arrived at.  Most statutory authorities use fairly standard stock phrased letters, sometimes it pays to ask for more detailed information so you can be sure of exactly what it is that you disagree with.  Many disputes have to be resolved by initially requesting a ‘mandatory reconsideration’.  After this you should be sent a ‘mandatory reconsideration notice’; if you still disagree with the decision you can request a formal appeal to an independent tribunal arranged by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS); you’ll need to send a copy of the mandatory reconsideration notice with form SSCS1 to the HMCTS Appeals Centre to the address given on the form.  These types of disputes are known as formal reconsideration requests, revisions/supersessions and lodging formal appeal.
  • Always put your reconsideration request, request for reasons or formal appeal in writing, keep a copy and send it by some form of recorded mail so you have proof of postage and receipt. Authorities try and resolve disputes of this nature by telephone, by all means use it to speed things up but always back everything up in writing and make sure you keep a record of when the call was made, what was said and who you spoke to. Why you should write not phone. If you have been given a valid email then use it as it enables you to show evidence of communication. Do everything in the time limits, if this isn’t possible then provide some reasons for lateness.
  • Top 20 Tips for complaning gives more advice on how to write a complaint

Complaining

  • If you are unhappy over treatment you have received from a statutory agency you can complain. This may be appropriate in cases of delay, where standards expected fall below what they should be or where you believe you have been mistreated or treated unfairly.   Write to the Customer Complaints Manager of the department concerned and set out your complaint to provide a brief history followed by specific grounds under different headings followed by a summary and an idea of what you consider to be a suitable remedy.  Remember to be clear between the process of disputing/appealing and complaining otherwise your appeal may get lost in the wording of a complaint.  Break your letter down in to concise sections setting out the complaint in such a way that it is relevant, easy to follow and likely to draw attention to what’s gone wrong and who you consider to be at fault.  Set a timescale in which you should expect a reply.  Refer to any guidance of the department as to their complaints procedure.  You can always complain to MPs and other statutory bodies if you remain dissatisfied with trying to sort things out with the agency involved.
  • Contact details for key personnel responsible and for the DWP can be found here.

Discretionary

  • Some agencies and disputes, often concerning tax credits for instance, may be subject to a discretionary code where you don’t have a formal right of appeal. This doesn’t apply in all tax credit cases but for the majority you will need to follow the HMRC Code of Practice (COP 26) and set out your dispute in writing, you should argue your dispute and seek to persuade the agency on using their discretion to resolve it in your favour, it’s always good to cite the code and illustrate how it applies.

Caution when complaining Caution!

In cases involving a large loss of money, where the impact on you is serious, when being investigated or where issues of law arise you should always seek proper professional help.

Just a note from the site editor – heck of a lot of comments on here asking for help without a “please” or “thank you”. These words will get you a long way when a) asking for help and b) trying to get your complaint heard. People are less likely to want to help you if you don’t have any manners when speaking to them regardless of how appalling the situation.

Debt
If you are in debt please contact your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau for advice. Also Debt Camel is a great website for covering all things debt.

Further resources for information and advice about benefits
Advice Now is a great self help website for benefits (and lots of other things). https://www.advicenow.org.uk/tags/benefit-administration

The yourable forum  http://www.youreable.com/ is good. It is a forum so answers to questions may not always be answered.

About the author
Nick Dilworth is a welfare benefit specialist of over 20 years full time experience, alongside his day job in the advice sector he writes for the popular online website ilegal.org.uk where’s he’s received over 2 million views for his many articles tracking the chaotic reforms of the DWP and taken apart many government statistics to enable people to get a better concept of what’s really going on in the world of welfare.

Iain Duncan Smith
Helen Dewdney who runs this blog went to a couple of surgeries with IDS when he was in charge of the fiasco known as the DWP to challenge him and recorded the meetings. You can see:

The Complaining Cow Meets Iain Duncan Smith #IDSfail and

Round 2 The Complaining Cow Meets IDS

Other sectors
How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

For help with consumer rights and how to complain in other sectors such as energy, telecoms, retail, finance etc. do look round the blog and for more with template letters GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

 

Truth & lies behind #juniordoctorsstrike (& what you can do)

Looks like the majority of the public are against Jeremy Hunt, his bullying tactics and refusal to listen to people who know what they are talking about. From just a glance at social media he is completely outnumbered. His arrogance is stunning (yes in my humble opinion but I know I am far from alone!) up there with with Iain Duncan Smith whose arrogance knew no bounds when I questioned him in two surgeries! But what do we truly know? We know that it is probably more sensible to believe the entire medical profession than one single man and an MP at that, but what is the full story about what we are being told and what can we, the public do if we are truly behind the NHS? Is he right? Is he wrong? I asked Jacky Davis, a consultant in North London, a founder member of the campaign Keep our NHS Public and a member of the BMA Council to tell us. She is the co-author of two books about the NHS – NHS SOS, how the NHS was betrayed and How We Can Save It, and NHS For Sale. The final chapter of NHS SOS is entitled ‘What you can do to save the NHS’ and contains much practical advice about what the public can do to fight for the NHS. Follow her at @DrJackyDavis for up to date news about the NHS.

Guest post by Dr Jacky Davis

Dr Jacky Davis

Junior doctors are revolting
For the first time since the 1970’s junior doctors have taken industrial action in protest against a new contract, which they say is unfair and unsafe. On their side David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt claim that a new contract is needed to deliver a ‘7 day NHS’. You will of course hear greatly differing versions from the two sides of what is being offered and the grounds for rejection. Junior doctors say:

  • The contract will force doctors to work longer and later with fewer safeguards. This threatens to compromise patient safety
  • The 11% pay rise is more than offset by a drop in pay for working antisocial hours
  • Doctors pay starts below the national median – starting salary is £21,000, for an ASDA manager £22,000. Doctors also have to pay for registration, legal protection, insurance and exams
  • The new contract would penalise those who take time out to have a family or who work part time.

The government proposes that normal working hours should now be from 7 am – 10 pm Monday to Saturday (please note MPs have just cut their own hours and increased their own pay). The reduction of hours that attract extra pay is a red line in the sand for the government, because if they can redefine them for junior doctors they can redefine them for other NHS staff too…

On the government’s side, Hunt and Cameron have used their ‘manifesto promise’ of a 24/7 NHS to justify their imposition of the contract but it is important to remember:

  • We already have a 24/7 NHS. No-one is sent home with a broken leg or a burst appendix on a Saturday afternoon. Almost all NHS clinical staff work out of hours to provide emergency and urgent care, as Hunt was reminded by the twitter storm #ImInWorkJeremy
  • We can’t afford a routine 24/7 NHS While the government have refused to define what they mean by ‘a truly 7 day NHS’ they have indicated that they mean routine care available 7 days a week. Pilots show that patients don’t want this and Hunt certainly can’t afford it. Routine care requires not only doctors but all the support staff of nurses, radiographers, porters, admin staff etc. It would mean extending an already overstretched service across 7 days instead of 5.
  • A new contract is not needed to improve out of hours care. Emergency and urgent out of hours (OOH) care always needs improving, but this does not require a new contract for junior doctors. The devolved nations are not imposing this contract (and indeed are already looking to recruit disaffected English doctors) and there are trusts in England which have improved their OOH care without the need for a new contract.
  • Leaked document reveals Jeremy Hunt’s own officials doubt his evidence on seven-day NHS plans more here so just who actually backs him?

What Cameron and Hunt say…
Both Cameron and Hunt have repeatedly misquoted statistics about increased mortality in relation to weekend admissions despite being publicly contradicted by the authors of the paper they quote and by the editor of the BMJ.  What’s more Hunts misleading claims about the dangers of being admitted over the weekend mean that 53% of people are now afraid of going to hospital out of hours, in itself a dangerous state of affairs. And ironically it has already been reported that Hunt’s treatment of the juniors has led to clinical initiatives to improve out of hours (OOH) care being derailed

As for the government’s accusation that junior doctors have been misled by their ‘irresponsible’ union – these are for the most part not people just out of medical school. ‘Junior doctor’ means most hospital doctors below the consultant grade, so that many of them will have years of experience on the wards, young families to consider – and a good understanding of their contracts. Of the 76% who voted, 98% supported industrial action, a percentage that political parties can only dream of (the Tories won the last general election with a vote of 36.7% on a 66% turnout).

Hunt has accused them of putting patients in danger but while junior doctors are striking patient care is being provided by highly experienced consultants and associated specialists (and it is well documented that mortality stays the same or actually drops during doctors’ strikes). It is true that some patients will have had their operations postponed, but while Hunt wrings his hands about this no-one has mentioned the fact that 70,000 operations were cancelled last year, due to NHS underfunding eg bed shortages, lack of staff and theatre time. This dwarfs what has happened during the 2 days of industrial action but there has been no mention of it in the mainstream media.

Current status
Cameron and Hunt have now taken their own ‘nuclear option’ and imposed the contract, the first time this has ever happened. Imposition, apart from seriously upsetting the very doctors who are the backbone of hospital care, could have serious consequences for recruitment and retention of doctors. 14 out of 20 CEOs have already withdrawn support from a letter in which they supposedly backed Hunt. Meanwhile Hunt – while claiming to have an open door – has dodged not only numerous invitations from the media to state his case but doctors themselves, running away from any confrontation. An event for which junior doctors had bought tickets was moved elsewhere at the last minute, and doctors who did manage to get there were screened out at the door. It is a damning indictment when the Health Minister is afraid to face his own staff.

Hunt and Cameron know that the public are overwhelmingly behind the junior doctors and the NHS in general.

What YOU can do to help put pressure on Cameron and Hunt
If you want to help then there ARE things you can do and some of them will only take a few seconds of your time and all will help raise the profile of all the issues.

  1. Please read about what is happening to the NHS and its staff  and think about joining a campaign or a local patients group.
  2. Practical action could also include writing to your MP and to national and local papers to support the juniors, turning up at the picket lines on days of action
  3. The continued use of social media to dispel the lies put out by the government
  4. Share this post with friends and family
  5. Join the campaign – Keep Our NHS public
  6. Read up on the privatisation of the NHS at NHS for sale
  7. Follow and rt @keepnhspublic
  8. Sign the petition Consider a vote of No Confidence in Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary
  9. Sign the petition Jeremy Hunt to resume meaningful contract negotiations with the BMA
  10. Sign the petition Labour Party and TUC – call a national demonstration to support the junior doctors!
  11. Sign the letter asking asks David Cameron to show the BMA his plan for extended seven-day services here.
  12. Join the thunderclap here takes place 6.30pm 14th March 2016

The fight that the government has picked with junior doctors is just part of the present attack on the NHS and its staff. Cameron and Hunt are using the vague promise of ‘a truly 7 day NHS’ to impose a contract on junior doctors, in the hope and expectation that if they win they will roll out these changes to other NHS staff. They think the public’s interest and support will wane but we must not let this happen. This is everyone’s fight, NHS staff and patients and the public, and it is surely the government that is now taking risks with patients’ lives. Don’t let apathy win, every little thing helps.

Thank you for supporting OUR NHS.

————————————————————-

Dr Phil Hammond says test the science, Hunt’s way and the doctor’s proposal in different hospitals and see what works.

You can always rt some of the best tweets out there too:

nhs 1 nhs2 nhs3 nhs4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clips of Jeremy Hunt caught out over and over again.

 

Round 2 The Complaining Cow Meets IDS

On the 17th January I went to see IDS in a surgery. No personal issue but I had decided to take on others’ issues just because I could. I thought I’d go again. Here’s how easy it was to make another appointment……

22/01/14 Emailed the office asking for further appointment
28/01/14 Emailed pointing out that IDS told me emails were answered within 48 hours but not had a response hoped I wouldn’t have to go to the media…
04/02/14 Response to say email forwarded to Jo Nash (IDS’ researcher/assistant) and shortly afterwards response from Jo Nash to say FOI had been forwarded and to give details of new case to “…see if an appointment will be necessary” (with Iain) 🙂 (That smiley face was mine not hers!)
06/02/14 Emailed Jo saying how nice it was that we were all on first name terms and I shall put them on my Xmas card list. Pointed out discrepancy in how long it had taken to forward FOI, I had not had a response to letter re the #WowPetition and I wished to discuss further the issues that we had run out of time with before and that Iain had agreed to this
10/02/14 Forwarded email asking for response
10/02/14 Response referring only to FOI
10/02/14 Jo forwarded email showing she had asked someone to draft a response to the #wowpetition letter. You can see the response here, here and here
10/02/14 Responded pointing out it was the last two paragraphs of the email I needed a response for. One of which said specifically “As regards the next appointment, I am sure you will recall that Iain very politely said that he would answer another question after we were out of time and that I said it was fine I could arrange another appointment to which he agreed. So in summary I would like to finish that discussion regarding benefits and fraud and also ask Iain about ATOS.”
13/02/14 Response saying copied in Lynn into email to make appointment
13/02/14 Email booking me in for the 21/02/14

Five emails and 22 days to get another appointment….. 🙂 🙂 🙂
Wait ’til you see the response to my request for a third go…!

Anyway, here follows 3 clips of my surgery with IDS.

Firstly “bedroom tax” he blames councils, housing associations and doesn’t agree with the National Housing Federation figures….. he was a little confused when I mentioned James from LBC (he had quite a row with him on LBC radio)

 

The Bull heard me editing these and told me to  “Leave the poor bloke alone” Frankly he’s heard me give a lot worse so don’t know what that was about! Then we talked about ATOS. Unfortunately not enough ammo at my finger tips but I had a little stab. I raised my voice a little but controlled myself! Not really the grilling that he got at the committee hearing on Universal Credit last December but every little helps and we know I love that phrase! (Too many of my posts to which I could link!) Look to see how he doesn’t answer a question, blames the last Government, dismisses stories of people in comas and with degenerative diseases as isolated and media spin.

Wouldn’t be me without a little bit of fun, so a couple of clips of taking something, can’t think what….! Asked him to take a selfie… see what happened! I gave him cake. Well I did offer to Jo and him to come to my house where the kettle was always on and if I knew they were coming I’d bake them a cake. But unfortunately despite saying he makes home visits they are only for disabled people. No mention of sick people though. They may have thought I fell into this category of course though…

So yes, I asked for another surgery with Iain. He’s my mate now don’t you know? This is the response I got:

“Hi Helen,
I understand from CWGCA that you are seeking another surgery appointment with IDS. As I’m sure you can appreciate, we have a large number of constituents requesting surgery appointments, and it would not be fair for us to see one constituent on a monthly basis and not other constituents. Our next surgery is on Friday 28th March and I know that this is already getting full up with some very urgent cases. I would therefore ask if you could be patient and wait for a surgery appointment in April or May, once we have dealt with some of the much more urgent cases.
Thanks.
Jo”

So, that’s it then. No more meetings, obviously hoping to put me off indefinitely.

Ok, so who believed that then? What? Are you new to this blog?! I’m just lulling her into a false sense of security and not responding for a few days… but I will… keep an eye out on my Facebook page and Twitter to keep updated!

06/03/14 update – emailed 12 follow up questions last week and chased today for answers, still no reply. I will NOT give up!

Would be interested in your comments. Do you think things will improve? Do you think he’s getting a handle on it? Will those error figures go down? Do you think he cares? Are the cases we hear about just isolated? How much should that percentage error decrease? What do you think of the “bedroom tax”? Were enough homes built in your area? Do you think it is incompetence or targets or both? Would you like one of our cakes? Should I leave him alone now?

 

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The Complaining Cow Meets Iain Duncan Smith #IDSfail

I am lucky enough to have Iain Duncan Smith as my MP! As a constituent of his I thought I’d go and have a chat. Well, poor old IDS he does get a bad press and I like to support the underdog so thought I’d give him a chance to put across how much he knows about the area for which he is an MP. He should know it well, he’s been MP since 1992 in Chingford and 1997 someone somewhere redrew the boundaries and he got Woodford Green as well. I was sure he visited often, (he doesn’t live in Chingford he lives here.) I thought I’d find out what he thinks about how people are affected by benefit reforms and cost of living rises.

So, I thought I’d go see him. Well why not? I went to see him as a concerned human being about my fellow man. I emailed him, 4 emails actually (that will be another story coming soon) and after 8 working days I got an email to ask if I could make a surgery on Friday. I asked her where it was and if I could record it. I was told that I could ask this at the surgery. Bit difficult when I didn’t know where the surgery was. I also was very very good and didn’t point out that there are no apostrophes in the words “Tuesdays” and “Thursdays” and those of you who know me and follow this blog know just how kind of me that was! For those that don’t see here!

Now, I have a new little gift for people when I meet them as The Complaining Cow. I thought I’d go bearing a present for IDS. Oh come on, how many presents do you think IDS gets from normal people? Anyway, It’s this:

"What is it?"

If you got this from someone what would you say? I asked on my Facebook page and generally, it was “Thank you”, and lots of “Clever idea” “Tell me about what you do” sort of things. So, given that it is a retro milk bottle (remember those milk bottles we had in school before Thatcher the Milk Snatcher?) with sweets in it and it clearly has a business card on it you’d think he would say something along the lines of “This is your business?” “Is this you?” “This looks interesting” Nope. He looked at it very suspiciously and said “What is it?” I explained, he did then say “Oh interesting, hope it works well for you, it’s what we need for the economy more people taking on challenges and risks” Did he Hell, he did say “Thank you” though.

So, I had my long long list. A few pages in fact, but sadly didn’t get very far. 15 minutes is a very short time you know. BUT! I have not been banned from going back and making regular appointments 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 So back I will go. Mind you if he see this and hears some of the clips he might decided against it, although as my MP I’m not sure he can do that?

So, you want to know what he said don’t you? Ok, after talking about the delay in responding to me I sort of mentioned social media:


 

Catch the part about emailing being as quick as tweeting? I’d already told him it had taken 8 working days for his office to respond to me. Watch out for a follow up post there were FOIs in them there emails which as far as I know haven’t been forwarded….

Then I asked him about Foodbanks:

Man of the people “..talks to lots of people from churches and stuff like that” What more do you want from him?! More positive stuff about IDS? Hmm well before that attempt here is an update 22/01/04 statement from Chris Mould from Trussell Trust:

‘We have asked Iain Duncan Smith to meet with us and would welcome the opportunity to speak to him.

We are keen to open a dialogue with DWP and have been asking to meet them for some time because the DWP is the key department with the power to help a significant proportion of the people we meet at our foodbanks.’

Also, as far as we know, we are unaware of Iain Duncan Smith asking us about foodbanks in Chingford. We will look into this further but cannot find a record of this at the moment”.

Oh, oh. Hmmm. IDS says he asked Trussell Trust if it was going to open a food bank in his constituency. It says they have no record. Someone somewhere is possibly telling porkies. I wonder which it is. Or maybe Trussell Trust will find it. I think they’d know though…..!

I do think that he actually believes what he is doing is right. He thinks he is doing good. I’m not saying he IS! I’m saying he believes he is. Hear for yourself where we chat about benefits and the cost of living (and no, I didn’t put that laughter in):

See what I mean? He believes what he says doesn’t he? “Generous benefit” “Most people get a fair deal.” The exemptions he mentions however are limited. No exemption is made for the equipment that might be needed by someone disabled for example. But I ran out of time…

Update 24/01/14:

(Can’t make these automatically open in another window so just right click!)

Smirking at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSQgw9K6FT8#t=1481
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSQgw9K6FT8#t=1743
Apparent laughter:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSQgw9K6FT8#t=1749

Now, I wonder if poor old IDS is being set up by Camoron. (Not a typo). Do you think he’s making IDS do all the dirty stuff then right near the election sack him and say “Look I got rid of him, we’ll make changes after his mess” as a crack at trying to get back into power? Aw poor old IDS.

Look, I didn’t vote him in, never have so don’t go pointing the finger at me! It is sadly though one of the safest seats in the country or I’d think about standing against him as an Independent with the name “Z None of the Above Please”. Not that I have the will, the inclination, the time, the campaign, the support or the money! Love to see someone give him a run for his money though, don’t think he has ever gone to a single house at election time. I’ve been ready for him but my vote isn’t important to him.

So, have you changed your opinion of the man? Did you think he was different talking to a constituent rather than a journalist? Did you agree with anything? Can you see another side?

Went and had another go here 🙂