Workshy Scrounger

EE/Orange’s error has ruined my credit rating. Watch out it doesn’t happen to you.

A beautifully worded letter of complaint. I hope it gets resolved soon. Shame on you, Orange.

The SKWAWKBOX

Forgive my being so quiet on this blog for a while, and then using it for something like this, but it’s hard enough work at the moment getting a company off the ground without idiocy like this adding to it.

The email below, which I’ve just sent to the chief executive of EE/Orange, Olaf Swantee, and cc’d to their head of customer service, should be self-explanatory. Please publicise it widely – to help my case and to warn others who might find themselves in the same situation.

Thanks!

Mr Swantee,

Last year I took out an Orange mobile phone for my business, with a Samsung handset. I had so many problems with it, and so little help from Orange, that in June, out of desperation, I went to your store in XXXXXXXXX and asked for a figure to buy myself out of the contract so that I could switch networks…

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End of bedroom tax in Scotland

The 80,000 Scottish social tenants affected by the bedroom tax can rest more easily. Scottish Labour and SNP agreed to mitigate its impact. The budget was passed by

108 votes to 15 with only the Tories voting against.

It is clear that the Scottish government has very different priorities to those of Westminster when it comes to budget allocations. It’s only a shame that the solution took almost nine months to be agreed on. The delay wreaked havoc in the fragile budgets of the families affected by the bedroom tax. It led to evictions and suicide attempts.

Full details of the deal are available here.

A post of hard truths.

I keep reading about people who got into trouble through absolutely no fault of their own. How the big bad businesses are out to get them. People blaming everybody but themselves even though they are the only ones to be blamed. Those stories are blood curling and show how Martin Lewis’ financial education curriculum couldn’t come soon enough.

A mother borrows £1700 in the form of payday loans while in receipt of benefits. She spends it on “memorable” Christmas for her children. She cannot afford to repay it. Bad Wonga for giving her the money she applied for.

Parents complaining about sweets being placed next to the tills. What an underhand marketing ploy – tapping into children’s pester power and turning them against us. Of course, parents have no other choice than to buy the sweets.

A father decides to spend £450 on a photo of XBox One for his four-year-old son. Receives a photo of said console. Is outraged to receive goods as described – he thought he would get the real thing.

Ultimately, you have the choice. You can weigh the consequences and choose what is best for you. You do not have to have a six-foot Christmas tree standing atop a mountain of luxury presents. If you couldn’t afford to save for Christmas over the past twelve months, chances are you will not be able to repay twice as much within a month.

The supermarket temptations did not appear overnight. You can explain to your children before you go to the shop that they can add so many treats to the basket and no more. Or no treats at all this week – look, I am not buying treats for myself either. I know it’s hard but sometimes needs must. How about we spend an extra half an hour in the park instead? Explain your situation and show your understanding instead of snapping “no” with your hand raised ready to slap the poor thing while it dissolves into puddles of tears.

Sometimes, it’s also worth thinking whether it might be us creating the artificial need for more and more things. Faster, newer and ever shinier. I must have the new iPhone. I simply had to buy this dress. I bet you that the four-year-old in question will hate XBox for taking daddy’s attention away. Again, it’s not the console, dear boy, it’s the person making choices about buying and playing it. Think Cats in the Cradle and do not make the same mistakes.

Lead by example and stop blaming businesses for your inability to rein in your and your children’s wants. Teach your kids to read the small print and think just that wee bit ahead. Nobody can afford everything all of the time.

Should I stay or should I go now?

Dear Deidre

I am thinking of leaving my husband. It was a forced marriage – I tried to rebel against it but I was too weak. For years afterwards, I tried to leave but he just ruthlessly dealt with anyone who tried to help me.

The abuse was incessant and every now and then he still throws jibes trying to make himself look superior. He blames everything that goes wrong on me but takes credit for all of my achievements.

Over the years, I managed to wangle some freedom. He still controls all the money only leaving me a small housekeeping allowance. He says it’s more than I deserve anyway and that I am bleeding him dry. He also decides who can come to our house and what we watch on the telly. On the other hand, I have full control about how things are organised in my bedroom and garden. I even can make decisions regarding my healthcare.

He is much kinder to me now and worries that I will be worse off. He says that squatters will move to my house and I will be at risk of criminals and unable to defend myself. He is sure that our friends will stay on his side and I will be left all alone. Money is also a problem – he says my dowry is not as good as it seems and I will live in poverty.

My children’s opinion is divided – some of them want us to leave but others cannot imagine life without my husband. They want to keep things as they are because they think it is safer. You see, they don’t know another kind of life. They think we are better together.

What should I do, Deidre?

Bonnie Caledonia

The Benefits System Exposed!

This TUC public information film exposes all the dirty secrets of the benefit claimants.

Same Difference

By the TUC and a talking dog!

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God’s dad needs a break

There is a guy on Facebook who calls himself God. He labels himself as a comedian and some of his posts might seem irreverent to true believers. He is preaching the kind of religion I could associate with: full of humour, tolerance and love. Some of his followers claim he saved their lives.

After an insurance company failed to pay out on God’s mother’s death, he started a crowd funding project in order to give his dad a holiday of a lifetime. As the target was quickly reached, he is now asking to help pay off his dad’s mortgage as well. I believe he will get there. (At the same time, the supporters are flooding the insurance company’s Facebook page with messages.)

It makes me wonder though – people are giving their money to an internet persona they only know through social media. At the same time, we have astonishing levels of poverty and malnutrition in our country. Why can we not be as successful as the Facebook god?

At least twice this year, people marched on the Parliament. I never knew about it as it was not reported by the mainstream media. There are countless petitions against the benefit changes and they end up with a couple of thousand signatories on average. That’s not enough to make an impact.

Let’s get organised. Let’s use the democracy to our advantage. I am not calling for a revolution. Civil unrest will only hurt us – those at the bottom of society. However, there are peaceful ways to stand up against what is happening to us. We only need to stand together.

Energy providers “stockpiling” money

It seems that the Daily Mail and minister Greg Barker do not understand what direct debit is all about.

Energy giants are to repay customers up to £2 billion which they have stockpiled from direct debit overpayments.

Yes, they have our money and it will pay for our winter usage. In my view, setting up a direct debit to your energy provider allows you to pay the same amount all year round regardless of what you actually use. Then, your annual review will adjust your direct debit value. For instance, if my bills were based on readings, in the summer I would pay £30 and in winter – £80. DD allows me to pay £55 every month and I get a discount. Throughout the whole summer, I save towards the energy-demanding winter so that I do not have to worry. (I do worry anyway but at least I know how little heating I can afford.)

For this to work, I have to know my energy needs and for that I need those pesky energy statements nobody apparently understands. I need to provide meter readings regularly to ensure that I am not over- or underpaying. I must be aware how any changes will affect my energy consumption (a baby/partner/elderly relative moving in or out, a redecoration project involving steaming off woodchip wallpaper throughout the house, upgrading my appliances or draught-proofing) and ask for the DD to be adjusted accordingly.

For some time, the energy provider will have my money because I am saving it for winter. I can just as well put it in a jar or in a separate bank account and pay tax on any meagre interest. What is the problem with someone making a profit where I cannot make any? Instead, I get my discount and the peace of mind and am happy with it.

Next winter, those applauding the Big Six’s “concession” will wake up with their hands right in the potty when it turns out that one month’s energy money will not pay for winter excesses like having the heating on in the evenings. There will no doubt be another round of price hikes and this time it will be accompanied by steep increases in direct debits because people will have underpaid throughout the year and will be in the red.

Can’t afford to pay? They will install a pre-payment meter (they like to rip off the poor the most). They will not let you switch. They will give you little choice when it comes to tariffs. They will finish you off. Of course, nobody can see that coming.

The whole give-us-back-our-money is just a shameless propaganda. Nothing really changes. There is nothing to be happy about. There is no victory. Thousands of vulnerable people will die needlessly this winter. Meanwhile, the energy companies’ profits are not endangered in the slightest.

I actually had kale only yesterday

I read another ridiculous article about Jack Monroe. If I was her, I would take Mr Littlejohn to court. It will undoubtedly harm the sales of her book – just have a look at the comments underneath.

What shocked me even more than the outright lies is his comment about Jack’s kale pesto pasta:

This is a typical Guardianista’s idea of what ‘ordinary people’ should eat. Do they really think the ‘poor’ are going to sit down in front of The Great British Bake Off on their 52-inch, taxpayer-funded plasma TVs, and tuck into a plate of Kale Pesto Pasta?

I am poor. I am an ordinary person. Yesterday, we got a bag of kale reduced to 10p and we had some leftover rice. So we made egg-fried rice with kale. The cost was 10p a portion or thereabouts. It was healthy and tasted really good. Needless to say, we did not eat it in front of our 52” plasma (do they even make them that big?) because we do not have one.

Kale is just a type of cabbage. It even comes pre-sliced. It was like assembling a ready meal and Jack’s pesto is just as easy (blend and serve). What is the big deal about eating kale?  Sadly, none of the readers realised that since they are ordinary people, they are being offended, too:

For a start, those whom the Guardianistas disdain as ‘ordinary people’ don’t eat pasta — they eat spaghetti out of tins. Most of them will have never heard of kale, let alone eaten it.

Perhaps, this is why I mainly read the Guardian.

Share your poverty story

Guardian wants us to share our stories about life in poverty. There are still 23 days left to show them what it is really like. Some of the stories might even be featured in the comment is free section. Do it – it might just bring about some changes, at least in how people perceive us. To submit your story, go here.

Immigrants on the dole – shame on you

Papers are full of stories about those dreadful immigrants. They come over, take all the jobs or worse – they just sit on the dole:

They found many were happy with how ‘pleasant’ the unemployment centres were, and how little they questioned them. Many admitted they do not speak the language.

Obviously, we are not talking about Britain – Jobcentres are anything but pleasant – but about Britons in Germany. Daily Mail reports that over 10,000 Brits in Germany claim out-of-work benefits. It means that 10% of the total expat population are workshy scroungers.

‘Expat’ is a word with nice connotations – you just see a tanned, smiling grandad tending to plump tomatoes in his Spanish villa enjoying his well-deserved retirement after a life of hard, honest labour.

An immigrant is that young, shifty guy from some inferior country always scheming, using some gibberish language and eating weird things.

The British are always expats. Other countries should welcome British gentlemen and ladies with open arms. They should support them, if they fall on hard times. They should give them access to healthcare. They should treat them with respect and compassion. However, foreign nationals living in Britain – now,  they are immigrants and should be sent back to where they came from. Yes, even the 1680 Germans claiming benefits in Britain. Makes perfect sense.

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