29 Jul

That time Mummy nearly got arrested

It was a nice sunny day.  We had met with some friends to play at Riversley Park in Nuneaton, a place that I had taken my son to when he was just a toddler, for the first time, and had always had a great time at.  I take my dog with me most places that I go and prior to the 1st July 2017, dogs were allowed in the sandy play area of this park.  I was standing under a tree supervising my son to the edge of the play area.  My beautiful well-behaved dog was on a lead and resting peacefully.  I had just had to intervene in some over zealous play where kids were getting hurt and wanted to stay nearby to stop it happening again.

All of a sudden, an unpleasant young man with some kind of clippy thing on his collars marched up to me and said he was from the council. He told me I was committing a criminal offence being in the park with my dog. I replied I wasn’t aware of this, I’ve been going to the park since my son was very young and people always take their dogs in there. I asked him to show me the sign. He did, but it was a small sign, low down and wrapped around a post near an entrance that I had not used (evidenced by my fitness tracker).  The sign was unclear, and I told him so. I wear varifocal glasses and even if I had used that entrance, the sign was low down and in my fuzzy area of vision.

He was demanding my name and address to issue me with a fine.  I asked what law I had broken and what the fine was, both questions that he did not know the answer to.   I refused to give my name to a stranger and asked to see his ID with his name on it. He refused and eventually showed me it, with his name and the company he worked for covered up. By this time I felt there was something not right so I started videoing him.

I continued to refuse to give my details to a stranger. He claimed to be from Nuneaton and Bedworth Council but was not in a uniform and he would not show me ID. Council employees are obliged to do both.

So he called for a colleague. I explained my situation as a vulnerable adult and continued to refuse to give them my name. The second guy showed me an exercise book from the council which he claimed was his ID and read me what he claimed to be a street caution and told me he would call the police. I said fine, I will give my name to a uniformed officer but not to a stranger with no ID who was going to keep my details very unsafely in a notebook. I waited for half an hour, the police didn’t turn up, it was dinner time and I needed to get my son home so we just left.  The older man followed me back to the car and my son photographed him in the car park as we drove away.

Watch the video. I have edited out members of the public and my son.

The older man claims that most people in the park are probably vulnerable adults – in which case he should not be approaching any of them. Guidelines are that they should not give fines to vulnerable adults.  He openly laughs when I tell him I am a victim of domestic abuse and stalking.

He lied about how they did not carry ID – I had already seen the first mans ID, although key details were concealed. 

Nuneaton and Bedworth council have very clear guidelines to how their staff must treat customers. See the “style of service” section here.

I was so traumatised by this event that I spoke to my safety team the next day.  They were extremely concerned and told me that I absolutely had done the right thing by videoing and refusing to give my personal protected details to a  stranger.  They called the council on my behalf and the council were unaware of the dog exclusion order in the park.  They also stated that the men were NOT employed by the council  as they had claimed and that council employees always wore uniforms and carried ID.  They advised me to call the police.

By this time, given my history, I was extremely distressed.  The police investigated for me and came back to me with a crime number.

These men are employed by a firm called NSL.  They have no more right than you or me to approach people and demand their personal sensitive details.  They have no right to detain anyone and the caution that they read is a scare tactic.  They are low paid jumped up parking attendants trained in intimidation tactics.

You are NOT obliged to give your personal details to anyone.  A quick google search reveals that they are NOT allowed to use the DVLA database to look up your details unless you are littering, dog fouling or flyposting.

My son and I have taken days to recover from this alarming incident and I am posting it here to educate you, and to let people of Nuneaton a) be aware of the new dog exclusion zone and b) about the scare tactics that NSL ON BEHALF OF NUNEATON AND BEDWORTH COUNCIL are employing.

I have friends in Nuneaton, NONE of whom were aware that dogs no longer are allowed in the sandy area.  The friend I met up with goes there daily with her children and says that people bring their pets in there all the time.  The local newspapers have not informed residents of the exclusion.

Bully number two told me that the information is available “on the website”.  It is not.  The website provide a PDF form which must be downloaded to find out that the exclusion order was put in place from the 1st July 2017.  I would not have been able to find this out if a) I didn’t have the internet at home, b) be computer literate and c) know how  to open PDF files.  Many people do not have this privilege.

Do you check the website of the park you visit prior to every visit? No, I didn’t think so. The front page of the council’s website says NOTHING about it, nor any parks information.

Are you happy that un-uniformed men WITH NO ID are patrolling a children’s play area? Is this not a child protection issue?

If you are outraged by this incident, please share this.  You can contact Nuneaton and Bedworth Council here, or on twitter or on facebook.

I am calling on Nuneaton and Bedworth Council to:

  • To install clear and noticeable signs in areas where dogs are newly excluded.
  • The private companies employed to give the fines out need to be uniformed and carry ID, which they are willing to show.
  • That personal data is collected and stored in a secure encrypted manner. Data protection does not protect victims of domestic violence, where personal details are known to the perpetrators.
  • That employees of Nuneaton and Bedworth Council and anyone contracted to work for them  are mandated to treat members of the public in the style of service that is promised to us within the document “Customer service and complaints policy” here.
  • That a first warning be given before any fines are levied.

 

 

19 Mar

The Yin and Yang saga…

Following my previous posts about my HMRC Working Tax Credits situation, I have had a promptish reply to my Mandatory Reconsideration appeal.  From the reply they have clearly done nothing but cast a cusory glance over the information that I sent them.  The have glanced at it, ticked or crossed whatever boxes they have, and stayed with thier original decision.

Since talking about my situation I have learned that I am far from the only person that this is happening to.  Tax Credits seem to be targeting self employed people – I suppose we are nice easy targets for them to knock of the government expenditure bill.  I wonder what happens to the other people.  Myself – it has definitely affected my health adversely, so I could claim ESA, but that would take months and involve degrading assessments where assesors routinely ask claimants questions such as “why haven’t you killed yourself?”.  This has recently been exposed by the media but friends have verified that such questioning is standard.

My alternative would be Jobseekers Allowance, but I work too much to find the time to jump through the hoops required to qualify for thier contract.  I have had experience with DWP staff and the experience is always difficult, stressful and degrading.

What this means for me is that my son and I will be living in poverty for a lot longer.  The law is on my side, but they have failed to undersand the nature of my business or –  I might be so bold as to state – of any business even.  I have to appeal to an independent tribunal who I am relying upon to be a little more educated on the matter.  I have been informed that the tribunal can take between four to eight months to be heard.  That takes us to November.  It’s a good job I have a food bank I can use bi-weekly here.

Part one of the saga is written here, in the Ying and Yang of life and part two here, in I, Daniel Blake.

 

 

26 Feb

I, Daniel Blake

I, ShoeDoodles

And so the saga continues.  In The Yin and Yang of Life I mused how incredibly bad and painful situations can also bring out amazing light and kindness.  That people who I know and people who I don’t – people who are not even family and have no ties to me – can show such incredible kindness and love has brought me to tears many times.  One minute I can be sobbing in despair on the kitchen floor, the next my eyes are streaming and my heart is full of hope.  That anyone could even care that much about little old flawed me is kind of mind blowing.

A couple of days ago I watched I, Daniel Blake.  You must have heard of the film, it has been much talked about and highly acclaimed.  It’s ironic that the people that the film is about are unable to afford to go to the cinema to watch it (like me).  It’s probably better that way, because it broke my heart right from the first few scenes with it’s very true to life situations and characters.   I should advise – if you haven’t already seen it – that if you have ever been unemployed or sick or have ever been through the welfare system in any way you might choose not to watch it unless you are totally healed and buoyantly happy.

That set my mental health back a few days. I might add that Katie, when she was hungry and went to the food bank and then chose to follow her alternative career path was already at least sixty quid a week better off than me since my tax credits were completely cut.   She would still have been in receipt of her child tax credits – the payments meant to keep your children fed and clothed.

Working and child tax credits are two payments – the working element is paid if you work for 16 or more hours a week and the child ones are received by (as far as I know) by anyone with a child and below a minimum income.  In my case, the working tax credits were cut (apparently I have not earned enough – go figure) and my child tax credits were cut to pay back the alleged “overpayment”.  Katie would have had circa £100 a week still coming in (still not enough for a secure healthy life for three people).  I have less.

Daniel’s situation was one I am trying to avoid. The CAB suggested that I apply for jobseekers allowance or ESA.  I work too much for jobseekers and even before I watched the film I was aware of the hoops that poorly people are expected to jump through for ESA.  My health condition would mean I was eligible but I am not strong enough to fight unqualified assessors and I don’t have enough money for endless phone calls and trips to assessment centres.

I had a letter through on the Thursday, telling me I was allowed hardship payments. There was no mention of how much, or for how long, or with what frequency, or whether or not they are a payment or a loan.  So I checked my bank account and found £65.  I also found out that my broadband and phone direct debit had gone out and it was £10 dearer than expected, so I didn’t dare make another phone call to find out more.

So I’ve been allowed £65 for the past three weeks.  My phone calls to HMRC to find out what was going on cost £10.   I topped up my mobile £5 to make calls when my credit ran out.  I’ve sent two letters to HMRC (the first one didn’t go to the correct office), and three to my local council to beg council tax assistance.  I’ve sent another the the NHS to apply for help with my prescriptions because I realised that if my tax credits had stopped, so would my free prescriptions, opticians and dentist. Six recorded delivery letters at £1.72 makes £10.32.

So out of that £65, I had £39.68 left after the essential spends associated with this termination of my income.  This is without counting my loss of business that I have incurred with the effects that it has had on my mental and physical well-being, which is ongoing.  I also learned from the film that there is no time limit on a “mandatory consideration”, the appeal process that I have started.

You might be wondering why I am airing my dirty laundry in public.  It is embarassing to be this poor. It is heartbreaking to explain to your child that you can no longer afford things they would like to do.   If I can tell my story and help one person, it will be worth it.  What cauuses me great outrage is that HMRC can  get away with making families hungry and cold and yet companies like Vodafone and Goldman Sachs have tax debt written off.  People need to know what is happening!

Thousands of normal working families like me have sent HMRC tax credits timely and accurate information and have found that they suddenly and inexplicably owe thousands of pounds of debt.  We are shown no calculations or reasons for this, we just get a letter one day telling us “tough luck mate, we worked it out wrong and we are taking it back”.

Tax avoiders cos this country billions of pounds and working families have no choice but to be devastated by the miscalculations of the far away civil servants.

I am trying to be positive and am going to do my best to start creating again tomorrow, though I am actually scared of the post at the moment.  I’m hoping postie doesn’t call and I can start the week with a clear head.  I’ve got so much to do, and so much to finish and make and I’m still in limbo.  My cupboards are at least full enough thanks to some amazing local food banks (the three families waiting together just in my group were ALL working families) .  I can only wait now.

UPDATE: I have had a letter now that tells me I am to receive £65 a week until April, after which time we will receive £57 a week.  For two people.  Apparently it is because (I deduced, from reading many websites on the appeals process, because they haven’t told me directly) in the year when I was being stalked and had to change my business and set up a new one, I over estimated my income and as a result of that, they are taking back over £3,000 from me.   How can this even make sense?  It’s like a “small print” clause they do not publicise.  I was careful to share all my information with them in a timely and honest manner and have been punished for it.

20 Feb

The Yin and Yang of life

Recently I have studied a little about the Tao Te Ching, just out of interest, and then had the most perfect example of Tajitu (yin/yang) happen in my own life, as if to prove the wisdom of the ancient Taoist text.

When people see things as beautiful,
ugliness is created.
When people see things as good,
evil is created.

Being and non-being produce each other.
Difficult and easy complement each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low oppose each other.
Fore and aft follow each other.

I’m not sure if this post is about Tajitu, or the evil of the English government, or the goodness of people.  I will let you decide.

It’s fairly well known in the UK that our current government has been successful in it’s campaign in conjunction with the mainstream media to demonise the poor and divide society so that it can dismantle the welfare state that Harry Leslie Smith and his generation of people fought and died for.  The current Conservative government  promised to not cut Working Tax Credits but in reality have done so by freezing the amounts that working families receive so that they fall in relation to inflation.  In  2014 rules were introduced to rule out people who were claiming that their hobbies were a business and then receiving Working Tax credits.  The criteria in brief was that the business must be HMRC registered and carried out with the aim of making a profit.

ShoeDoodles started in 2015.  Previously to this date, I worked as a blogger and web designer and had a limited company but a stalker tracked me down using this information and forced me to close the business.  I had painted a few pairs of shoes for friends to say thank you for help and support and somebody suggested I set up an Etsy shop, because my work was good.  So I did, and to my surprise I got some orders, and some more orders and here I am today, with many happy customers, all over the world and my painting is better than ever.

The income is variable and I have not found a way to predict when the next sale is coming through.  I use Etsy, Facebook, BigCartel, Twitter and Instagram and have only recently started blogging again after the horrific on and offline stalking campaign which resulted in the stalker being put into prison, but that hasn’t stopped him.  I am still being watched, and it is still traumatic.

I was, up until four weeks ago – and like pretty much every working parent I know in the UK – receiving  Tax credits to top up my low income.  Then they stopped.  No letter, no reason.  One week I had money to pay bills with and feed my son, the next week, with no warning, it was gone.  After a morning on the telephone I discovered that I had been overpaid and they had stopped my entire regular income to pay themselves back.  No figures were given to me, no criteria, no in-depth explanation about where I had gone wrong and what I had done to deserve this brutal removal of my financial lifeline.

As a survivor of domestic abuse  I was further abused for six years via the family courts, and during this time, also stalked, constantly online and offline too, with numerous breaches of non molestation and restraining orders.  I have PTSD and chronic anxiety from this that had just started to vanish after a year of relative peace and self care.  The savage and incomprehensible removal of my Tax Credits immediately triggered my PTSD, reminded me of when I lost my job and went hungry while I was pregnant, and I am still down that difficult hole right now.

Just as I thought I had managed to begin to make a secure and stable life for my son at last, the government swept it away from under my feet with no comprehensible explanation.  I can only guess – because nobody can tell me – that ShoeDoodles has been misrepresented as a hobby in the minds of one or two civil servants who have little business knowledge and the power to destroy lives at the click of a button.

My creative spark was wiped out immediately as I fought to convince a stranger that my intentions were not to mess around with shoes as a hobby but to build a sustainable business that my son and I could run together for the rest of our lives.  I certainly would not put this much effort into a hobby!  In the past, web design was my hobby.  I went to university and ended up doing an MSc in Computing because f this “hobby”.  I have taught e-commerce and BTec Business.  I am still learning now, I have t be because the online world is constantly evolving.  I have now done all that I can do, and I can only sit here and  wait until someone who doesn’t know me or care about me and my amazing son makes the decision to keep us in poverty or restore us some dignity.

But I’m not looking for sympathy, not for me.  I’m a warrior and a survivor and I am using this tale to urge you to help others.  My story is very common – I found out this almost immediate.  Families have been left without money, immediately and with little recourse by civil servants following orders from the cruel British government.  The rise in food bank use tells our stories pretty well and I was lucky to be eligible for a voucher this week and received a very generous gift from them that will keep us from starving for way more than the three days it was intended.

Thank you Trussell Trust and to everyone who donates too.  The British media have done a great job also of demonising food bank users as drug addicts or people who cannot manage their money properly but I can assure you that this is not true.  Nobody I saw looked addicted and I know – and you do too now – that when you live on the breadline,  one click of a key in an office far away can destroy you, one emergency can destroy you.

They are only following orders….In Mein Kampf, Hitler stated “This art is the sick production of crazy people. Pity the people who are no longer able to control this sickness”.  Is my art and online business model misunderstood?  Is England a fascist state? I would like you to consider and question this, and the artificially created divisions that are apparent in the UK in 2017.

In this period of deep dark despair though, rays of sunshine  have broken through the heavy cloying, irritating smog that has filled my body and brain.  My son’s Godmother was the first stroke of luck , offering cash to help her out with some work, so we ate for another week. Vicky, Jo, Paul and my Dad, all helped make sure my direct debits didn’t bounce this month.  Linda sent me a ton of oat milk and other vegan goodies, and I don;t even know her! Aurora, Divita and Patsy all offered invaluable support and advice and pointed me towards places to go so that I can feed myself and my son.  Elaine listened and bought us a meal and took my mind off things that first impossible weekend.  Lowenna offered me space in The Pretty Pigsty.  Mum, who bakes us home fresh bread every week and gives us food treats. I am humbled by the help and generosity of all these people, some of whom are mainly “internet friends” and people who I know are struggling badly themselves.  One, is a complete stranger, only recently off the streets himself.

I’ve also become an ambassador for an amazing food sharing app that connects you with local people – I’ve met some lovely people already and had the good fortune to try home made pickles and home grown squash! It’s amazing!  If you haven’t already, download Olio and help to share food “waste”.

Maybe, I concluded, you have to have experienced true darkness yourself before you can find the light in your heart to help others without judgement or hidden agenda.  Or maybe you are just born with it.  I am blessed to have the ultimate in human kindness in my son (aka Funny Funky Doodles – he can design you a bag or some shoes as well).  At age seven, he emptied his purse and made me take all of his coins.  He told me “I don’t need classes Mum, all I need is love”.  With an angel like this in my life, the light will always be present.

His words are so perfect, I made them into a backpack bag (34*43cm).  This natural cotton bag is an unique one-off item and costs £30 including free waterproofing and UK postage.




all i need is love bag

25 Jan

Hello world

Hi everyone!

Welcome to ShoeDoodles’  new blog.  A customer, over Christmas, asked about me, who I am, a little about my life and so it occurred to me that a way to answer questions such as this might be to begin a brand new shiny blog and then you can read it and find out about the intricacies of the ShoeDoodles household, our interests, life, and anything else that might crop up along the way.

So here we are, at the beginning of 2017, and at this moment in time I am:

  • a whole life unschooling mother
  • an artist
  • a vegan
  • an animal lover
  • a believer in a fair and equal society

I love my work and beleive I have finally found my calling in life.  The happiness I feel from my customers makes my heart shine like sunshine.  My son is amazing and inspires, supports and lifts me every day and everything I do is to make his life as happy as humanly possible.  Our pets (one dog, one snake and two gerbils) are all rescued animals and make our home even more full of love.

So, readers, what else do you need to know?