Couple who found love on the streets homeless again after ‘being set up to fail’

Toni Swyer, 44, and Mark Hilton, 42, are back living in a doorway in Hull, and they blame cruel benefit cuts

Toni Swyer, 44, and Mark Hilton, 42, are back living on the streets, just weeks after being given a new start

A couple who found love while living on the streets have said cruel benefit cuts forced them out of their new home, and they are now back living on cardboard boxes.

Toni Swyer, 44, and Mark Hilton, 42, are back living in a doorway in Hull, and their desperate plight has even led to an apparent accidental drug-taking in the search for a few moments of comfort.

“We don’t touch drugs,” Toni told the Hull Daily Mail . “But on Thursday Mark picked up a cigarette tab from the floor to smoke. It must have had Spice or something in it because he started frothing at the mouth. “I had to fetch him an ambulance. I was worried. The paramedics were treating him over there, on the benches.”

The couple rely on the generosity of passersby, some surprised to see them back at square one, for food and clothing to keep them alive in bone-chilling temperatures.

They had both endured years of hardship, but finally believed they had stumbled on their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow when they were given the keys to a house in February.

However, they say their benefits were suddenly stopped and they could no longer afford to pay their rent or bills, forcing them back onto the streets, to the same doorway. Heartbroken Toni, who also goes by the surname Fairburn, said: “Life is cruel. It’s like we have been set up to fail.

“We really thought we had turned a corner, improved our lives, now here we are back in the same doorway. “They’ve told us we didn’t show up for medicals in Stanley Street but we never got a letter or anything. We’ve tried ringing the benefits people but we’ve heard nothing.”

Tory minister admits benefit cuts ‘may well’ have led to increase in rough sleeping
Toni told of the grim reality of being a rough sleeper in Hull, desperately trying to keep warm and warding off dealers. “It’s really cold,” she said. “Especially at night. It’s freezing. “It makes you feel down, depressed, like you’ve nothing.”

Mark, who has been homeless intermittently since the age of 13, said: “A guy came up to us the other day and said you can’t be homeless – you’ve both got bikes. But they were given to us. “No one seems to care about us. It’s all about the fat cats in this world.

Prior to moving into their home, Toni and Mark had found respite in a derelict building that had been turned into a squat by a group calling themselves Activists For Love. The couple spent 42 days in the building, before MRC Lettings, which owns the building, found homes for all ten of the squatters.

MRC Lettings could not be contacted for comment owing to the Easter break.

However, Michelle Clark, the company’s operational director, previously said: “We worked with a great number of charities in Hull and we all pulled together to offer homes with necessary support packages in place, which will enable those who were homeless to continue on the journeys they had started on.”



Department of Work and Pensions slammed by grieving father after benefits cut

A FATHER had his benefits cut as his son’s sudden death was deemed not a good enough reason for missing a medical assessment.

Geoffrey Williams, who receives Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), was due to have an assessment on 15 February but was unable to attend as he mourned the death of his 24-year-old son Leon just over two weeks before.

The 50-year-old, currently living with his brother in Rimini Road, said he called the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) four times to confirm he was in Northamptonshire with family following his son’s sudden death and that they were understanding to his situation.

But when asked to put his reasons for missing the assessment in writing, he then failed to receive his payment on 22 February and when he appealed the action, he received a letter on 7 March saying he had “not shown good cause for failing to attend the medical assessment” and that he was no longer entitled to ESA.

The department has apologised to Mr Williams but he said the experience caused him distress and while he has accepted the apology, he believes it should not have happened.

He said: “I’m still not satisfied, the apology was OK but I still want to get my point across [that] it is out of order [that] they could stop someone’s payments when it is something as bad as a death, especially the death of my son. “It has caused distress and added to what’s happened already.

“If it was ‘my car had broken down’ and it hadn’t, I understand that is not a good enough reason, but this is a totally different ball game.” Mr Williams put in a complaint to DWP after receiving his rejection letter, but one day after the DWP’s refusal, he was sent a payment on 8 March.

The letter from the DWP rejecting Mr Williams’ appeal read: “I am unable to change/revise the decision dated 22 February. This is because you have not shown good cause for failing to attend the medical assessment on 15 February. Therefore you are not entitled to Employment and Support Allowance.

“You requested a Mandatory Reconsideration of this decision because you disagree with the decision. In your request you stated you did not attend the assessment because your son died in January and the funeral will take place in April.

“As you have not provided any supporting evidence to support your statement and because you have previously failed to attend a number of assessment appointments in the past 12 months. I am unable to change the previous decision.”

Since contacting the DWP, the department told The Advertiser it has apologised to Mr Williams and reinstated his claim.

A spokesperson said: “We have apologised to Mr Williams for the distressed caused, and have reimbursed him in full.” YEAH SURE THEY HAVE 


Shocking death of sick man who lost his benefits

Brother tells inquest how ‘perilous’ stress brought on seizures

Stephen Braithwaite, died after seizure and fall
 A MAN suffering from epilepsy, liver and lung disease who had trouble walking saw his disability benefits withdrawn up until a few months before his death.

Stephen Braithwaite, 59, died at his Canonbury home after taking an accidental overdose of painkillers to cope with broken ribs sustained during a suspected seizure.

His family say he should not have been deemed “fit to work” by the Department for Work and Pensions.

This week, Islington South Labour MP Emily Thornberry, who has campaigned against the government’s welfare reforms, condemned the situation Mr Braithwaite found himself in and warned of the “large holes in Britain’s safety net”.

Mr Braithwaite was an important figure in Islington’s squatting scene in the late 1970s helping house dozens of people. His younger brother Matthew, 54, told an inquest at St Pancras Coroner’s Court on Monday that his brother had fallen into “major” rent arrears at his council-owned home following the loss of disability benefits before his death in November.

He told the inquest: “The stress could bring on his seizures, as corroborated by his doctor. It was a most perilous situation [he was in]. The stress was palpable.” Mr Braithwaite had collapsed after suffering a seizure at Jobcentre Plus, in Barnsbury Road, during his weekly “signing on” in August 2016 to receive Job Seeker’s Allowance, which was less than £70 a week.

The inquest heard how Mr Braithwaite suffered from liver disease, epilepsy (following a severe bleed in the brain after a fall in 2012), high blood pressure, mobility issues and chronic lung disease. He was a recovering drug addict and relied on a walking stick, needing to take frequent breaks when walking.

Stephen’s brothers, Matthew and Chris

His employment and support allowance (ESA), a disability benefit he had received for three years, was stopped two months before he collapsed at the Jobcentre and was only partially reinstated a few months before his death. He had previously worked as an antiques trader in Camden Passage and as a chef in the East End.

Ms Thornberry, whose constituency covers the Jobcentre where Mr Braithwaite collapsed, said: “This is a shocking incident. A mark of a civilised country is how it treats those who are down on their luck. The safety net in Britain has large holes in it through which too many Islington people fall. And it gets worse month after month.

“If people are too sick to work, they should be supported and treated with dignity, not forced to look for a job.”

Matthew Braithwaite told the Tribune after the inquest: “He was told that he had lost his disability benefits on a Saturday afternoon, which stunned him. He was desperately unwell.

“At the Jobcentre they told him they didn’t care about doctor’s certificates and he could still work. “One of workers told him: ‘Unless you’ve got limbs falling off, and you’re in this office, we think you’re fit for work.’” A similar thing was said to my husband [by the DWP] they said: Even if you are a double amputee, you’ll be found “fit” for work

Matthew added: “It was all very cynical and callous. The Jobcentre made it so difficult for people to appeal. You have to get it done within a month, which was very overwhelming. I helped him with the appeal and managed to complete it within the month, but they said nothing had changed.”

He said his brother was found fit to work by “healthcare professionals” at the Jobcentre, contracted private workers who decide whether individuals are entitled to disability benefits.

“They are not state registered nurses. How can they decide if people can work? None of them could help him after his seizure and another person signing on had to put him in the recovery position before the paramedics arrived,” said Matthew.

The inquest heard how Stephen was found doubled in pain by his brother after he fell during another suspected seizure at his home in Englefield Road on November 6.

He refused to go to hospital and instead took a series of painkillers. Although Matthew checked on his brother in the night, he found him unresponsive in the morning. Paramedics declared Mr Braithwaite dead at the scene.

A pathology report read out at the inquest said Mr Braithwaite had lethal levels of painkillers in his blood alongside a non-lethal level of heroin. He was also found to have broken ribs from his fall.

Coroner Edwin Buckett gave the cause of death as “drug related” and said Mr Braithwaite had not intended to take his life.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “Our thoughts are with Mr Braithwaite’s family. When making a decision for ESA we consider all of the evidence that’s available at the time, including any information provided by the individual and their GP or medical specialist.”


The DWP are now attacking kids!

How long will it be before kids are forced to work for nothing on workfare?

McVey: Teenagers should take on Saturday jobs to prepare them for world of work

Esther McVey said there had been a fall of up to 60% in youngsters with weekend employment.

Esther McVey insisted she did not believe youngsters were “lazy” but warned there had been a fall of up to 60% in the numbers with weekend jobs. But she suggested the government also remains concerned about intergenerational fairness and said changes to the retirement age is something ministers will “always have to talk about” because people are living longer.

Ms McVey said she worked in her family’s business and a bistro when she was still in education. She said some of the drop in numbers of young people doing the same may be down to an increased focus on school work but it means they do not always have the “soft skills” needed for employment.

What you’ve seen from the 1980s, particularly in this country, is far fewer people doing Saturday jobs and doing jobs after school. Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey

Ms McVey told The Daily Telegraph: “Lets not put ourselves down, we’ve got a very hard working nation, we’ve now got record numbers of people in employment and nine out of 10 are UK nationals doing those jobs, that has increased significantly.

“But what we’ve got to make sure we do for business leaders is to say we’ve got to support you, we’ve got to make sure we’ve got the right people you want to employ going into your business.

“What you’ve seen from the 1980s, particularly in this country, is far fewer people doing Saturday jobs and doing jobs after school.

“It’s about people understanding what a boss wants and what you want out of a job and I think we’ve come a long way in supporting people in that and that’s why you’ve seen more people getting employed and more British people getting employment.”

Ms McVey indicated the means-testing of universal pensioner benefits is still on agenda, according to the newspaper. “We will always have to talk about retirement age because we are all living longer,” she said. “That’s part of the conversation that started in 2010 and it’s important, but before we make any decisions to change anything we need to know how [universal benefits] are utilised, how people appreciate them and need them, so it will be part of a bigger general discussion.”

Ms McVey became a target for abuse when she was a junior minister in the Department for Work and Pensions after defending cuts to benefits and making controversial comments about foodbanks and she later lost her seat in the 2015 election.

She said shadow chancellor John McDonnell demeaned her when he repeated comments that called for her to be lynched.

“He’s the only person who still thinks he shouldn’t apologise,” she said.


A Thought About Priorities…


  • How many school dinners would £30 million buy?
  • How many domestic violence victims can it help?
  • How many homeless could it home?
  • How much social care could it give?
  • How many disabled could it help?
  • How many bedroom tax victims could it help?


Revealed: ‘£30m’ security operation for Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s wedding at Windsor Castle

It seems the money tree never stops giving to some.


Image result for IMAGES OF MONEY TREE

Yesterday Google announced its UK tax bill. Frankly it’s an insult John McDonnell source

Department for Work and Pensions postpones new nasty for poverty stricken pensioners until 2019


The Department of Work and Pensions has put back harsh plans to change the rules for new claimants for pension credit from next June to sometime next year.

The decision not to implement savings that could lead to  tens of thousands of elderly people having to live on half the money paid out by pensioner credit is not motivated by a change of heart on a heartless measure.

It is because of incompetence and failure by the ministry itself to roll out another major benefit called universal credit – which replaces a whole series of benefits – on time. This was supposed to be nationwide by June this year. But the civil servants who planned it failed in their job – despite collecting bonuses worth £20,000 on top of six figure salaries for introducing the new benefit. You can read all about it in my blog last year here.

So now instead the benefit will not be rolled out across the country until the end of December 2018. The proposed timetable is here– and you can see which local area changes when.

Of course the department has not announced the delay to the new pension credit cuts until I contacted them to check the date. Rather like they forgot tell 3.9 million  women pensioners about the rise in the pension age until some 14 years later.

A spokesman told me:

“The timetable for the introduction of any policy changes will be determined by the roll out of universal credit – this change will not now be implemented this year.”

The measure as I reported earlier is particularly harsh if there is a big age difference between pensioner couples – with one say years younger than the other.

Previously the law said when the oldest person in a relationship reached pension age  they qualified for pension credit. Now it is being changed to the youngest person in the relationship reaching pension age. This means if there were a 10 year difference – the oldest person could get no pension credit payment until they were 76 – ten years after the raised retirement age. On person has told me of a 17 year difference – meaning one of them would wait until they were 83.

What is as shocking is the department’s disclosure to me on how the new system is planning to work. When it comes in they are proposing both people in a couple apply for universal credit when there is an age difference between the two- and only one is over 65. The change is devastating.

If you are on pension credit these are the rates (per week) for 2017 – 18 and the proposed rate for 2018-19

Standard minimum guarantee
single £159.35  rising to £163.00
couple £243.25   rising to £248.80
Additional amount for severe disability
single £62.45  rising to£64.30
couple (one qualifies) £62.45 rising to £64.30
couple (both qualify) £124.90 rising to  £28.60

But when you switch to Universal Credit these are the rates for 2018-19 per month:

Single claimant 25 and over £317.82
Joint claimants, either/both 25 and over £498.89

This means a couple instead of receiving £995.20 for 4 weeks would see their income halved to £498.89 a month until both of them were over, by then, 66.

Furthermore the younger person in the marriage will be subject to benefit sanctions if they fail to continually seek work. This would cut their benefit compared to pension credit by two thirds to just £313.82 a month.

Notice there are no new rates for universal credit for 2018-19 as the benefit is frozen unlike pensioner credit which rises in line with pensions. This in theory could mean the people deprived of pension credit could be forced to live on a frozen benefit for years and see their living standards fall every year.

The DWP is being generous enough to say they would not force a person over 65 to seek work and sanction them if they don’t succeed. Presumably even Mr Opperman, the pensions minister, would not want to be seen trying to force a 77 year old into a job while he or she waits for pension credit.

Frankly  this is an appalling situation and I hope Backto60 people take this up as well as demanding their pension and try and put pressure on MPs to tell the government not to go ahead next year. This is a real and sustained attack on the poorest pensioners in the country and ministers should be ashamed of thinking of implementing it.

No care for the dying

reblogged from

I cannot explain adequately what it is like to be terminally ill. To be told that the thing that is causing you so much pain and trouble is unbeatable, that you have lost the fight and your time will soon be over. I cannot express the emotions. I’m not that good at writing. But, after talking with the other Walking Dead (our gallows humour name for my new found soon-to-die friends) it seems we all had the same thought the instant we were told – who will look after ‘X’ now? You see, we are all bread winners or primary carers and the idea that our loved ones, who rely on us for so much, are going to be alone and vulnerable terrifies us. It also makes us angry and ashamed. Angry at this thing is going kill us and ashamed that we are too pathetic to stop it. When you have to face mortality there are a hundred ways of doing so. And I’ve seen them all. Done some of them too, with the numerous false alarms I’ve had. You can’t avoid them when you are in waiting rooms and on wards where the words ‘Pallative Care’ are used. I should have died 2 years ago. They don’t know why I ain’t dead. They think its the chemo. I think its my hyperbolic rage* (* see Twitter) But there is something I have seen time and again that I can’t bounce back from and its something that I also wish I had the adequate skills and words to properly explain. When someone who is terminally ill is screwed over their benefits. Eighty terminally ill people a month are found to be ‘fit for work’ and go onto die within six weeks of that expert finding. And if that isn’t bad enough, more terminally ill people lose their benefits because they haven’t died quickly enough. When you are too ill to work it is horrific. When are too dying to work its even worse. The worry and self-loathing at being so inadequate is all consuming. I cannot tell you how bad. How will you eat? Pay bills, go out? And will ‘X’ eat, pay their bills, get what they need? Those benefits aren’t a necessity, they are a candle in the black, a spark of hope, one less worry that a dead man/woman has to carry. And then its taken away. It truly is a form of torture. People who should be spending what time they have left living now have to spend it fighting. Feeling even more pathetic, more inadequate, more ashamed and worst of all a terrible burden. The dying are a burden. You have NO idea how that feels. It is said that suicide rates among those on welfare have jumped incredibly high. I know it is true. If someone is dying and frightened, finding them fit-for-work says two things. 1) You are a burden on your family 2) You are a lying parasite. They cut Cancer benefits too. Now imagine how it feels when the State tells you that you need to hurry up and die. Because, they’ve spent money on you. And its not good enough that a parasite like you is still here. I (and 2 nurses) had to talk a 40 year old terminally ill man from suiciding after being told he hadn’t died and so was being punished. He was a burden to his suffering family, you see. They’d be better off if he was gone. I’ve held the old, the young and the middle-aged whilst their souls shatter. Not dead yet. Not dying enough. Not enough pain, not enough invalidity, not enough cancer. I hate the Tories. I really do mean that. It is the Tories who are doing this. And sometimes I hate you. Because you let them. I try to tweet this about this stuff. It might be my tweets are crap. Fair enough. But those tweets are completely ignored. Just as the torture of the terminally ill is normally ignored. We don’t have loud voices. We don’t have the energy to fight death and fight our torturers. And we are ignored. As I write this, Labour is fighting itself over Antisemitism. Started by a comment over a mural. People even marched. I would love to march. I would march for every forgotten soul killed and tortured by Tory policy. I would march for the 120000. And NO Labour MP or activist would march with me (confession – as I write this, I am actually crying. The betrayal that I feel, is more painful than the cancer eating my lungs) I remember there was a time when Labour MPs actually did bring our plight to the Commons. And the Tories laughed. They. Laughed. Centrists like Jess Phillips want us to hug a Tory. Its mature and adult she says. They. Laughed. At. The. Dying. Centrists like Stella Creasy rolled their eyes when someone said Tory policy was killing people. They. Have. Killed. 120000. Vulnerable. People. Centrists like Wes Streeting went on a march with Norman Tebbit and the DUP because of a commeny about a mural. He ignores every invitation by disabled activists to march with them. John Mann staged a fight with Ken Livingstone at the BBC. He blocked me, when I politely asked him to not abstain on a Welfare Bill that would harm my disabled brother. So did John Mann, Tom Watson and Rachel Reeves. Did I mention that I now loathe Centrist Labour MPs? I learned to. I didn’t before 2010. Whilst Labour fights over antiSemitism we go in to April Another 80+ people will die within 6 weeks of being found fit for work. Their last days on Earth will be filled with worry and stress about money and shame and self loathing. More disabled people will attempt suicide. A lot will be successful. Only their families and the coroner will notice. Labour won’t. The media will for a minute. But smearing the Labour Leader is more important. The Tories will laugh. Remainers tell me they aren’t voting Labour because of Brexit. They are proud that this will ensure another Tory government and teach Labour a lesson! It will certainly teach the dying a lesson. I don’t care much for remainers either. The Left are just as bad. They ignore us just as much. They want to fight over Brexit and deselections and anything other than what is happening to us. I don’t think Jeremy Corbyn knows we exist. Or are important enough to be in his manifesto. Even though the UK is the only country to be condemned by the UN for human rights abuses against the disabled. A disabled writer once likened our deaths to genocide and ethnic cleansing. I don’t care if you think it is hyperbole. I do often wonder if he was right. I also remember, when I was doing my degree, coming across a school exam from Germany 1938 Paraphrasing one of the questions, it asked ‘If the State has to pay X amount to keep a non-contributing, weak disabled person alive and there are X amount of these people burdening the State, how much would be saved for true Germans if there were no disabled people in Germany? Feel free to think me hysterical. I will be in the waiting room trying to comfort the latest victim of Tory Britain. Last week a lady was in the waiting room holding back tears. She had been found fit for work. She is dying. She told me she had voted Tory all her life. She wanted to know why were they doing this to us? I could have said lots of things. I gave her the truth. I don’t know. It hurts. And no one cares. By A.S 30/03/18 * Since I posted this on Twitter I have been overwhelmed by the love and support I have received. Let me say thank you and also, if you really want to make a difference please support and talk to these guys. @blacktriangle1 @dis_PPL_Protest They need your help. One last thing. A few years ago a young pundit caught my eye on BBC Question Time. He looked Iain Duncan Smith, the architect of our suffering, straight in the eye and read out to him a list of those who had died. IDS was furious, Dimbleby shot this pundit down but this young pundit did something no other had done in the media. Faced IDS down with what he was responsible for. His name is Owen Jones. Whether you agree with his politics or not, whether you like him or not, he is one of the few, the very few who ever spoke up for us. I owe him that recognition. Here is a bit of that moment