Monday, 21 May 2018

Come do some cocktails in Turtle Bay

Life is short, and so is money, so there's two good reasons to come for happy hour in Manchester's Turtle Bay restaurant. Manchester Cool Bars are dropping in at 10pm for 2-4-1 cocktails this Friday.

No plans yet for Saturday or Bank Holiday Sunday night, but Sunday afternoon is Writers Connect time. I need your feedback on some poems! Join us at Nexus at 1pm.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Goldie Cheung and the Lovesick Aliens

A quiet week. Goldie Cheung from X-Factor follows me on Twitter. Jemma Lucy from Ex on the Beach liked my tweet. I had to cancel a meetup because only one other person RSVPd. Probably for the best, seeing as I'm fast running out of money. I have some interesting Throwback Thursday stuff to share from an ageing relative.

I read Lovesick, a standalone Aliens comic I got from Oldham Comic Con. A great short story about spurned love, infatuation, and xenomorphs. I have more comic material in the pipeline.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Citizen's Advice help to Untangle the Mess of the British Benefits System

I moved out in 2010. When I did, I was working with Social Services, attempting to get on DLA and Working Tax Credits, working with Housing Support (although they did nothing until my parents and I practically forced them to teach me how to unblock a sink), I was employed through the Work Choice scheme and was receiving advice from Ways to Work, a head injury charity. Some of this support was more helpful than other parts, but helpful or not, each one was bombarding me with paperwork. I was buying a lever-arch file a month and stuffing each one stupidly quickly.

After a few months, though, things started to settle and I'd managed to get a certain grip on problems with work, benefits, my flat and my memory. They were all still challenges, but they weren't as utterly chaotic as they were in the first year.

Recently, after my DLA was stopped and I had to fight to get PIP, and subsequently (and dubiously) lost my WTC, I have had to fight and fight to find out why I lost these benefits and why HMRC are demanding a three-figure sum from me. I'm currently working with Citizen's Advice and these issues are under review from the government.

This ongoing debacle hasn't, so far, resulted in a great deal other than a threat of a visit from bailiffs. I've been to visit Citizen's Advice, as mentioned, and the woman working with me on this has been so much more helpful than the last few people that I've worked with- most of whom have sent me out of the meetings empty-handed.

TJ, as we'll call her, contacted HMRC on my behalf. She managed to get more information out of them in one 15-minute phone call than I got in hours spent on the phone to them. Apparently HMRC sent me a TC818 letter that I didn't see, and if I'd responded to this my WTC would have been reinstated. At no point in the numerous phone calls I'd made to HMRC did anyone mention this form.

TJ asked for a transcript of all the calls I'd made to HMRC. (We're waiting on this.) This government department, she explained, had a duty of care to explain to me what was happening with my benefits. Suffice to say, they fell way below attaining that. We've decided to put in a complaint. While this is happening, the demand for £416 in on hold: this overpayment has now been handed over to a debt recovery company. So not only did I have to chase HMRC (who are still claiming the overpayment is 'correct'), I had to phone Advantis Debt Collection Centre to explain that my case is under review and that I have a future appointment with a Welfare Rights officer again, and that I needed the case to be put on hold.

Apparently it's the benefit recipient's responsibility to report changes 'within a month'- even if the change comes from within HMRC's own offices. I had no idea of this, which is essentially why my income has plummeted over the last year and why I'm being threatened with debt recovery. At the time of my DLA being stopped, I had no idea that it was the DLA that was making me eligible for WTC, so it would never have occurred to me to phone them to tell them that. Apparently their systems (DLA, PIP and WTC) 'don't talk to each other.'

Advantis have put my case on hold until 16th June. In the meantime I've talked to Early Help, the first team you deal with if you attempt to get Social Services support. EH have palmed me back off to Welfare Rights, who they say should be able to advocate for me. I'd rather Citizens Advice did, though, as TJ was a great help. When I'd been to WR they'd sent me out empty handed, telling me to get more hours work. EH have said they'll look into Work Choice, a scheme I used to be employed under. The company that were administering Work Choice under the coalition government was Pure Innovations, and they were superb. They helped me with all sorts- benefits, workplace issues, a negligent Social Worker and any other issue that got in the way of them doing their job. I've been trying to find out who's running this scheme, and covering Oldham, but nobody seems to know.

It's all well and good telling someone to get more work, but if their current employer won't give them more hours and they need flexibility, and the individual has short term memory difficulties and requires patience and understanding from an employer- not to mention hours that fit around the current job- it's easier said than done.

So yeah, that's where I'm up to. In a few years, I'm hoping, I'll look back on this post in amazement that the Tory government could be so callous to people who are willing to work hard for their own money, and are only asking for some basic assistance. This is 2018 in the UK.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Steph Ledigo's Birthday Party / Go:PR launch

Sunday afternoon, 13th May- I tore myself out of bed after a night in Deansgate Locks to drop into Neighbourhood in Spinningfields for Stephanie Ledigo's birthday party. Steph, founder and MD of the newly-rebranded Go:PR, invited me, others and a host of famous people for afternoon drinks at the launch.

After attending a few Ledigo events over the last few months I've found I can now spot a few familiar friendly faces who are regular attendees. The atmos is always welcoming, and the celebs and non-celebs are always open to chat to new people. There were a few famous faces that I didn't get to say hi to: Lee Ryan from Blue, Nikki Sanderson formerly from Coronation St and now Hollyoaks, Steph Waring from Hollyoaks, and Callum Best, son of footballer George, to name a few. I did, however, bump into Lauren Simon from Real Housewives of Cheshire...

...Alex Bowen from Love Island S2...

All cool people.


Extra cheese

The birthday girl
A fun afternoon. Can't wait for the next event!

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Oldham Comic Con '18

The Oldham Comic Con event returned for a second year at Oldham Library. Last year's was a lot smaller and less well-attended, but was put together well enough to convince me to return. No free 2000AD comic this time, but I found a few decent comics and graphic novels on sale, that I didn't come across last time.

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I wish I'd talked to Carlos Ezquerra. The co-creator of Judge Dredd is responsible for one of the cheesiest, most enjoyable 90's action movies, and a movie I fondly remember watching on a ferry when I was only 13. How I blagged that I don't know.

Carlos Ezquerra, creator of Judge Dredd

I hope he comes back next year, and the third event is bigger and better.


Anthony Johnson, creator of Atomic Blonde

Monday, 14 May 2018

Come Try Some Cocktails in Tattu

On the blog: a comic convention, a new bar, a PR launch, a load of celebs and a potential interview in a magazine.

In the city: I've finally organised for Manchester Cool Bars to drop into Tattu, the Chinese bar and restaurant. Although it's mostly known for its incredible Asian cuisine, the ground floor bar also serves up some of the most amazing cocktails. I've been meaning to put together a night out to go do check these out. I got around to it yesterday. Luxurious d├ęcor, quiet deep house music, and, last time I was there, friendly people propping up the bar.

Get involved!

Sunday, 13 May 2018

A Beautiful Launch of A Beautiful Event

Wednesday night saw the launch of Hale signmaking firm A Beautiful Event, offering 'a range of personalised products from our workshop in Cheshire, with over 500 gorgeous products.'

The night, held at the traditional but classy Victor's restaurant in Hale, was organised by Go PR events and kick-started with a complimentary glass of champagne and a doughnut. Cannot complain!

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In attendance: MTV presenter Jess Impiazzi, and Anthony Quinlan who plays Pete Barton in Emmerdale and previously Gilly Roach in Hollyoaks. Also:

A good atmos with some familiar friendly faces from other Ledigo PR / GO:PR events.