Here is a guest post from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, who on Thursday shut down High Riggs job centre in Edinburgh, in response to G4S security and job centre staff refusing a claimant his right to be accompanied to interview. There will be a solidarity demo tomorrow (Monday 14 Sept) at 9 am at High Riggs Jobcentre. If you’re not in Edinburgh, you can support the demo on Twitter using the hashtag #AdvocacyIsNotACrime. Recent reports about job centre bosses pressurising staff to sanction claimants make it more important than ever to support people who want to be accompanied at the job centre. Boycott Workfare will have new materials available soon to help you navigate, avoid, and resist Community Work Placements and other schemes
Update! Read about the success of ECAP’s response to the job centre here.
This direct action and solidarity won a tremendous victory as the DWP gave in and agreed that jobseeker Adam could be accompanied to his appointment by ECAP activist Mike, without the requirement to show any ID.
The original post from ECAP is here:
SOLIDARITY DEMO CALL FOR 9am MONDAY 14th SEPTEMBER AT HIGH RIGGS JOB CENTRE
The entire ground floor of Edinburgh’s High Riggs Jobcentre was closed down for almost three hours on 10th September as Jobcentre managers called in police and refused to permit a jobseeker to exercise his right to be accompanied to an appointment. Members of Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty defied threats of arrest and stayed in the jobcentre to support the claimant and the ECAP advocate.
Now ECAP are calling a solidarity demo for this Monday 14th at 9am at High Riggs Jobcentre, when the jobseeker, Adam, will attend his rearranged appointment, once more accompanied by an ECAP advocate. ECAP say: “We will not be intimidated by the DWP bullies, G4S security or the police. We will assert claimants’ right to be accompanied. The DWP themselves state: “Claimants accessing Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) benefits and services can have someone to accompany them to act on their behalf..””
We r blocked in High Riggs jobcentre in edinburgh police and g4s are denying our right to accompany 1 of our claimant pic.twitter.com/sgNohBzhFI
— ECAP ORG (@ecap_org) September 10, 2015
JOBCENTRE DENY RIGHTS
Jobseeker Adam had been called to the Jobcentre for an appointment to review his Jobseekers Agreement. Having suffered months of harrassment from the Jobcentre, who have been trying to force him onto workfare schemes, Adam asked ECAP rep Mike to come with him. Having that very morning received the distressing news that his brother was having to undergo a serious emergency operation, Adam asked Gerry, the Jobcentre adviser, if his review could be postponed and if he could just quickly sign on and go to the hospital to be with his brother.
The adviser completely ignored this request and instead aggressively demanded that ECAP rep Mike produce photographic ID to prove who he was. This despite the fact that Mike has not only attended dozens of interviews in High Riggs, including with senior managers, but had even accompanied Adam to an appointment with the same adviser, Gerry, very recently. When Mike replied that there was nothing requiring the provision of ID in the DWP documents which confirm the right to representation, Gerry stormed off. G4S security demanded the ECAP rep leave – he refused. Management called the police.
At this point ECAP members, who had been leafleting outside, entered the jobcentre to give solidarity to Adam and Mike, and demanded to speak with the manager. Soon police descended on the Jobcentre and the management closed off the entire ground floor. For some time the whole Jobcentre was shut, with steel door roller shutters barring claimants from entry. Despite frequent requests for a meeting, manager Linda Gibb refused any dialogue. Meanwhile members of ECAP’s solidarity network, alerted by an emergency call-out, gathered at the Jobcentre in growing numbers.
This incident follows the arrest of advocate Tony Cox at Arbroath Jobcentre where he was accompanying a vulnerable jobseeker. Supporters are due to besiege Forfar Sheriff Court when Scottish Unemployed Workers Network activist Tony faces trial on 13th October.
THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES
ECAP say: “As part of the government’s war on the poor, Jobcentre staff are told to harrass claimants and impose benefit cuts. Staff can even be disciplined for not imposing “enough sanctions” – as a whistleblower recently revealed. So it’s vital that claimants organise to support each other. Being accompanied to all important benefits appointments is essential solidarity.
ECAP will continue to resist and take direct action. The assault on claimants is part of the wider attack on all workers’ rights and conditions and on all public services – we seek to link up with all struggles to assert people’s needs against austerity and cutbacks.”
Show your solidarity with Adam and Mike this Monday 14th at 9 am at High Riggs Jobcentre, and with Tony on 13th October at Forfar Sheriff Court #AdvocacyIsNotACrime!
Information on the Right to be accompanied at http://www.edinburghagainstpoverty.org.uk/node/32
Information on Tony Cox arrest and trial http://www.edinburghagainstpoverty.org.uk/node/179