1,000 signatures reached
To: Department for Work and Pensions
ADVOCACY IS NOT A CRIME
Following the arrest of Tony Cox, a Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network Activist, whilst assisting a vulnerable claimant at Arbroath Jobcentre, we call on the DWP to affirm publically that they will desist from trying to prevent claimants from getting the advice they need and are legally entitled to by attempting to remove advisors, or otherwise obstruct their ability to help.
We further demand that they affirm publically that they will respect the legal right of benefit claimants to be given a claimant commitment that makes only reasonable demands and takes reasonable account of their individual circumstances.
Why is this important?
JSA claimants have the right to have someone with them when they go to the jobcentre, and the agreement that they make with the Jobcentre (their Claimant Commitment) has to be reasonable and consider their circumstances. In the Arbroath case the agreement was far from reasonable, but when Tony, who had accompanied the claimant to a prearranged meeting, attempted to help negotiate more suitable terms, the Jobcentre manager responded by telling him to leave the building and calling the police. By the time the police came, Tony and the claimant had already left (with the promise of a further meeting), but he was still arrested and charged. This has serious implications for Tony personally and also for benefits and welfare activists everywhere. This example of harassment of welfare activists is far from an isolated incident.
We demand that welfare activists are not prevented from conducting their work and nothing be put in the way of benefit claimants’ fundamental right to advice and representation.