Supporters of Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty invaded a4e’s Edinburgh office on 15 November to distribute leaflets urging the unemployed people attending the Flexible New Deal provider to stand up for their rights. The action - organised as part of the Britain-wide Day of Action against Welfare Cuts – was in resistance to A4e’s refusal to recognise Edinburgh Claimants representatives and to the whole workfare system. These compulsory work-for-your-benefits schemes are set to be intensified by the ConDem's "Work Programme".
A4e are recommending to the DWP that unemployed people who insist on being represented by Edinburgh Claimants have their benefits stopped. Unemployed ex-miner Peter has now had his Job Seekers Allowance stopped for two weeks, and is facing possible further sanctions. “We are going to be taking more action to stop this denial of basic rights,” say ECAP. “Edinburgh Claimants have won the right to accompany claimants at the Jobcentre and New Deal providers JHP and Ingeus, and also accompany claimants at the Council and at ATOS healthcare – we can’t let A4e get away with their dictatorial attitudes. We invite people to join our solidarity phone tree and get involved.”
"We know some A4e advisers are prepared to conduct interviews with Edinburgh Claimants reps present - but A4e Edinburgh boss Dorothy Hewat and Wise Group Head of Contracts Dione Weir are refusing to recognise this right. Also guilty are the Jobcentreplus hierarchy, including District Manager Jim McGonigle - they are refusing to instruct A4e to recognise the right to representation."
The Day of Action also involved leafleting and displaying placards against the Welfare cuts at the City of Edinburgh Council Revenues and Benefits office on the High Street. Posters and leaflets denounced the vicious Housing Benefits cuts which the Child Poverty Action Group estimate will make 750,000 people homeless. “We believe that we all need to join together to resist all the cutbacks, whether they be in benefits, housing, health, education, social care or other services. Why should ordinary people pay the price for the greed of rich bankers and investors? “, proclaimed the protestors.
Those going in to join the long queue of claimants trying to get Housing Benefit were given ECAP leaflets informing them of their right to an interim payment. Many claimants wait weeks or even months for Housing Benefit despite the Council’s legal obligation to pay up two weeks after the claimant has provided all the info needed.
ECAP supporters were joined in the Day of Action by members of Edinburgh Anti Cuts Alliance and the disability rights group Campaign Against the Charges. This Fife-based group have been involved in campaigns and direct action to oppose the cutbacks and charge increases being imposed on people with disabilities by Fife Council.
Other activities round Britain on 15th December included a Disabled peoples anti cuts protest in London - there was also a planned action to build a cardboard box city at Downing Street, but we have not seen any reports yet. In Glasgow Citizens United held a successful street stall.
Below the leaflets distributed on the day: write email@example.com if you would like copies in open office, word or text files.
Leaflet distributed inside A4e's office at 34 Earl Grey Street, Edinburgh
(Staff were intially slow to react to the invading leafleters, though eventually a manager started pursuing us round the office shouting "Call the police! Call the police!")
STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHTS!
We are claimants involved in Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty. Today we are telling A4e to stop denying unemployed people their basic rights.
A4e are refusing to recognise claimants’ right to choose their own representative if the claimant wants someone to back them up in a meeting here. A4e say they recognise claimants’ right to representation – but they are refusing to accept representatives from Edinburgh Claimants. This is despite the fact that Edinburgh Claimants reps accompany claimants to New Deal providers Ingeus and JHP, to Jobcentre interviews, to ATOS medical exams, the Council, etc..
A4e are refusing to hold appointments with claimants accompanied by Edinburgh Claimants – then are reporting the claimant to the DWP to get their benefits cut. We say toA4e and Wise Group, who subcontract to A4e, that they must recognise human rights.
We encourage everyone sent here to support each other and stand up for yourselves. For example, with the solidarity of groups like Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty some claimants attending A4e have won the right to change their A4e adviser. This should be everyone’s right.
If A4e try and get your benefit stopped, you can fight it, we have done this successfully. If you are sent on a workplacement, then you should have a say in where you are sent.
We are against the whole system of compulsory work for benefits - why should the unemployed be used as slave labour? We want to help build up a movement to defeat workfare and all the other cuts the government are making – why should we pay for the greedy rich?
Today is a Britain-wide Day of Action against the cuts in welfare. Join us in fighting back! Contact us to find out more or if you need support or advice with a benefits or debt problem.
Leaflet distributed outside City of Edinburgh Council office
Day of Action against
Today 15 December is a Britain-wide Day of Action against the cuts in Welfare and Housing which the ConDem Coalition Government is trying to impose. We believe that we all need to join together to resist all the cutbacks, whether they be in benefits, housing, health, education, social care or other services.
Why should ordinary people pay the price for the greed of rich bankers and investors? Why should we tolerate vast inequality and profit dominating everything? If resources were held in common and society based on meeting human needs then there would be plenty for all – without destroying the planet through global warming.
Those in power and their lackeys in the tabloids try to make out that most claimants are scroungers leeching off “hard-working families”. But attacks on benefits and compulsory work-for-benefits go hand in hand with attacks on wages and conditions. Many of those claiming benefits have jobs which are so low-paid they need benefits to survive. Don’t fall for their “divide and rule” tactics.
The respected Child Poverty Action Group reports that the £1.8 billion annual cuts in Housing Benefit planned by the government may leave 750,000 people homeless. These cuts include a 10% cut in Housing Benefit after one year’s unemployment – brutal or what?
Sick and disabled people are facing unfair tests designed to take away their benefits and force them to claim Job Seekers Allowance. Even though their GP says they are too ill to work the government is taking away the support people need. They even plan to abolish Disability Living Allowance, awarded to the most vulnerable.
The students have shown the way, through direct action and occupations - as have people in France and Greece. Interested in joining in the fightback? Do contact us.
Leaflet distributed to Housing Benefit claimants
WAITED AGES TO GET
Don't put up with it. If your claim hasn't been sorted out two weeks after you have given all the information needed, then the Council are legally obliged to make you regular interim payments of Housing Benefit.
This applies to private tenants and housing association tenants. For Council tenants, where the Council are paying the Housing Benefit direct to their own Housing Department, the Council are legally obliged to pay Housing Benefit within 14 days, or if that is not reasonably practicable, as soon as possible after that.
An interim payment is a temporary payment of Housing Benefit which is paid regularly, like normal Housing Benefit, until they work out your claim. The law says the council must pay you an amount which it considers reasonable.
WHAT TO DO?
How do you get an interim payment?
1. Make sure that you have given the Council all the info necessary for them to sort out your claim.
2. Check that two weeks have passed since you gave the Council all the info they needed.
3. Ring them up, and tell them that by law they have to either sort out your claim immediately, or make you an interim payment immediately. The Housing Bene?t Regulations 2006, in particular Regulation 93(1), says they must do this.
Interim payments are NOT discretionary. According to the law they must be paid if the circumstances described in 1) and 2) apply.
4. If they still won't pay, say you will make a complaint to the ombudsman about Council maladministration unless they pay you. (You can do this by contacting the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, Freepost EH641 Edinburgh EH3 0BR Tel. 0800 377 7330, email firstname.lastname@example.org website www.spso.org.uk
5. If they still won't budge you can demand a meeting with the manager, to which you should go with a friend/adviser to insist that you are paid. If they refuse to give you an appointment ask for the supervisor/manager and insist on your right to an appointment.
6. It can also be useful to contact councillors who have the ultimate responsibility for Housing Benefit. Plus getting your M.S.P. to write on your behalf can help.
At any stage feel free to contact Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty for advice and solidarity. We know of several claimants who had been waiting for ages to get Housing Benefit – then they rang up like we have described here, and the Council paid up.. If all else fails, if you want, we can discuss taking direct action, eg turning up at the housing benefit office with supporters shortly before it closes, and not leaving until you get a guarantee of payment. We can organise actions like this through the ECAP Solidarity Phone Tree - which we invite you to join.
Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty encourage and aid claimants organising together, and linking up with workers in employment, to oppose and take action against government policies which attack working class people - like the vicious cutbacks the ConDem Coalition is trying to force through. Why should we put up with a system where everything is run for the profits of business? Why shouldn't society's resources belong to everyone, and be used for people's needs?
More detailed info on Housing Benefit interim payments at http://www.edinburghagainstpoverty.org.uk/node/4