Tribunal overturns sanction and upholds right to representation
Claimants in Edinburgh have won a potentially crucial victory in the battle for the right of unemployed people to be represented at DWP provider A4e – thanks to the courageous stand taken by brave ex-miner Peter. An independent Tribunal has ruled that a claimant cannot have his benefits stopped because he “felt the need to have the representative of his choice.”
Peter has stood up to A4e for over two years, despite the multinational attempting to have his benefits stopped on over a dozen occasions. Now the Social Security Tribunal's decision of 31 August has overturned the last remaining sanction against him.
The infamous multinational A4e have been denying the unemployed who are forced to attend their compulsory workfare schemes the right to be accompanied by the representative of their choice (A4e make a fortune from the taxpayer by running these schemes on behalf of the DWP, the Department of Work and Pensions).
Since 2009 Peter has attended over a dozen appointments at A4e's office at 34 Earl Grey Street Edinburgh along with his representative from Edinburgh Claimants, a welfare rights group affiliated to Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty (ECAP). Peter decided he needed a representative after A4e falsely accused him of photocopying material not related to his job search and threatened to have his benefits stopped. Every single time Peter and his rep attended, A4e refused to hold the appointment, often then going on to apply to the DWP for Peter's benefits to be stopped. Three times A4e even called the police to have Peter and his representative evicted!
Making claimants' voices heard at A4e
A HUMAN RIGHT
Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty say: “ On 9 September we wrote to Alison Nimmo, A4e area manager for Scotland, to point out that A4e need to comply with this legal ruling. We are still waiting for a response. And in the meantime, incredibly, A4e are still refusing the right to representation. But the Tribunal result is an important victory, and we are now stepping up our struggle for this basic human right. ”
Meanwhile Jobcentreplus District Manager Jim McGonigle has so far refused all calls that the DWP instruct A4e to recognise claimants' right to their own rep – despite the fact that this right is recognised at Jobcentres, Edinburgh Council, ATOS and even at the other Edinburgh providers, Ingeus and JHP. But now, in the language of benefits law, the Tribunal Judge has ruled that Peter had “good cause” to insist on having his own representative present.
A4e LIE TO GET CLAIMANTS' BENEFITS CUT
The Edinburgh office of A4e, headed by manager Dorothy Hewatt, is notorious for bullying and disrespectful treatment of claimants. Edinburgh Claimants have made several official complaints that employees, including Hewatt herself, have made untruthful statements to the DWP to try and get claimants' benefits cut.
But now hopefully the tide is turning, with more claimants demanding the right to representation at A4e. ECAP urge : “We encourage all unemployed people sent to A4e or any other workfare provider to join together and collectively stand up for our rights. We need to oppose the Work Programme and all work-for-your-benefits schemes. They're nothing but slave labour - and they attack all workers' wages and conditions.”
“We invite anyone sent to A4e, Ingeus, JHP or any of these work-for- your dole schemes to get in touch – anonymity guaranteed.”
Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty
Demonstration at A4e's Edinburgh office at Earl Grey Street