WELFARE ACTIVIST IN COURT AT DUNDEE - “ADVOCACY IS NOT A CRIME”

Solidarity demonstrators will greet the appearance of Scottish Unemployed Workers Network activist Tony Cox at Dundee Sheriff Court this Thursday 23 June. 

Supporters denounce Tony Cox's arrest while he was accompanying a claimant at a disability benefits test.   “'This is an attack on the right to be accompanied to a benefits appointment, and accompanied by a person of one's own choosing,” declared SUWN spokeswoman Sarah Glynn. 

 ECAP urges everyone who can to join the protest, from 10am on 23 June at Dundee Sheriff Court, 6 West Bell Street, DD1 9AD Dundee.   People are travelling from Edinburgh.  Groups unable to reach Dundee on the day are organising solidarity in their own areas, from Doncaster to Kilburn, London.

Advocacy is STILL NOT a crime -Solidarity with Tony Cox June 9th.

 
The right to be accompanied is still under attack and yet again it is Scottish Unemployed Workers Network(SUWN) activist Tony Cox who is the scapegoat in this charade.

On Thursday 9th June at 10am, please come to Dundee Sheriff Court  and show your support for Tony Cox – arrested for trying to accompany a woman to her Work Capability Assessment and now on trial for 'Threatening Behaviour' for insisting on her right to have him accompany her.

 

When Tony was up in court before in October 2015 ,SUWN and ECAP called for a Britain wide day of action which involved groups from London, Wales, Dorset and Liverpool and others. Again we call for another day of action across the entirety of Britain. We are inviting groups to protest on the 9th of June at their local job centres for the right to be accompanied and in solidarity with Tony.

Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty(ECAP) will hold a protest on Monday 6th June at 2pm outside Highriggs jobcentre, a notorious jobcentre famous for abusing claimants and accompaniers.

Last time, the DWP brought Tony to court, they had to drop the charges as their evidence fell apart. Their evidence amounted to the pointing of a finger. Now they're trying again.

 

SOLIDARITY SUCCESS AT EDINBURGH JOBCENTRE

Solidarity demonstrators from round Scotland won an important victory at Edinburgh's High Riggs jobcentre on 14th March.  The welfare rights worker from ECAP-affiliated Edinburgh Claimants successfully accompanied the jobseeker to his appointment, as the DWP and G4S security backed down from their previous attempt to deny this right.

Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty called the demo after G4S security guards attacked the same welfare rights rep as he accompanied the same JSA claimant at High Riggs on 29th February.  Totally flouting the DWP's own rules, the G4S guards denied the claimant his basic human right to be accompanied by whoever he wishes.

Around 50 demonstrators answered the call and crowded round the jobcentre entrance on the 14th.  Alerted through the Action Against Austerity and other networks, groups and individuals from Dundee, Forfar, Glasgow, Greenock and Stirling joined ECAP and other locals from Edinburgh and Lothians.  Castlemilk Against Austerity, Dundee Against Austerity, Glasgow Anarchist Collective, Scottish Unemployed Workers Network, and Stirling Anarchists were among those present.  The Rhythms of Resistance samba band gave a musical accompaniment to the angry chants….  ADVOCACY IS NOT A CRIME…. G4S NAZI SWINE…. IDS – ROT IN HELL…..

Emerging from the jobcentre, welfare rights worker Bob spoke to the crowd.  He revealed that unlike the 29th February there had been no attempt by the security guards to stop him – though the DWP still made spurious demands he show ID, which he successfully declined to do.  Significantly, the DWP interviewer's attitude was positively transformed from the usual bullying and harassment to which the claimant has been regularly subjected.  “This is totally down to the solidarity shown by all of you,” Bob declared.

URGENT SOLIDARITY CALL-OUT - HIGH RIGGS JOB CENTRE MON 14TH MARCH 3PM

On Monday 29th Feb Edinburgh Claimants provided an accompanier for a claimant who had come to us for support after being intimidated and bullied during interviews at High Riggs Jobcentre. 

Past experience at High Riggs where staff (up to management level) have attempted to obstruct claimants being accompanied by making up arbitary rules, such as that accompaniers need to show ID, led Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty to hold a leafletting session outside in case solidarity was required. 

When the claimant and his accompanier attempted to enter, four G4S security guards blocked the way, physically separated the claimant  from his accompanier and asserted that the claimant had no right to be accompanied. The four volunteers leafletting came to the door to insist on the claimants rights and were physically assaulted and menaced by the security guards.

This is the latest in a catalogue of bullying, harrassment and denial of rights at High Riggs stretching back over the last two years. It is vital that we don't let them get away with this any longer. The same claimant is being accompanied by the same volunteer at the next signing date on MONDAY 14TH MARCH.

EDINBURGH COALITION AGAINST POVERTY ARE THEREFORE CALLING FOR A LARGE SCALE SOLIDARITY ACTION AT HIGH RIGGS JOBCENTRE ON MONDAY 14TH MARCH AT 3PM.

THE RIGHT TO BE ACCOMPANIED AT APPOINTMENTS IS FUNDAMENTAL IN PROTECTING CLAIMANTS FROM ISOLATION AND BULLYING. PLEASE COME ALONG TO HELP ASSERT THIS RIGHT.

High Riggs Jobcentre, 20 High Riggs, by Tollcross, Edinburgh EH3 9HU

The right to be accompanied - full info here

ECAP visit Oxgangs Neighbourhood Centre to say NO WORKFARE HERE!

On 8th February members of Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty visited Oxgangs Neighbourhood Centre in Edinburgh to give out leaflets and talk to those present to explain why the Centre should withdraw from workfare.  This followed several phone calls and e mails and many Facebook messages which had all been ignored by the Centre management.  

The visit had a significant impact, lively discussions breaking out in the middle of the cafe area where ECAP members were leafleting.  A member of the Oxgangs Neighbourhood Centre management committee promised they would discuss the issue at their meeting this Wednesday 10th and reply to ECAP's request to address the management committee on the issue.  Centre manager Robert Scott seemed none too happy however, threatening to call the police to evict the leafleters!  

Oxgangs Neighbourhood Centre uses workfare conscripts from provider learndirect on the Community Work Placements scheme, whereby jobseekers have to work for their benefits for six months under threat of sanction.  The Centre management has been directly involved in having sanctions imposed on claimants sent to them.  Jobseeker Jimmy, sent to do workfare at Oxgangs Neighbourhood Centre in early 2015, explained to the Centre manager that he did not think such a community group should be using workfare.

The Centre manager sent him away and reported him to Learndirect, who in turn sent a sanction referral to the DWP, causing his benefits to be stopped.  Fortunately Jimmy sought support from ECAP, who fought his case with both Learndirect and the DWP, insisting that Learndirect contact the DWP to withdraw the sanction referral.  Thanks to this solidarity, all Jimmy's benefits were restored.

To tell Oxgangs Neighbourhood Centre that you think they should withdraw from workfare, you can write a review of the Centre here https://www.facebook.com/Oxgangsneighbourhoodcentreorg/reviews/

JUSTICE FOR EAST LOTHIAN COUNCIL WHISTLEBLOWER - PROTESTORS INVADE COUNCIL OFFICES

Activists from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty braved high-winds and heavy rain on Monday 9th November to converge on East Lothian Council offices at Brunton Hall Musselburgh in solidarity with sacked Council whistleblower Theresa Sives who tried to highlight the misdirection of Council funds. Sherriffs Officers have been persecuting Theresa in pursuit of £10,000 "court costs" which the Council bullies have demanded after a biased employment tribunal.

Carrying placards calling for "Justice for the East Lothian Council Whistleblower" the activists, alongside Theresa herself, her daughter and grandchildren picketed Brunton Hall entrance for an hour before occupying the main reception area for around another hour. They defied a threat that the police would be called, insisting on their right to support Theresa against the Council's bullying tactics.

SUPPORT GROWS

After prolonged pressure the Council agreed to meet Theresa and an ECAP spokesperson. A letter for Council chief Angela Leitch demanding that the alleged debt be dropped was handed to manager Andrew Gordon, the senior Council official present, as was a substantial petition which had grown quickly as sympathetic passers-by were told about Theresa's situation.

Engaging with the public both inside and outside the hall the activists received a warm response including friendly honks of approval from taxi drivers, one of whom took some leaflets to distribute. ECAP were also told of several other incidents in which Council workers have been harrassed and bullied after trying to highlight malpractices in East Lothian.

PUNITIVE

A spokeperson for ECAP explained that the punitive demand for £10,000 from someone on a low income was causing untold stress and putting a family's home under threat. He made it clear that the issue was not going to go away until the charge was dropped.

Sacked East Lothian Council Whistleblower fights back.

Sacked East Lothian Council Whistleblower fights back.

Mrs Sives a former manager with East Lothian Council says that: “Protected Disclosures do not work and do not protect whistleblowers from malicious employers.  Whistleblowers are routinely victimised by their employer, ignored by regulators and let down by a court system that at best, concentrates on their employment experience, rather than on the problems that they reveal”. 

Mrs Sives says that after she blew the whistle on repeated financial mismanagement within East Lothian Council, she was continually undermined, isolated and ignored.

 

Tony Cox Trial - Solidarity with welfare activist arrested for accompanying a claimant

On 13th October demonstrators from around Scotland gathered at Forfar sheriff court in solidarity with welfare activist Tony Cox, on trial for representing a vulnerable claimant at Arbroath jobcentre.

Over 60 activists from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, Action Against Austerity, Dundee Against Austerity, AFed, IWW, GAC and Tony’s own Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network came from Edinburgh, Dundee, Glasgow, Stirling and Aberdeen to support Tony. On 12th October, demonstrations in solidarity with Tony took place outside jobcentres throughout the UK.  In Edinburgh ECAP were at High Riggs, Leith and Musselburgh jobcentres.
 
SUWN say about the trial and demo at Forfar ‘So we’re back from a day’s entertainment at Forfar Sheriff Court where we watched Tony’s lawyer methodically demolish the DWP’s witnesses so that the Procurator Fiscal was forced to drop their charge of threatening behaviour all together. The case isn’t finished – we had to spend most of the day waiting around – but when we come back on the 18th November, it will only be for the other two charges’.
 

DIRECT ACTION WINS VICTORY AT JOBCENTRE - ADVOCACY IS NOT A CRIME

Claimants responded to a solidarity call-out by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty and besieged High Riggs Jobcentre in Edinburgh on the morning of 14th September.  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.

This was a complete U turn from the repressive approach taken by High Riggs management on 10th September.  Then they arrogantly demanded that Adam's ECAP accompanier produce photographic ID, and when this unreasonable demand was refused, called the police to try and evict him. The entire ground floor of the Jobcentre was shut down for 3 hours on the 10th as more ECAP members entered to show solidarity.  The police even threatened jobseeker Adam, as well as ECAP activists, with arrest for "Aggravated Trespass".

JOBCENTRE BOSSES UNDER SIEGE

Initially the 14th saw Jobcentreplus managers try to maintain this hard line. Manager Aileen McBrierty, flanked by G4S security, stood clipboard in hand at the doorway.  Vetting all entering the Jobcentre, she point-blank refused to permit Adam to proceed to his appointment with ECAP accompanier Mike - Mike however walked into the Jobcentre foyer anyway, and took McBrierty to task over her denial of claimants' human rights.  As he quoted the DWP's own statement that claimants had the right to be accompanied, the crowd moved forward towards the entrance and more demonstrators voiced their anger, demanding to know on whose authority McBrierty was acting.

Edinburgh Jobcentre shut down as claimants insist “Advocacy is not a crime”

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..””

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.  

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