Demonstrators from round Scotland besieged High Riggs Jobcentre on 3rd October to insist the DWP bosses recognise that all claimants have the right to be accompanied to all benefits-related appointments by the person or people of their choice.
This followed the appalling treatment of an ill and vulnerable claimant on 1st September when the management at High Riggs Jobcentre called the police to deny this man his right to be accompanied to a Job Seekers Allowance appointment by his father and an advocate from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty.
Members of Dundee Against Austerity, Glasgow Anarchist Collective, Scottish Unemployed Workers Network, and the Revolutionary Communist Group joined Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty and the Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh at the protest. Speakers denounced the brutal benefits system, designed to make life on benefits so intolerable that workers will be forced to accept really bad wages and conditions – the attack on benefits is thus an attack on the whole working class, and all need to get involved in resistance. The escalating attack on recipients of Employment and Support Allowance was highlighted, as increasing numbers of very ill people are found “fit for work” and the numbers qualifying for ESA Support Group fall drastically.
The Scottish Unemployed Workers Network urged that frontline advocacy as practised by SUWN and ECAP spread throughout Scotland. It was recognised that the devolution of welfare powers to the Scottish government gives an opportunity for meaningful improvements – but only if we are prepared to take action through networks such as Action Against Austerity – no politicians can be relied on.
Solidarity at High Riggs
Several people attended who had heard about the demo at the recent showing of I Daniel Blake, the new Ken Loach film which exposes the inhumanity of the benefits system. One man described how Jobcentre staff at High Riggs had refused to allow him to accompany his daughter to a benefits interview there.
This episode at High Riggs is the latest example of managers at this jobcentre once more breaking their own rules: DWP official policy is that “Customers have the right to ask a representative to help them conduct their business with DWP…”
In response to the official complaint made by ECAP affiliated Edinburgh Claimants, DWP Customer Services Operation Manager Linda Gibb has offered a meeting “to discuss this further so we can move forward.” Watch this space – there can be no compromise on claimants right to be accompanied, both a basic human right and a basic solidarity. Advocacy is not a crime!
We need to be ready to mobilise and take direct action against all such attacks, and in so doing build up our strength and organisation so we can go on the offensive against the exploitation and oppression at the heart of both the benefits system and the capitalist system it serves.
More photos of demo here (thanks to Glasgow Anarchist Collective)