ECAP was doing one of our regular advocacy stalls outside an Edinburgh jobcentre recently when we met a new young claimant being accompanied to sign on by an older relative. They had done this several times and it had gone well they said.
This is excellent solidarity! Everyone has the right to be accompanied to all benefits appointments. The accompanier doesn’t need to be a benefits expert or anyone official, it can be a friend or relative. This right applies to appointments at the jobcentre, to work capability assessments, to PIP assessments – everything! The DWP state this themselves on their website. And – importantly – the accompanier has the right to speak in the appointment to advocate for the claimant, as this quote from the DWP site proves:
“A customer representative is any person or organisation acting on behalf of, or making enquiries for, the customer.
The representative could be helping a customer in several ways, including progress chasing, helping them make a claim, seeking an explanation of entitlement and how it has been decided, representing them with a reconsideration or appeal, or helping them manage their finances. This can be at any stage of the customer’s business with DWP.”
Isolated and alone claimants can be bullied and intimidated, together we are much stronger. Let’s support each other to stand up to the DWP bullies! And do join us on our advocacy stalls the more people present, the more pressure we can put on the DWP to treat claimants more fairly.
In the longer run our aim is to help build up a widespread counter power from below so that oppressive government policies like benefits sanctions become unworkable. This isn’t an easy task but social movements have made government laws unworkable many times before. In Britain one example is the anti poll tax non-payment movement of the late 1980’s/ early 1990’s.
One thing’s for sure – there is no point in waiting for politicians to deliver justice, a better world can only be created by people power and direct action from below.