Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty (ECAP) have won a significant victory for the unemployed in the war against New Deal provider A4e, thanks to the courageous stand taken by one brave unemployed ex-miner, who despite threats and benefit suspension stood up to A4e for over a year!
This infamous multinational 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 Department of Work and Pensions).
Department of Work and Pensions benefits decision makers have now ruled against A4e in four cases where A4e sought to sanction a claimant because he took a rep from Edinburgh Claimants, affiliated to ECAP, to a meeting. A4e have repeatedly refused to recognise Edinburgh Claimants representatives. There has been a total disregard for claimants' basic human rights from both A4e manager Dorothy Hewat and from Dione Weir, Head of Contracts for Glasgow-based Wise Group, who subcontract to A4e.
A4e AND WISE GROUP - PARANOID BULLIES
Unemployed ex-miner Peter has been accompanied by Edinburgh Claimants reps at interviews at A4e. Peter decided on this course of action after A4e falsely accused him of photocopying material not related to his job search and threatened to have his benefits stopped. The paranoid bullies of A4e and Wise Group didn't like this - on three occasions managers Hewat and Weir phoned the police to evict Peter and his Edinburgh Claimants rep from their Earl Grey Street office! Not content with this, the vindictive duo then applied to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to get Peter's Jobseekers Allowance suspended. At one stage Peter had lost six weeks benefits and was told by the DWP that he would be without benefits for an additional six months
ECAP demanded that the DWP inform A4e and Wise Group that Peter should have the same rights when attending A4e as he would at the Jobcentre – where claimants right to be accompanied by the rep of their choice has been won, and is now recognised by the DWP Chief Executive's office. But Third Party Provisions manager John Scott and his boss, District Manager Jim McGonigle, ignored the fact that A4e were carrying out a contract on behalf of the DWP, ignored claimants' rights and said it was up to A4e who they allowed on their premises – in fact they acted like it was A4e and Wise group rather than the DWP who were in charge!"
BENEFITS RE-PAID - A4e LIARS EXPOSED
Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty at A4e's Edinburgh offices at Earl Grey Street
But Peter and ECAP weren't intimidated. Peter continued to attend A4e interviews with Edinburgh Claimants reps. ECAP regularly demonstrated inside and outside A4e's premises, distributing leaflets to encourage the unemployed to stand up for their rights. By March 2011, the DWP decision makers office ruled that Peter must be repaid all the JSA he has lost, apart from the original two weeks sanction, which is going to an appeal hearing. Further they have ruled against A4e's applications for sanctions in all three cases they submitted in 2011. All four cases involved appointments which A4e refused to hold in the presence of Edinburgh Claimants reps.
Additionally, the DWP have overturned Peter's six months sanction, ruling against A4e in yet another case, in which A4e adviser Graham Payne lied to get Peter's benefits stopped. Even though Payne had agreed to postpone Peter's appointment on 17th December last year – when Peter had to assist his Mother who was recovering from cancer surgery – Payne went on to apply for a sanction against Peter on the pretext that he didn't attend the appointment. When Peter and ECAP pointed out Payne's lies to Wise Group boss Weir, she refused to investigate. Now the DWP decision vindicates Peter. Payne's account - which bosses Hewat and Weir backed up - was a tissue of lies.
SAY NO TO SLAVE LABOUR
ECAP say: “The implementation of the new Work Programme will intensify the drive to force us, the unemployed, to work for our benefits - so the need to organise and stand up for ourselves is greater than ever.”
“We should all take great heart from the courageous stand taken by Peter. This shows that when we join together and support each other we can win. If you are being forced to attend these leech-like companies profiting from taxpayers money and our poverty – contact us, and together we can fight back. And if you are in a job - remember workfare is a direct attack on your wages and conditions. Work-for-your-benefits schemes were developed enthusiastically by the last Labour Government and are now being pushed forward and refined by the ConDems. We need solidarity between waged and unwaged to fight the vicious attacks the state is making on us all.”
ECAP meets the last Thursday of every month at 7.30pm at the Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh (ACE), 17 West Montgomery Place, Edinburgh EH7 5HA - all welcome. Plus feel free to call by any tuesday 12-3pm at ACE when Edinburgh Claimants and ECAP run a drop-in advice and solidarity session on benefits, debt, housing and other poverty-related problems.