But we DO have that right already…

18-01-19 Holyrood Magazine

We have just sent the following letter to the Scottish Secretary of State for Social Security:

Dear Jeanne

I was surprised and concerned to see you quoted as saying that people are not allowed companions with them at assessments under the current system. Although assessors can sometimes be difficult about this, the DWP’s own guidelines clearly state that companions are allowed. See page 30: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/655611/pip-assessment-guide-part-1-assessment-process.pdf

It is important that people are aware of the few rights they do still have so that they can insist on them being respected.

We would also hope that you are planning to make greater use of doctors’ reports so that face to face assessments can often be avoided altogether.

Regards

Sarah Glynn

for the Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network

HERE IS THE RELEVANT SECTION FROM THE ABOVE GUIDANCE DOCUMENT

‘Companions at consultations

‘Claimants have a right to be accompanied to a face-to-face
consultation if they so wish. Claimants should be encouraged to
bring another person with them to consultations where they would
find this helpful – for example, to reassure them or to help them
during the consultation. The person chosen is at the discretion of the
claimant and might be, but is not limited to, a parent, family member,
friend, carer or advocate.

‘Consultations should predominantly be between the HP and the
claimant. However, the companions may play an active role in
helping claimants answer questions where the claimant or HP
wishes them to do so. HPs should allow a companion to contribute
and should record any evidence they provide. This may be
particularly important where the claimant has a mental, cognitive or
intellectual impairment. In such cases the claimant may not be able
to give an accurate account of their health condition or impairment,
through a lack of insight or unrealistic expectations of their own
ability. In such cases it will be essential to get an accurate account
from the companion.

‘However, the involvement of companions should be handled
appropriately by the HP. It is essential that the HP’s advice
considers the details given by the claimant and the companion and
whether one or both are understating or overstating the needs. If the
presence of a companion becomes disruptive to the consultation, the
HP may ask them to leave. However, this should be avoided
wherever possible.

‘HPs should use their judgement about the presence of companions
during any examination. A companion should be in the room for an
examination only if both the claimant and the HP agree. Companions
should take no part in examinations.

‘The presence and involvement of any companion at a consultation
should be recorded in the assessment report.’

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Standing together against cuts

18-01-09 Tully

Last Monday Dundee City Council were expected to be the first Scottish council to decide how the latest round of cuts would impact on their spending. Instead councillors from all parties decided to make another call on the Scottish Government for more money. SUWN activists took part in the demonstration called by Dundee Against Cuts outside the council chamber, alongside public sector trade unionists. No-one is under any illusions that the source of all the cuts and ‘austerity’ is the Tory government in Westminster, but, besides protesting this, the Scottish Government does have some limited powers to mitigate the worst impacts. In reiterating the argument that the Scottish budget needs to go further in using progressive taxation to raise the money needed to keep public services and help the least well off, we stressed the importance of all campaigners working together so that funding for one issue is not used as an excuse for not funding something else. Money has to be found for council services and public sector workers and for welfare; for welfare and for council budgets.

The problem is that both the SNP and Labour have not fully recovered from the neoliberal disease. They are afraid to call for more substantial progressive changes and risk being called out as irresponsible by a largely neoliberal media. And although the Greens are in a strong bargaining position, as the SNP may need their votes, more money for welfare doesn’t seem to have been stated as a Green red-line. This is especially disappointing as the Greens have themselves raised most of the issues that we made in our own pre-budget petition – and we have written to their Social Security spokesperson to ask what they are doing to ensure that the Scottish Government doesn’t fail the poor and disabled.

The picture is from the Evening Telegraph

Negotiating the bureaucratic jungle – 2018, week 1

rain

When we are asked about benefit appeals we usually tell people to contact the welfare rights professionals, but when, as last week, the appeal is the next day there isn’t time for that. Instead we passed on a video explaining what to expect and the list of what disabilities score points. This proved enough for the person who had contacted us to prepare her case and win the appeal – so I thought we should share the links here: Video advice about appeals, what scores points for PIP, what scores points for ESA Support Group, what scores points for ESA Work Related Activity Group.

Our first (very wet) stall of 2018 proved relatively quiet. The most seasonable case we came across was the man who had had an extra wages payment before Christmas and so lost out on Universal Credit for that month. It had been predicted that irregular pre-Christmas payments would cause havoc with people’s benefits, but the DWP had just shrugged this off, along with all the other problems UC causes. Our friend had been told there was nothing the jobcentre could do, and was off to get help from the Scottish Welfare Fund.

A lot of people tell us that their advisor is fine – but of course it is the system that is the real problem, as the previous example demonstrates. We were also told by a young woman of the difficulties she had had managing on UC when unemployed and in temporary accommodation. Regardless of the ownership or actual costs of temporary accommodation, UC only contributes the Local Housing Allowance, which for a single person under 35 is based on the cost of a single room in a cheap private-rented shared house. This has actually been acknowledged as a problem, but plans to bring back Housing Benefit for people in temporary accommodation are not scheduled to start until April.

And, as we have found time and time again, advisors often make mistakes or fail to give people crucial bits of information. We were able to tell another man that on income based JSA he should be entitled to help with his mortgage. And we were told about the jobcentre’s refusal to provide essential training help and help with travel costs – which should both have been eligible for help through the Flexible Support Fund. It seems they find it easier to provide bureaucratic reasons why this can’t be done than honour the ‘flexible’ bit.

Our first Work Capability Assessment of the year found Maximus challenging Ryan Air for good management and customer relations. They were short staffed because one of their nurses was still on holiday and no-one seemed to have planned for this. The receptionist, who clearly regarded herself as the principal martyr to this incompetence, was phoning people to inform them that their assessment had been postponed, and then complaining when they vented their natural frustration. She even sent someone away who had come into the centre, but he just accepted the situation without complaint – as so many benefit claimants are conditioned to do.

Thanks to Tony, Norma, Duncan, Gary, Dave and Gordon,

 

 

Hopes for 2018

18-01-06 BellaBella Caledonia asked me to describe my hopes for 2018. This is what I wrote:

‘For a welfare campaigner, 2018 would seem to provide few grounds for optimism. The Tories’ narrowed majority has only given added urgency to their determination to transform the welfare state from a system of social security to a mechanism for social control. But defence of the poorest and most vulnerable, and of the very notion of social security, can act as a rallying cry for building a progressive force.

‘Support for foodbanks and charities demonstrates that people care. A plethora of articles and blogs demonstrate that the government has failed in its attempt to stigmatise people on benefits. Austerity is increasingly being acknowledged as a political choice rather than a necessity. And interest in Universal Basic Income trials shows people are prepared to look forward to an alternative where we are no longer defined by our paid labour. Put all these things together, and we have the potential for a mass movement that combines practical action with political awareness and demands for radical change – and that addresses problems well beyond welfare.

‘For this to become a hope, and not just a dream, requires a conscious and constant building of connections; connections between practical actions and theoretical politics, and also connections between all the different campaigns – on issues ranging from equal rights to climate change – that ultimately demand the reversal of neoliberal capitalism. Before neoliberalism became accepted as the natural order of things it was regarded as a marginal idea – proving that understandings can change and raising hopes that neoliberalism itself can be sent back to the margins.

Sarah Glynn

Organiser with the Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network’

 

Farewell to 2017

suwn new year

Now is that time of the year again

Turning, we look back from here, and then

Think about all that is gone:

Standing in front of the buroo again

Helping folk know what to do, and then

Passing the info on.

 

Helping as folk are assessed again

Seeing their record’s not messed, and then

Making sure benefit’s won.

Put right DWP again

Again and again and again and then

Blogging on what we’ve done.

 

More baseless charges in court again

Helping ensure they are fought and then

Defendant’s still sane and strong.

Meetings and marches and rallies again

Sharing of knowledge with allies, and then

Proving the system is wrong.

 

Fighting ’gainst sanctions and workfare again,

Show working for nothing is unfair and then

Most so-called training’s a con.

Sending our MSPs mail again

‘Do all you can without fail, and then

Ask for the powers to go on!’

 

Responding to news with a letter again

Journalists now should know better, and then

Checking the story will run

Banter and coffee-warmed hands again

Beach picnic, drinks and live bands, and then

Activists too can have fun

 

Now is that time of the year again

Turning, we look back from here, and then

Think about all that is gone –

Two friends who won’t see New Year again

Hazel and Chris are not here – but then

Memories always go on