Defending the right to be accompanied – again!

18-03-04 Livingston Jobcentre

We have just sent the letter below to the manager of Livingston Jobcentre. Please let us know if your jobcentre is also depriving people of this basic right.

Dear Sir/Madam

We have been very concerned to learn that people attending your jobcentre are being made to leave friends and relations outside and go to their interview alone. Many people need some support in what can be a stressful and confusing situation, and reducing the stress can only be to the benefit of all concerned, including jobcentre workers. I have observed, from my own experience in accompanying people to interviews, both the huge relief and help this can give to interviewees, and how it can clarify complicated situations. Depriving people of this support is upsetting, unreasonable and unnecessary; it is also contrary to DWP guidance.

The DWP’s Working with Representatives guidance, clearly states:

‘Customers have the right to ask a representative to help them conduct their business with DWP’, and that ‘It is important that we have good working relationships with representatives, whether they are from the advice organisations or are simply family members or friends so that we can give our customers the best possible service’.

While the JSA Interviewing Good Practice guidance, explains:

  1. Some customers will ask for a third party to be present at their
    interview, for example, if they:
  • need an interpreter due to language or hearing difficulties;
  • lack confidence and need someone there for support;
  • prefer to have a parent present; or
  • wish to have a witness there.
  1. In such circumstances, explain the purpose and confidentiality of the
    interview in a reassuring and helpful way.  If the customer feels they cannot
    cope alone, do not object to a third party being present.  Refusing to agree to
    a third party could provoke hostility and be counter productive.
    164. Remember, however, that it is the customer who should receive and
    respond to advice given, direct questions at them, not the third party.  Treat
    the third party with respect and courtesy, but do not let them control the
    interview.’

Matthew Nicholas, Employers and Stakeholders Director Jobcentre Plus, writing on behalf of the Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus, Darra Singh, in a letter copied to Edinburgh claimants, dated 15 February 2010, wrote:

‘We accept that there will always be times when customers attending our premises feel the need to be accompanied by a friend or advice worker and we will always try to accommodate this where possible.’

And in response to a FOI request, dated 24 February 2014, the DWP wrote:

‘Claimants accessing Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) benefits and services can have someone to accompany them to act on their behalf’ – which clearly implies that the person accompanying can (if the claimant wishes) speak to their case.

Please can you ensure that your staff are made fully aware of this situation and that no-one else will be deprived of their right to be accompanied to their jobcentre interview?

Yours Sincerely

Dr Sarah Glynn

for the Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network

 

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2 thoughts on “Defending the right to be accompanied – again!

  1. Useful reminder which I will pass on to west gap for Govan JC purposes. One of the enduring and frustrating characteristics of large bureaucracies such as DWP is that you need to constantly remind them of their own legal and ethical obligations including things they may already have agreed to do! In a former life I used to attend local authority/DWP liaison meetings. The senior staff present were always very obliging and would agree to this and that. However in practise, staff further down the “food chain” were often either blissfully unaware or chose to ignore these administrative agreements! It’s of course much worse now as there is a greater element of hypocrisy and duplicity at senior levels so we don’t really know what “messages” operational staff are actually being given as to how they treat claimants & representatives.

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