I’m indebted to A6er, who seems to have found an answer to a question left hanging in Jobseeker’s Agreement Fun & Games – part 4.
In a letter to my Jobcentre’s manager I asked :
Independent advisers. Should I feel it necessery, I assume there would be no objection to my having an independent legal adviser accompany me to any Jobseekers Agreement negotiations. I would be grateful if you could confirm this.
Their reply :
Jobcentre interview are discussions between the claimant and their Personal Adviser. The interviews are usually completed unaccompanied and legal advisers would not normally be present a these negotiations. However, please note if you have any concerns during you interviews that you can suspend the interview if you wish to seek independent legal advice and we will make another appointment to continue the review at a later date.
A bit ambiguous, you might think. They’re not actually saying you cant, they do seem to be saying “we dont want you to”.
However, A6er has located an up-to-date Freedom of Information request and reply from the DWP on the whatdotheyknow.com site.
View the full document at : https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/196795/response/486014/attach/html/3/Response%20634.pdf.html
The highlights, as they apply to this case –
DWP Central Freedom of Information Team
e-mail: [email address].
Our Ref: 634
24 February 2014
Dear F. Walker,
Thank you for your Freedom of Information request which we received on 10 February 2014.
I’d like to know what the rules on taking support to jobcentre appointments, in particular signing on are.
I suffer from anxiety and my doctor has given me a note saying I suffer from anxiety and should have someone at all jobcentre appointments.
My advisor was unhappy with this and I would like to know if I am allowed support or not.
Claimants accessing Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) benefits and services can have someone to accompany them to act on their behalf.
DWP will treat the person acting on behalf of the claimant with the same customer standards
as the claimant.
> That’s a bit harsh, isn’t it ? Judging by the sort of customer standards this claimant has witnessed…
The person acting on behalf of the claimant is expected to maintain the same
behaviour standards as the claimant and treat our staff with courtesy.
Claimants can have a variety of people accompany them such as Representatives,
Appointees, Corporate acting bodies or Personal acting bodies.
Guidance for staff includes the information provided below:
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.
Representatives may include:
advice or welfare rights organisations
professionals such as social workers, community nurses or doctors
DWP Central FoI Team
There is quite a lot more than you can – and should – review at the link above, but this extract proves that yes, you can have a representive with you, and the inclusion of advice or welfare rights organisations would seem to fit the category of independent legal adviser.
So – was I lied to by the Jobcentre, or do they just not know their own rules?
And which of those options do you think is worse ?