Advocacy is no Crime! No to benefit sanctions! Defend Tony Cox!

Dundee Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! and Dundee Against Austerity activists turned out for the recent court appearances of Tony Cox. A member of the Scottish Unemployed Workers Network, Tony has faced a number of charges over the year for his welfare advocacy work. In early 2015 he was arrested at the Job Centre in Arbroath as he tried to accompany a vulnerable person into an interview. Statistics and campaigning experience have shown that welfare sanctions - where a person's entitlement to Job Seekers Allowance or Employment Support Allowance can be ended or reduced to 40% - are disproportionately imposed on people with mental health or learning difficulties.

On paper the DWP uphold the right of any person to be accompanied in any interview situation but in practice the staff and security – often G4S - frequently challenge that right and are backed up by police. Charges of threatening behaviour against Tony were dropped during his court appearance in October but he was convicted and fined £200 for not giving police his name, address, date of birth and nationality after the stop in Arbroath. Tony was recently prevented from client support at Dundee Job Centre, being targeted by staff there and refused entry to the office.

On Tuesday 10 November Tony was again supporting a claimant to a Work Capability Assessment at the Maximus office at Dundee's Greenmarket. Maximus are the multinational outfit which took over from the notorious Atos firm which even the loathsome Ian Duncan Smith was forced to terminate as a contactor because of public outcry and campaigning over deaths that followed their dubious fit for work decisions. Tony was refused entry to the interview and was arrested and held for 24 hours before a court appearance on threatening behaviour charges. Tony pled not guilty and has a trial in February next year.

Tony's court appearance was challenged by campaigners outside the building. A delegate from the Public and Civil Service union came out to offer her court workers' solidarity with the picket which was accepted but only with the proviso that the PCS members there speak to their brothers and sisters and call them out over the welfare sanctions they are imposing on the unemployed and ill. The court picket was also joined by SNP councillor Jimmy Black. Dundee Against Austerity carries on the campaign for the SNP government in Scotland to cover all losses caused by the unjust welfare sanctions regime. The campaign was launched in January 2015 and we are still waiting on the SNP's response.

Dundee FRFI will continue to call for the broadest support for all those like Tony who are being actively harassed by DWP staff and police as welfare campaigners fight for advocacy rights to be defended and upheld. We call for full support for protest at Tony Cox's trial next year.


Michael MacGregor


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