DISABILITY campaigners will rally today in solidarity with a welfare activist dragged into court for advising benefit claimants at an assessment centre.
Dr Tony Cox, a campaigner with the Scottish Unemployed Workers Network (SUWN), was arrested last November while accompanying a claimant to a disability benefits test in Dundee.
Despite Department for Work and Pensions regulations giving people the right to representation at all appointments, staff at the centre refused to allow Dr Cox in and called the police.
SUWN organiser Sarah Glynn told the Star the protest is taking place outside the Dundee sheriff court during Dr Cox’s hearing “because everyone who is on benefits or who knows people on benefits recognises the vital need for people’s right to be accompanied to be respected.
“As the benefit system evolves into an increasingly punitive minefield, it has never been more important to have support negotiating the way through.
“The right to that support exists in law. We are insisting it is recognised in practice.
“No-one should be criminalised for insisting on their rights or helping others to do so. Advocacy is not a crime.”
US-based privatising giant Maximus runs the assessment centre Dr Cox was arrested at.
The company has been slammed for the way it has run the government’s degrading work capability assessments.
Earlier in 2015, Dr Cox was arrested at Arbroath jobcentre while accompanying a claimant, but a court ruled he had committed no offence and prosecutors withdrew the main charge.
Paul Laverty, who wrote Ken Loach’s most recent film I, Daniel Blake, said he had met Dr Cox during research for the movie “giving solid practical advice to confused and sometimes highly distressed claimants.”
He added that during research his team had also come across “overwhelming evidence of vulnerable people subjected to great pressure both by the Department for Work and Pensions and indeed the subcontracted companies carrying out the work capability assessments.
“In this context the work of Tony Cox and his colleagues who accompany vulnerable claimants is a great service to the body politic.”
Maximus and Police Scotland were not available to comment.