Afghanistan – information for constituents seeking help

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Contacting your MP

MPs’ offices are receiving a large number of requests for assistance from constituents with relatives, friends and colleagues stranded in Afghanistan. Please contact only your own MP. If you copy in other MPs, you will hinder their ability to help their constituents.

In order to help your MP to assist you in the most efficient way, please give them as much information as you possibly can.

About you, the constituent:

  • Full name (not just initials)
  • Full postal address
  • email address
  • telephone number
  • If you are not a British national and are in the UK on a visa, please provide your Home Office reference number.
  • If you are not a British national, have you ever worked for the UK Government, UK Armed Forces or British organisations in Afghanistan?

About the people you are trying to help:

Please supply as much information about each individual in Afghanistan as you possibly can:

  • Full name
  • Date of Birth
  • Nationality
  • Relationship to constituent
  • Passport / travel document / identity card number
  • Individual(s)’ contact details
  • If they are not a British Citizen:
  • Home Office reference number
  • Have they already obtained a visa?
  • Do they have a visa application pending (if so, please provide the reference)
  • Have they ever worked for the UK Government, UK Armed Forces or British organisations in Afghanistan? If so, please give details, e.g.
    • Working for the UK or Consular services
    • Journalist or worked with British News Agencies
    • Current of former Chevening scholar
    • Member of civil society group for women’s rights
    • Afghan Government Official or Judiciary
    • Official working in Counter-terrorism and counter narcotics
    • Employee of a charity, humanitarian organisation or NGO

Your MP will log your case and give you a reference number. Please make sure that you use this reference number in all of your future correspondence with them as it will help them to find your case more quickly.

Who is my Member of Parliament?

You can find details of your MP here: https://members.parliament.uk/FindYourMP and you can use https://www.writetothem.com/ to contact them by email.


Other useful contacts

Commons Library Briefing Paper

Afghanistan 2021: Key resources for UK nationals and Afghans

This page summarises the schemes in place to assist British nationals and others remaining in Afghanistan. It also signposts key resources and helplines.

Support for British and non-British nationals in Afghanistan

Information from the UK Government: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/support-for-british-and-non-british-nationals-in-afghanistan

Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy

24 hour helpline for constituents: crisis@fcdo.gov.uk

For people who are currently in Afghanistan, they should call the British Embassy Kabul on +93 (0) 700 102 000 or +44 (0)1908 516666 and select the option “Consular services for British nationals” as soon as possible.
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/afghan-relocations-and-assistance-policy/afghan-relocations-and-assistance-policy-information-and-guidance

Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme

Information for non-British Nationals in Afghanistan, or family members of a non-British National in Afghanistan

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/afghan-citizens-resettlement-scheme

If you are a non-British National in Afghanistan, or are the family member of a non-British National in Afghanistan, and in need of assistance, you should call +44 (0)2475 389980. This number is currently staffed from 09:00 to 23:00, but will become 24 hour on Monday 23 August 2021.

New number for people in the ARAP scheme to call: +93 (0) 79 290 7303
This is an Afghan mobile number but is operated by the MOD’s ARAP call centre 24/7 from London for ARAP applicants (not MPs, advocates etc).

Applicants are told to message (not ring) & the team then ring them back.

Foreign & Commonwealth Development Office Information

Online form for UK nationals left in Afghanistan to register their presence: https://www.register-afghanistan.service.csd.fcdo.gov.uk/afghanistan-20210828/confirm-your-presence-in-afghanistan-to-fcdo

FCDO Travel Advice on Twitter: https://twitter.com/fcdotravelgovuk

Travel advice from the FCDO https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/afghanistan

British Embassy in Afghanistan: https://www.gov.uk/world/organisations/british-embassy-kabul
The British Embassy in Afghanistan Twitter Feed is no longer active. Please see https://twitter.com/UK4Afghanistan instead.

Home Office

Home Office Twitter: https://twitter.com/ukhomeoffice/

Information for Citizens of Other Nations

Please see this tweet from Maisie McCormack https://twitter.com/tweetsbymaisie/status/1427697988223254540 which contains contact information for the authorities in numerous countries around the world.

UNHCR website with links to different countries evacuation/support schemes and info on what refugees in third countries should do: https://help.unhcr.org/

Online safety resources for Afghanistan’s human rights defenders

https://www.accessnow.org/online-safety-resources-afghanistan/

ARAP, resettlement and family reunion – Factsheets for Afghan citizens seeking asylum in UK

Factsheets from Garden Court Chambers

https://www.gardencourtchambers.co.uk/news/arap-resettlement-and-family-reunion-factsheets-for-afghan-citizens-seeking-asylum-in-uk

Members’ Staff Roadshows

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Members’ Staff Roadshows – Refreshed: Launch event for the North West region

The Members’ Services Team (MST) have recently taken ownership of the regional constituency events (or roadshows).  We very much intend to return to face to face roadshows in due course, but in the meantime we have consulted MPs’ staff and other stakeholders on what our virtual roadshows might look like. We are therefore piloting a new type of virtual roadshow that will have two phases:

A short launch event on MS Teams, where the MST will ask you what you would like included in the roadshow.  The first launch event is on Thursday 15th July at 09.30 for the North West region.

As well as constituency based staff, we want to hear from staff who work in Westminster, whose constituency is in the North West.  If you work for an MP in this region, you will receive an email asking you to vote on whether you will attend, and if you vote yes, you will then receive an invite to the roadshow itself.  At the launch event, you can let us know what subjects you would like to discuss, and which of the break-out groups we are planning will be beneficial for you.  We will not be having presentations from House services, but staff from those services will be at both the launch event and the roadshow itself.  Your views will be key and we really want to hear from you.

The actual roadshow event will then follow the launch event between 4-6 weeks later.  For the North West region, the roadshow is on the 7th September at 09.30 and will be virtual.

It is really important that you register for the event, so please vote; and if you haven’t received an email, please contact mst@parliament.uk.

The next event will be for staff working for MPs in Scotland, and further details will follow.

 

See more here: https://intranet.parliament.uk/business-news/news-current-issues/news/2021/july/refreshed-members-staff-roadshows-launch-event-for-the-north-west-region/

Members’ Services Team

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The Members’ Services Team supports MPs and their staff in various matters, including HR, engagement and pastoral support to MPs’ staff, regular all-staff Q&A sessions on various topics raised by staff, and also a weekly drop-in session on Teams for those responsible for managing MPs’ offices.

The Members’ Services team has produced a series of Best Practice Guides which you can find here: https://intranet.parliament.uk/employment/house-of-commons-members/members-hr-advice-service/employing-new-staff/advice-on-employing-new-staff/

For further information, please see here: https://intranet.parliament.uk/people-offices/offices-departments/commons-departments/member-services-team-mst/

Travel information for MPs and their staff

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Parliamentary Travel Office

The Parliamentary Travel Office provides a comprehensive travel service including:

  • domestic and international air and rail ticketing
  • hotel booking (both in the UK and abroad)
  • passport, visa and currency services
  • support with organising travel and accommodation for events.

The Travel Office offers specially negotiated discounts on many fares, in particular on air travel, and on the costs of hotels. CTM will price match a `like for like` itinerary on the same day if a lower fare is found within usual business hours.

Taxis

Please note that the Parliamentary Travel Office does not offer a taxi booking service. Information on how to arrange a taxi to collect you from the Parliamentary Estate can be found here

Booking rail tickets online with Trainline Business

IPSA has set up accounts for MPs to allow them to book rail tickets online via Trainline Business.  These are billed directly to IPSA and tickets can be collected from the machines at any railway station or from the kiosk if there is no ticket machine.  If you do not know the details for your Trainline account, please contact IPSA to request them.  Please also familiarise yourself with the rules on booking rail tickets here: https://www.ipsaonline.org.uk/guidance/direct-suppliers#rail-travel-claims

If you or your MP are travelling overseas on Parliamentary business, you can find information about services available to you on the intranet:

Overseas Travel Advice, Guidance and Vaccination Arrangements – St Thomas’ Hospital

Members and staff of both Houses together with their accompanying staff/partner travelling overseas on office business may obtain travel advice, vaccinations and medication from the Occupational Health Service at St Thomas’ Hospital.

For further information and to book an appointment, click here.

For information on travel insurance, please see the intranet page here: Travel insurance

Important – Post-Brexit British Passport Validity

To be eligible to travel to most European countries, on the day of travel, British passport holders must:

  • Have at least 6 months left on their passport, and
  • Have a passport that is less than 10 years old, even if it has 6 months or more left

These rules also apply to Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. They do not apply to travel to Ireland.

Please check your passport expiry date before booking any travel and renew it as soon as possible if it does not meet the new criteria. Failure to do so may mean your passport is invalid and you may not be able to travel.

You can check here for the country you’re visiting.

Click here to renew your British passport.

Foreign travel advice

Get country-by-country advice about travelling abroad, including the latest information on coronavirus, safety and security, entry requirements and travel warnings.

https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

 

Surviving your first week in the constituency office

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Introduction

I still remember my first day vividly.  I arrived at the constituency office bang on 9 o’clock, and was greeted by a local councillor.  He told me that he acted as the caretaker for the building and gave me a set of keys. He showed me upstairs to my office, and then said he had to go, and wished me luck.

So there I was, standing in my best suit, alone in the building, looking at my new surroundings.  In my previous job, I had worked in a nice, air-conditioned office with lots of windows, lots of desks and lots of people. Now I was standing alone in a small, dimly-lit room which contained an old desk, a wonky orange plastic chair, a filing cabinet with a drawer missing, and a telephone.  The tiny window had bars on it, and overlooked a car park. That was it. No computer, no nothing.  As I stood there looking around, I thought “What an earth have I done?”  This shabby room with its worn, second-hand carpet and broken furniture was not at all what I had imagined an MPs office to be like.

I think that this is something that surprises many people.  Most MPs are not rich and do not have expensive and plush constituency offices.  The office cost budget is always stretched, and MPs are keen to get the best deals possible on rent, which might mean sacrificing some of the luxuries you might find in city centre offices.  Some MPs are lucky enough to inherit furniture from their predecessors, whilst others might buy second-hand furniture.  Fortunately, nowadays, there is a ‘startup supplement’ to help to set up a new office for a new MP, which should cover all of the basic necessities.

It’s often tough, not necessarily well paid, the hours can be long, and quite often you may not enjoy overly salubrious surroundings.  However, working for an MP is undoubtedly a very privileged position.  You will meet some fantastic people in your role.  No two working days are ever the same.  You are the first port of call working in the Constituency Office – often for constituents who, at times, will present seemingly intractable problems – you will often be the de facto MP!

Enjoy your work and I hope that this simple guide assists you in your first few weeks.

Meet Your Team

Most MPs, but not all, have both a constituency office and a Westminster office, and the work carried out in the two offices can be very different.  If your Member has a Westminster office, find out exactly what work they undertake, what hours they work (they might work later in the day in order to be there when the House is sitting), the preferred method of contact, e.g. telephone, email, Teams, WhatsApp.  You may find, for example, that the Westminster office manages the MP’s Diary, organises House of Commons Tours, deals with policy issues, and helps with speech writing.  In the Constituency office you may be casework-focused, organise surgeries, liaise with the respective political party organisation and local stakeholders (i.e. local authorities, schools, citizens advice bureau, charities, pressure groups, etc).  When possible, try to organise a visit to the Westminster office and have a good look at all the places you are supposed to know about.  Offer to buy lunch for your Westminster colleague….well OK…a cuppa – in return for a tour of all those places you’ve heard about and it would be helpful to have actually seen.  Book yourself onto an official guided tour.  In the meantime, you can undertake an online tour of the building by looking at the Virtual Tours page: https://ukparliament.seetickets.com/tour/guided-online-tour-of-the-palace-of-westminster

Security Clearance

Your MP or office manager should have sorted out your security clearance before your start date.  If this hasn’t been done, then this is your most important and urgent task.  Without it, you will not be able to access any of the Parliamentary computers or the Parliamentary network, which will seriously hamper your ability to work – almost everything is done online.  Depending on the workload of the Pass Office, clearance can take anything from a couple of weeks, to a couple of months – obviously, they will be much busier just after a General Election.  When your security clearance has been granted, the Pass Office will email your security number to your MP.  Please treat this number as you would your PIN for your credit card – keep it somewhere secure where only you can access it.  Renewing your security clearance is your own responsibility, so please make a note of the expiry date and ensure that you renew it a couple of weeks before it expires.  You can find the relevant forms on the intranet.  Contact the Pass Office on securityvetting@parliament.uk if you have any queries.

If you are working in Westminster your security clearance must be granted before you begin work on the Parliamentary Estate.  It is not permitted for staff to use a visitor pass.  You can read more about security clearance here: https://w4mp.org/jobs-listings-events/jobs/members-staff-security-verification-questionnaire/

Parliamentary Network Account

As soon as your security clearance has been granted, your office manager or MP should apply for an account on the Parliamentary Network for you.  If this hasn’t been done, please ask them to do it as soon as possible; they will need your security clearance number, and they will need to tell Parliamentary Digital Services whether you are to have access to the members mailbox and/or a shared office mailbox if they have one.  It usually takes around 24 hours for your access to be set up.

The first time you log into a computer, you will be asked to change your password, and then you will have to wait a few minutes for the computer to set up your profile.  This is a good time to go and make a cup of tea.

Contract of Employment

Your MP should have drawn up a contract of employment, which should be signed by both the MP and you.  This contract must be sent to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), along with a New Starter Form as soon as possible – you won’t get paid if IPSA doesn’t have these forms.  See the IPSA website for further information: https://www.ipsaonline.org.uk/guidance/new-starters.

Your working hours

You should agree with the MP what hours you will work.  Some offices have split starting times, where one member of staff might work 8am to 4pm, another might work 10am to 6pm.  In Westminster, some staff might work from 12pm to 8pm, or vary their times to match those of when the House is sitting.  Most MPs are very flexible on start times, but do expect the constituency office to have cover during core hours, for example between 10am and 2pm.  MPs’ staffing budgets are very tight, and it is common for Time Off In Lieu (TOIL) to be given instead of overtime payments, so it is important to keep a record of any overtime worked.  If you are to be paid for your overtime (check with your Member first), you will need to enter this into an overtime form which can be found on the IPSA Business World website.  Your office manager or MP will show you where to find this, or you can ask IPSA.

Your surroundings

OK, now you’ve got the most urgent bits done, it’s time for someone to show you around.  If they don’t offer – ask!  At the very least, you need to know where the toilets are.  Don’t feel embarrassed to ask if nobody volunteers this information, it’s probably the most important thing you need to know today.  What facilities are at your disposal?  Is there a kitchen?  Is there a kitty for buying tea/coffee/milk etc. or do you provide your own?  Whilst some constituency offices are in town centres, where there are plenty of places to buy lunch, some people prefer to bring something with them, whether it be sandwiches or something they can cook or heat up at the office.  How does the burglar alarm and entry system work?  Where are the exits?  What is the fire safety plan? Where is the fire-fighting equipment, and will you be trained to use it?

Although most constituents communicate by email these days, you will still receive some letters by post and will need to send letters to constituents.  Therefore you need to find out where the nearest post box is or, more importantly, the post box which has the latest collection time.  If your nearest postbox is emptied at nine in the morning, that might not be the best one to use.  Some older postboxes have quite small apertures, so if you need to post something large, you may need to find your nearest parcel post box.

Telephones

Someone should show you how to use the telephone.  Now this might sound like something really obvious – everyone knows how to use a telephone, right?  Well not necessarily.  Some offices will just have a simple phone where you pick up and dial; some might require you to dial nine for an outside line, but others might have more complicated systems.  What is the protocol for answering the telephone?  Does everyone pick up the phones when they ring, is it on a rota, or is one person designated as ‘receptionist’?  Is there a particular wording they would like you to use when you answer the phone?  Some people like to keep it short and say “Hello, Fred Bloggs MPs office, how may I help you?” whereas some have really unwieldy greetings “Good morning, you have reached the office of Fred Bloggs MP, my name is Jane Smith, how may I help you?” – by which time the constituent has already tried to talk over you three times.  Do you have an old-fashioned answerphone, or do you have electronic voicemail?  You can use Microsoft Teams on your computer or mobile devices to make voice or video calls to anyone on the Parliamentary Network, which will help to keep your phone bills down.  Some people might also have an assigned Teams telephone number, which allows them to make and receive external calls on their computer.

Use a notebook!  Post-it notes get everywhere, and easily get lost, so keep a notebook on your desk, and use it to take notes from phone calls, conversations with constituents, instructions from the MP, et cetera.  Start a new page every day and write the date at the top.  Just something as simple as this can help you to focus your mind for the day, and will also help you to find things when you need to look back at them.  It is not uncommon for a constituent to complain that they called you three weeks ago and you haven’t done anything with their case, yet when you check back in your book, it was actually five days ago.

Newspapers and Magazines

Does your office have a subscription to a local newspaper, either in hard copy or digital?  If digital, can you have access?  Bear in mind that whilst most newspapers have websites, not all of the articles on the website appear in the hard copy, and not all of the articles which appear in hard copy will appear on the website, so it’s important that you have access to both in order to keep an eye on any items which will be of interest to the MP or the constituency.  Some digital subscriptions will allow you to print or save pages as PDF files, which you can store in your shared drive, for future reference.

If your role will involve liaising with the local press, you should introduce yourself to the local journalists.  Some journalists like to speak to you personally about every issue, whereas others prefer to communicate by email, so perhaps you could arrange to meet to discuss how you can best work with each other.

Your MP may also have subscriptions to various magazines.  Some magazines send hard copies to MPs automatically, but you may have to pay for some subscriptions.  You can also access some magazines and journals through the Commons Library intranet pages.  Always check to see if the Commons Library already has a subscription before committing to pay for one.  You can also access Nexis news from the Commons Library intranet pages, which allows you to search newspapers from all over the world.  The results are shown in text only format, rather than looking like a page from the newspaper.

Induction and Training

The Members’ Services Team (MST) holds frequent online induction sessions for new staff, and w4mp strongly recommends that all new staff join one of these sessions as soon as possible.  MST should contact you shortly after you start your employment, but you can also contact them directly to ask to be registered on a session – just email mst@parliament.uk

The Learning and Development Group provides a wealth of relevant, high-quality training, free of charge.  You can access the learning portal via the ACT icon on your computer desktop, and from there you can view all of the available courses, and book online.  Your line manager will be notified when you book each course, and you will receive confirmation and a calendar invitation by email.

It is important that you do the Fire, Safety, Security and Behaviour Code for Members & Members’ Staff training first.  w4mp encourages you to sign up for as many courses relevant to your job as you can, but don’t overwhelm yourself.  These training sessions take place during the working day, and you will need to fit your work around them, so whilst it’s tempting to try to do several courses in a week, this is really not a good idea as you will end up with a backlog of work.

Many courses are available online, but if you have to travel to attend any face-to-face training, the cost of the travel will be covered by IPSA.  You can book via the Travel Office, via Trainline Business, or you can buy the tickets yourself and claim for reimbursement.

The Commons Library and some House of Commons offices also offer training, and there are external providers too.  You can find out more information about training here: https://w4mp.org/training/

Your Local Authority

Many constituents will contact you on matters that predominantly fall under the jurisdiction of the local authority.  This can be anything ranging from questions and problems with housing, housing benefit and rent, council tax, to planning matters, parking, social services, libraries and so on.

Every Local Authority has a different preferred method of contact with the MP’s office.  In some areas, the MP will email everything to the Chief Executive or Town Clerk, regardless of whether it is casework, policy or other local issues.  In other areas, the MP might email individual council departments or officers responsible for the different issues.  Some councils have a very useful web submission form which directs the matter to the correct department, ensuring that you provide all the required information whilst, at the same time, providing a tracking system which ensures that your correspondence receives a timely response.  Please do check to find out their preferred method of contact – you may be slowing down the response time if you are not contacting via the correct route.

The Police

Your MP should already have a good working relationship with the local Chief Superintendent, and you should seek to foster a good relationship with their Personal Assistant/Staff Officer, as they can be an absolute mine of useful information and save you a lot of work.  If your MP has not yet met the Chief Superintendent, you should arrange a meeting to introduce the MP and yourself.  They will be able to advise you who your initial contact for casework and local issues of concern should be.

It is useful for you to know who your local police contacts are, and some forces have details of the local officers for each area listed on their website. If not, the Chief Superintendent’s PA/Staff Officer will be able to supply you with this information.  Local officers are usually very helpful in updating you about general matters of concern in their areas, and will often be able to discuss some of the specific matters which are brought to your attention by constituents.  It is also a good idea to let the local officers know if you will be holding an advice surgery in their area.

You should also find out who your local ‘Operation Bridger’ contact is, and drop them an email to introduce yourself.  Operation Bridger is a nationwide police protective security operation to enhance the security of Members of Parliament.  For further information about this operation, please contact the Members’ Security Support Service, whose details can be found on the intranet.

Other Key Local Stakeholders

As well as the local authority and the Police, there will be a number of bodies you will come into contact with on a regular basis.  These will include the Fire Service, various health services, head teachers, local faith leaders, the Chamber of Commerce, Citizens Advice Bureau, charities, other voluntary groups and business leaders.

You will probably not need to visit all of these, but you should know their contact details and you should email them with your details, so they know how to get in touch quickly.

The Diary

Please see our separate guide here: Managing Your MP’s Diary

Dealing with Constituents

If you manage to get to day three of your first week working for an MP without having an angry constituent coming to you because something somewhere in the world has gone wrong, you’ve done pretty well!

How will constituents communicate with you?

There are various methods of communication:

  • email
  • telephone
  • letter
  • advice surgeries
  • appointments at your office
  • cold callers at your office

By far the most common method of communication is by email.  Some MPs receive more than 300 emails a day, many of which are from constituents needing advice or assistance.  Next, comes telephone calls.  Every day is different – some days your phone will not stop ringing, and on other days, it might not ring at all – you never know what you’re going to get.  Before widespread usage of the Internet, MPs used to receive numerous letters each week, but now that most people have email, they might receive only one or two letters a week, or even a month.

Most MPs hold advice surgeries.  Rather than go into detail here, you can read more about them in our guide: Preparing for a Constituency Surgery

Sometimes, a constituent will need to see the MP or their caseworker face-to-face to discuss complex issues, and an appointment at the office might be the most appropriate way to do this.  Set aside a hour to meet them and be mindful of your personal safety.  Never see constituents alone, and don’t let the Member see them alone either.

How you decide to deal with constituents coming to your door, on an ad hoc basis, without a prior appointment, is something you will quickly have to work out a clear protocol for.  Your Member may well have views, and you need to discuss this with them.

Our first advice is quite straightforward and simple, but very important: don’t let anyone into the office who is clearly very agitated if you are on your own.  Even better, do not let anyone at all into the office if you are on your own.

We would strongly advise MPs’ offices not to have an ‘open door’ policy, where anyone can drop in at any time without an appointment.  Not only is it a safety risk, but also might be an unwelcome interruption to other urgent matters that you are dealing with.  It’s also not fair on people who have booked appointments in advance, to have someone interrupt their meeting.

If however, your Member insists on having an ‘open door’ policy, you should work out a protocol where you are going to accept members of the public into the office, on an ad hoc basis, arrange for a notice to be put at the front of your building, with the opening hours that are available.  You may work from 7.45am until 4.30pm for example, but the public may be allowed in only between 9.30am and 3.30pm.  On any notice you could also usefully inform people that they should, wherever possible, bring supporting documentary evidence and a covering letter addressed to the Member, authorising the MP to make enquiries on behalf of the constituent.

Not all members of the public who come to the office during the week whilst the MP is in Westminster will necessarily want to have a moan.  Some may want help and advice because their social security benefits appear wrong or confusing; or they may wish to make the Member aware of something that is happening in the local community.  Remember to be the ears and eyes for your Member – a good listening ear plus lots of patience is what’s needed!

Dealing with Casework

See our guides to casework here: https://w4mp.org/w4mp/w4mp-guides/in-the-constituency/casework-guides/

Stationery

In the Constituency Office no two days are ever the same.  Whether it is casework, doing research for your Member or writing a speech, you will need the relevant stationery.  See our guide here: https://w4mp.org/w4mp/w4mp-guides/your-office/stationery/

Money

There shouldn’t be any need for staff to purchase items for the office, but on the rare occasions this might happen, you need to know how they will be paid for.  The best way is to ask the MP or their proxy to purchase something on the IPSA payment card as this will mean that no-one is out-of-pocket.  However, if this isn’t possible, then the Member or staff can purchase items and then claim for reimbursement, subject to them being eligible under IPSA’s rules.  Some offices might keep a small amount of petty cash, in which case, you should confirm the protocol for this with the Member.

If you are likely to be nominated as the MP’s proxy for IPSA, it is very important that you familiarise yourself with The Scheme of MPs’ Business Costs & Expenses.  Indeed, even if you are not going to be a proxy, you should read it anyway so that you have an idea of what you can and cannot do.  IPSA offers regular training sessions for proxies and you can find details here: Training & development

Health and Safety

All Constituency Offices should have a first aid kit and should adhere to basic health and safety requirements.  It is a good idea for at least one staff member to have attended a First Aid training course.

You can contact your local Fire Service for free checks on fire precautions etc.  The local authority can advise on health and safety guidance and you will find a huge amount of information on the Parliamentary intranet here: https://intranet.parliament.uk/employment/safety-at-parliament/safety/   Although much of the information on the intranet is related to working in Westminster, there is still some very useful information which can be applied to constituency offices.

Computers and backing up your work

You may be surprised just how much you rely on fast, reliable computers for your work.  All MPs are entitled to an allocation of computer equipment, including PCs, laptops, tablets and printers for their staff.  The Parliamentary Digital Service on 0207 219 2001 will supply all your IT needs and they provide an excellent service.

All you need to know about technical help and advice, managing your network account, ordering computer equipment and software, wireless and remote access to the Parliamentary Network, ICT training and Security advice, policies and procedures can be found here: https://intranet.parliament.uk/computers-equipment/

You should save all your work either on your personal OneDrive, or on your office’s SharePoint drive rather than on your PC’s hard drive.  This will allow you to access it from any location at any time, not just whilst you’re sitting at your desk.  You can sync OneDrive and your SharePoint drive to your computer, so that you can continue working even if you have no Internet connection.  Using the cloud-based options also means that your data is less likely to be lost as a result of hardware failure.

Working from home

Many Members are flexible and allow their staff to work at home at times if this is necessary, for example if you’ve got a particularly complicated piece of work to do and you need time away from the phone, or if you need to arrange your day around childcare, for example.  Do check with your Member and get their acceptance for this.  You can read our guides to working from home here:

https://w4mp.org/library/researchguides/your-employment-status/working-from-home-a-guide-for-those-who-work-for-an-mp/

and here: https://w4mp.org/w4mp/w4mp-guides/support-in-your-job/working-from-home/

Talk to other MPs’ Constituency Offices

You are not alone in this confusing and complicated new maze and, when struggling to find your way around, you will find a good deal of camaraderie with other MPs’ offices (of the same Party!) within your county or region.  They will often be able to help and advise on many issues you have to face, and have probably ‘been gone there before’ and will happily share experiences with you. It’s a fact of life in a great many constituency offices that life can be somewhat isolated for staff so it’s up to you to set up a network which works for you.  The Members’ Services Team also arranges monthly online drop-in sessions where you can receive updates on information relevant to staff, and also chat with staff from other offices all over the country.  There are WhatsApp groups available for MPs’ staff, and the MST can put you in touch with the appropriate one for your job and political party.

Representation

There are various organisations which provide representation for MPs’ staff, and you can find details of them here: https://w4mp.org/w4mp/w4mp-guides/groups-which-staff-can-join/representation/

Other Places to Look

The Members’ Staff Handbook is an essential guide for both Constituency and Westminster staff which includes lots of useful information, as well as listing the responsibilities and rules that you must adhere to.

Getting started guide for new Caseworkers

 

 

Covid-19 Support

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This page last updated: 28 May 2021

Cartoon showing people wearing masks outside Palace of Westminster
Cartoon showing people wearing masks outside Palace of Westminster

For up to date information on the situation please check the Parliamentary Covid-19 intranet hub, which contains information about Parliament’s response to coronavirus, including support for remote working and what services are available. It is for Members of both Houses, members’ staff and staff of both Houses.

Please note the current advice on wearing face coverings on the estate.

Information and advice from IPSA can be found here: https://www.theipsa.org.uk/news/coronavirus-guidance/

We have created a page of what we hope will be useful links for caseworkers and the public. If you have things we might add please mail editor@w4mp.org 

We have published a guide to working from home, with advice on how to stay healthy. There is also guidance from the HoC Health and Wellbeing Team.

GMB Branch for MPs’ and Lords’ Staff

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If you’re ever having a problem at work, big or small, or if you want to be part of making things better for MPs’ and Lords’ staff, then the GMB is here for you.

The GMB is the trade union for MPs’ staff and Lords’ staff.  We represent staff of all political parties, both in Westminster and in the constituency.  Whether you’re an unpaid intern or a (more than) full-time office manager, we would love to have you join our community.

The GMB is Parliament’s campaigning union.  The Laura Cox and Gemma White reports have exposed the widespread bullying and harassment that has taken place in Parliament.  We refuse to tolerate any form of bullying: we are determined not only to stamp this out wherever we see it, but also put robust systems in place to stop this from ever happening again.  Parliament is an institution that is hundreds of years old – but that doesn’t mean we should have to put up with ancient standards of behaviour.

On top of this, we’ve been working tirelessly to make dealing with IPSA easier, for better pay, and simply to make sure everyone gets paid the right amount on time. It’s by working together that we can make the change that we want to see happen

We have a team of experienced reps on hand to help with any problem you may have, however big or small.  We will be there to give you impartial and confidential advice, be by your side in every step of a disciplinary procedure, help you make a complaint through the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme, or simply to talk any issues you might have through.  You’re never alone when you’re with us.

GMB is the biggest Trade Union on Parliamentary Estate.  While our Branch is focused on the unique issues faced by staff that work for MPs and Peers, the GMB also represents staff working on the estate in catering, retail, and all sorts of others.  The partnership between all workers across the estate is the cornerstone of our union, and this allows us to run bigger campaigns with more impact.

We have a recognition agreement with the Parliamentary Labour Party, a productive working relationship with IPSA and the Members Services Team.

We want everyone to feel safe, secure and supported at work, and we’re going to stop until that’s the case.  Join us if you want to make Parliament a better place to work, and make sure your rights are protected. We will have your back no matter what.

For further information email: jenny.symmons@parliament.uk, and follow us on Twitter: @GMB_MPs_Staff.

Join us here: www.gmb.org.uk/join-GMB

The Privy Council

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What is the Privy Council?

The Privy Council is an advisory body to the Monarch; its members are known as Privy Counsellors. It is one of the oldest parts of the UK’s constitutional arrangements, with its origins dating back to at least the thirteenth century.

Find out more in this Commons Library Research Briefing which looks at the role and powers of the Privy Council: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-7460/

Finding legal advice for your constituents

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MPs’ offices should not give out legal advice to constituents.  You should ask your constituents to seek independent legal advice given by a suitably qualified person with professional liability insurance.

Law Centres defend the legal rights of people who cannot afford a lawyer. They are specialists working in their local communities to uphold justice and advance equality.  There are various Law Centres throughout the country who https://www.lawcentres.org.uk/about-law-centres/law-centres-on-google-maps/alphabetically

Citizens Advice Bureau: Citizens Advice Bureau (external website)
Their network of independent charities offers confidential advice online, over the phone, and in person, for free.  They are independent and totally impartial.  They also give advice on consumer rights on their consumer helpline, support witnesses in courts through the Witness Service and give pension guidance to people aged over 50.

Immigration

In the case of immigration matters, it is against the law to dispense immigration advice unless you are registered with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) or a member of an approved professional body such as the Law Society.

Find an immigration adviser: https://www.gov.uk/find-an-immigration-adviser

The Public Law Project employs specialist lawyers who assist individuals experiencing personal disadvantage, or charities or organisations representing the interests of marginalised or disadvantaged groups.  PLP also employs expert academics and researchers.

They may be able to take on individual cases that are referred to them by other lawyers, advisors, MPs or voluntary groups.  If they are unable to help, they may be able to signpost you to other lawyers or agencies that can.

Have a look at their page on helping individuals here; https://publiclawproject.org.uk/can-we-help/individuals/

The Unity Project supports migrants who have No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF).

Karma Nirvana is a project which supports victims of honour-based violence and forced marriage.  https://karmanirvana.org.uk/

Further information

See the House of Commons Library Constituency Casework Guides:

 

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Legal Aid: https://www.apg-legalaid.org/

From the APPG’s website:

“The APPG on Legal Aid provides bespoke training to MPs and their caseworkers on a range of subjects through the House of Commons Library. Studies and research have shown that as a consequence of the LASPO cuts there has been a huge increase in the number and complexity of legal problems that MPs are encountering in their surgeries. Our training is designed specifically with caseworkers in mind and provided by industry experts. To date, we have provided training in the following areas:

  • Legal Aid,
  • Immigration,
  • Housing Law,
  • Disability and Discrimination Law,
  • Employment Law,
  • Anti-Social Behaviour Orders and
  • Special Education Needs.

Feedback for the courses has been excellent. We have also developed courses in soft skills and interviewing techniques for new casework staff as part of the House of Commons induction process.

For further information about these courses, please check the ACT website.

We also provide briefings for individual MPs and select committees on various areas within legal aid. For further information, please contact Rohini.Teather@lapg.co.uk.”

Workplace Equality Networks

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Workplace Equality Networks (WENs) are an opportunity for groups of people to discuss and consider issues relevant to their situation or of interest to them.  In particular, WENs can be useful forums for groups protected by equality legislation.

Current networks include:

WENs are open to all pass holders in the Commons, PDS and Lords staff, contractors employed by the House, MPs, Lords and members’ staff.

Membership is not restricted to people who require a platform relating to this WEN but those involved are required to respect the aims of the Network.

For more information on Workplace Equality Networks, please see their page on the intranet here: https://intranet.parliament.uk/people-offices/groups-associations/bicameral-groups/workplace-equality-networks/