Asking for help
My role is to help people and I take that seriously. I am the first Plymouth MP to ever open an office in the city centre where people can walk up to ask for help. I hold regular surgeries and have a team of staff – called caseworkers – to support me in answering questions and assisting people who need help.
My approach is a simple one: if my team and I can help you, we will. I provide assistance regardless of who you voted for.
What is casework and how do I deal with it?
Casework is the general term for requests made to an MP for help. This covers a range of issues or complaints I may take up on your behalf.
I know the issues you need help with might be sensitive or causing you distress. My team of caseworkers aim to deal with you in a fair and understanding way. After reviewing your case we may ask that you come into the Plymouth office, or to an advice session in your local area to take the case further. I offer regular advice surgeries in Plymouth, but we strongly encourage constituents to speak to a caseworker in the first instance, it is often much quicker and means we can help to resolve your issue promptly.
During the lockdown, it is not possible to hold face to face advice surgeries or have people come into the office, and so my team and I may ask you to have a conversation with us over the phone instead. I have also changed my regular face to face advice surgery into an online surgery.
How do I prioritise casework?
|Urgent casework (Dealt with as soon as practically possible). ‘Urgent casework’ is usually time critical. An example of this would include impending homelessness.|
|Standard casework (up to 10 working days). ‘Standard casework’ is important casework but it may not be as time sensitive as urgent casework. An example of this could be a longstanding welfare payment complaint.|
Policy casework Lots of people write to me with questions about national or local policy. This can be around Brexit, defence, the NHS or the environment. This can take me longer to reply to as I may need to undertake research, ask questions or correspond with Government Ministers to answer your question.
What to expect when you get in touch
Who can I help?
I only accept casework from people who live in Plymouth Sutton and Devonport. I am unable to help people who live outside the constituency I represent. When you are getting in touch please remember to include your name and address. My team may ask you for your address if you did not include it. If you don’t live in the area I represent I will try to reply but may not be able to.
If you have been asked to provide confirmation that you live in Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, in the form of a full name and address and have failed to do so, you will not receive a further reply. This is to allow my team and I to concentrate resources on assisting constituents and not administering incoming emails from other constituencies.
My office will deal with cases from all residents in Plymouth Sutton and Devonport regardless of how you voted, if you didn’t vote at all and even if you are not on the electoral register. Being on the electoral register is simple and even if you don’t want to vote it can improve your credit score. You can find out more about registering to vote here. https://www.lukepollard.org/register-to-vote/
If you or the person you are acting on behalf do not currently have an address in Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, for instance if they are of no fixed abode but with clear links to the part of Plymouth I represent (as the last formal address or have parents still living in the area) or if the person is currently in prison but lived here immediately before being sentenced my team and I aim to apply common sense.
What issues can I help with?
I can help with a wide range of issues which are the responsibility of central government dealing with the following Government departments on your behalf. There are a lot of Government departments but the main ones I deal with on behalf of the people I represent are:
- Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
- Her Majesties Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
- Home Office
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office
- Department of Health and Social Care
- Department for Education
- Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
- Ministry of Defence
What issues can’t I usually deal with?
You should always raise your issue with the most appropriate representative. If you have a problem which isn’t the responsibility of central government, such as Plymouth City Council you should contact your local councillor.
There are some things my office cannot do, these include;
- Give legal advice or interfere with ongoing legal proceedings
- Offer consumer or contract advice
- Offer debt advice or advice on financial services
- Become involved in disputes with other individuals
I will not assist in securing an unfair advantage, nor will I support unreasonable requests. I ask that everyone who contacts my office treats me and my staff with respect. I will not tolerate abuse or threats towards me or my team.
You may also wish to contact the Citizens Advice Bureau for general guidance. You can find the details of your nearest CAB at: www.citizensadvice.org.uk
Campaigns, policy and lobbying requests
MPs are often lobbied to support campaigns or contribute to surveys and events. I aim to respond to these within 10 days if you live in the Plymouth Sutton and Devonport. If you do not live in the part of Plymouth I represent you are unlikely to receive a reply.
Campaign and lobbying requests include requests to;
- contribute to a debate in Parliament (including committee debates) giving at least a week’s notice
- sign petitions
- sign an EDM (Early Day Motion)
- become a member of an APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group)
- attend an event or reception
- meet a delegation in parliament
- take part in a relevant survey
Please note that currently I am a member of the Shadow Cabinet and as such I am not allowed to sign EDMs or petitions.
I do not usually agree to general requests to support campaigns or causes unless there is a direct link to Plymouth or my frontbench responsibilities. This is because I like to fully research and understand the issue before committing, and to do this properly can be time consuming. When I do commit to support a campaign you are assured of a meaningful commitment from me.
|Freedom of Information requests (FOI)
Members of Parliament are not organisations and therefore not covered by the Freedom of Information Act.
|Data Protection Act Subject Data Access
Members of Parliament are Data Managers under the Data Protection Act and you have a right to access information we hold about you. Where some Data Managers may charge, I will not levy a fee.
- If you seeking public information or are seeking to access government services for the first time (such as advice on applying for a passport or visa) you can find a lot of information on gov.uk
- Only send the email once in the first instance. You should receive an automated response on the same day. If you have not received a response within 10 working days, you can re-send your email or a copy of your letter or call the office on 01752 717255.
- I deal with all casework in the order it arrives regardless of how it arrives. I accept letters, direct emails and emails from third party sites such as com
- Make sure you have provided your full home address, I cannot progress your case without it.
- If you are acting on behalf of someone else, I will need their permission to discuss the case with you. If you already have this in writing please provide it. I will send you a form asking for their permission if you do not have this in writing and I will not be able to make enquiries on your behalf until I have a signed copy returned.
- If you are seeking interventions in Parliamentary debates please give as much notice as possible.
- The best lobbying is personal and so please don’t be tempted to send a campaign or lobbying template letter. If you care enough about the issue to write in, then please tell me how it affects you personally. In return you’ll get a personalised response.
- If you do use template letters, I will usually have a template reply we will send back to you. This is to help administer the large volume of correspondence and allows more time to be spent on casework or correspondence requiring a personalised reply.
- Include how I can help. A lot of people send me correspondence making me aware of issues. It is helpful to let me know what you think I can do to assist you.
- You will be assigned a caseworker if your request for help is a complex one. My team are brilliant but occasionally – due to staff changes or areas of expertise – I may change your allocated caseworker. Please ask for this member of staff if you contact my office as they will be best placed to assist you.
- I do not accept casework through social media. This is to protect your privacy and to ensure we keep proper records of all communications. If you get in touch with me via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc I will ask you to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with details of the request or issue and your full name and address.
- Please don’t be rude or abusive. I ask that you treat me and my team as you would expect to be treated yourself. My team are great and will go the extra mile to help but they deserve to work in a safe and friendly atmosphere.
Plymouth Office: 01752 717 255
Plymouth City Council: 01752 668000
Devon and Cornwall Constabulary: To report a non-emergency incident 101.
In an emergency always ring 999.
If you are Deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired, you can textphone us on 18001 101 or sms/text 67101.
Derriford Hospital: 01752 202082
Citizens Advice Plymouth: 0300 3309 043
Universal Credit Help to Claim phone line at Citizens Advice Plymouth: 0800 1448 444