Harriet Harman

Parliament has been dissolved until after the General Election and I am no longer an MP

Constituency casework

Please email me at [email protected] or call the office on 02072194218.

I first started doing advice surgeries with Harry Lamborn, Peckham's MP when I became the candidate in 1981. Then, Harry did the surgeries on a Friday evening in the Town Hall on Peckham Road, with his wife Lil who was his secretary, taking notes. She brought with her to the surgery all his case files, in a big expanding folder. The assumption then was that people could come after their working day was finished. 

When I took over in 1982 I held advice surgeries in the Town Hall on a Friday evening.  But I then added a Tuesday morning advice surgery because it was hard for people with young children, or the elderly, to come out at night to an evening surgery.  Many people didn't have phones at that time in Peckham and many didn't feel confident about writing. 

There was no routine door to door campaigning at that time.  So the advice surgeries were the most important way for people to see their MP.  I had one secretary who typed letters I had drafted by hand or dictated onto a dictaphone. 

Over the years since 1982 much has changed both in the way people communicate and the response they want from their MP.  And the Town Hall, the venue for my surgeries for more than 2 decades has closed and moved out of the constituency to Tooley Street. 

My aim is to ensure that I see my constituents and hear directly from them what their concerns are and that I provide a good service for constituents who have problems they want me to help with.  Now, the overwhelming majority of my constituents have mobile phones and email.  The patterns that people now work during the week and at weekends have changed so that there is no "normal working day". 

Nowadays most people make their first contact with me by email (80%).  Of the remainder, most contact my office by phone or by letter.  I ensure that every constituent making a casework query receives a reply from me within 10 working days, setting out what I have done, or will do on their behalf. 

The House of Commons have increased the number of people an MP can employ and instead of one Secretary, I now have one Senior Caseworker and 2 Junior Caseworkers. On average 125 cases a week are dealt with by my casework team.  And I go out on the doorstep with the local councillors and the Labour Party on a regular basis. On these campaign days I invariably meet up with people whose cases I am dealing with, I pick up problems from people who would not otherwise come to a surgery, and meet up with people who don't need my help. 

The way I do my casework has changed over the years, due to changes in the way people communicate, their working patterns, the increase in the number of staff I'm able to employ and the regular Labour doorstep campaigning.  But the objective of my casework hasn't.  It remains my responsibility to help people who find that they can't, for whatever reason, sort out a problem themselves and to do so sympathetically, efficiently and effectively.

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