Next meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group.

The next meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group will be at 10am on Friday the 24th of September 2021. It will be held virtually on Microsoft Teams.

Unfortunately our planned speaker on DWP safeguarding is not able to attend as she is moving to a different role. So the meeting will be an information exchange. We are hoping that her replacement can speak at a future meeting.

If you would like to attend, please email Helen Rogers by 9am on Wednesday the 22nd of September 2021.

I will then issue the link to the meeting that morning. It risks technical hitches to reissue the link once it has been sent out so please don’t ask us to send you the link after the deadline has passed.

GMWRAG goes a-conferencing

Next week is filling up fast, but there’s only one place to be on Thursday and Friday, and that’s Zooming over to NAWRA for the next meeting.

“We will be hearing from a variety of welfare rights practitioners and academics with sessions on devolved Scottish benefits, eating disorders, kinship care, tribunal reform and issues around the UC50. It’s also your opportunity to learn about the long-awaited Health and Disability Green paper and contribute your views to NAWRA’s response.”

All that, or you could just gaze in silent wonderment at Alan Markey’s beard.

This one’s for NAWRA members only, of course. See you down the front.

The minutes of (hopefully) the last GMWRAG virtual meeting are now available to view.

The UnGMWRAG, as it was somewhat unwieldly titled, has come and gone. The permanent record has now arrived. You can as ever download your copy of the minutes of the meeting from our most excellent; heavily protected and stunningly titled “Minutes of Previous Meetings” page. We apologise in advance for the non-standard format and we will be taking the culprit aside (socially distanced and with a mask on obviously) to point out this page.

If you don’t know the password by now… just guess. It’s far more fun.

Please note that our virtual reality has led several GMWRAG members to explore how we might better communicate outside of meetings. Two Teams chats have been set up. One fell out of the last meeting and one has been kindly been set up for us. Neither are especially well populated at present so we’d welcome expressions of interest and ideas for how we can make this work for you.

NEXT MEETING ALERT – THE UNGMWRAG

If you have been paying close attention you will already be aware that the next GMWRAG event is planned for Friday 9th July, an event we were hoping to call ZoomWRAG.

Those plans have taken a knock, as Zoom wizard Dan Manville is unavoidably not around for the next meeting. Lacking a sophisticated understanding of Zoom buttons, we are going back to Microsoft Teams for the event.

You can join a Teams meeting without an account. If we keep our fingers crossed really hard, there won’t be any technical issues on the day. If there are, you will see welfare rights folk flapping helplessly.

But why The UNGMWRAG? Well, we have become aware of the concept of the unconference and thought that was almost as good as ZoomWRAG, without being completely sure what it was. You will note that ‘anyone who wants to initiate a discussion on a topic can claim a time and a space’ and be sure that the massed ranks of GM Welfare Rights will be on hand to join in. There might not be enough time, but there’s sure to be plenty of space.

We’re looking at a 9.40am start for waking up and pleasantries before kicking off at 10.

It wouldn’t be a GMWRAG if we didn’t take the opportunity to whizz around the areas to find out what everyone’s been up to, and what plans we and our services all have for the future. We may even be able to track down a volunteer to host the next meeting.

From 11 it’s over to you. Disastrous levels of right to reside issues? Universal Credit safeguards? PIP phone assessments? Appeal hearings with bad phone connections? We’ve every confidence this will be an inspiring way to spend a morning.

But when we get to 12:30 it’s all over until the next time – or the next NWMHWRAG, whichever is sooner.

But how do you get an invite? Some of the lucky few may get one automatically (if we can find our book of email addresses; I’m sure we put it down somewhere round here). If not, send a request titled GMWRAG to Robert.Jenkins who works at Stockport, which has a gov.uk address. If you cannot crack the cryptic code, call for help on Twitter.

We very much look forward to seeing you all there.

A new GMLC event coming up on the 23rd of June 2021.

A Guide to the Court of Protection and Its Role

GMLC and Irwin Mitchell have teamed up to provide an overview of the principles of the Mental Capacity Act, the Court of Protection and its role. The training workshop will include:

  • An introduction to the principles of the Mental Capacity Act, the Court of Protection (COP) and its role;
  • Capacity and best interests;
  • Resolving disputes; how the COP helps clients and those supporting them;
  • Deprivation of liberty safeguards;
  • Practical examples showing what can be achieved and relevant case studies.

Who is the training for?
Social Welfare advisors and advocates both from advice and front-line agencies including health and well-being services.

The workshop will be led by Katy Clarke and Elizabeth Ridley, who are both from the Public Law and Human Rights team at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors.

To book a free place on the workshop please register here.

A bit of a legal “do” coming up rather quickly courtesy of Greater Manchester Law Centre.

Greater Manchester Law Centre are having a do: they’re hoping to help everyone speak to someone that can help with all their woes.

The “Access to Justice – Sources of Legal Help” event will take place on Wednesday the 9th of June 2021 between 16:00-17:15. GMWRAG can only apologise for being late to publicize this. Blame it on our inability to spot new emails in our email account.

The event is being organised in partnership by Greater Manchester Law Centre and Citizens Advice North Lancashire.

In this session they will show you how to grow your advice network, diagnose legal issues and navigate advice services. They will provide you with an overview of the issues and remedies that individuals in our communities are facing. The main focus will be on areas that you are likely to encounter when supporting the vulnerable clients coming to you for help. These include:

● Family;
● Employment;
● Housing;
● Welfare Benefits;
● Debt;
● Discrimination;
● Domestic Violence;
● Immigration;
● Community Care;
● Public Law; and
● Civil Litigation.

Please see the flyer below for more information and feel free to share the event with others you think may be interested. You can find out more about the GMLC commitment to access to justice by clicking the forgoing link.

You can register for this FREE Event HERE. or if you have any questions, please feel free to contact Cian Hickey. There is also an excellent short video to be viewed but unfortunately our decision to go with the cheapskate version of WordPress does mean that we can’t upload video files. Apologies to GMLC but as yet we can’t find it on your web site either. This is clearly our incompetence but we did at least find this.

Lots of North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group “stuff”.

The next meeting of the NWMHWRAG scheduled for July 2021 has been cancelled. This means the next meeting will currently take place on Friday the 24th of September 2021. The speaker will be Karen Hartley, DWP Safeguarding Lead. The meeting will be held on Microsoft Teams and more details will be issued nearer the time.

In the meantime the presentation on Students and Universal Credit from the March 2021 meeting has been uploaded to the NWMHWRAG Presentations page where it will live forever or until we do something wrong or bad.

ZOOMWRAG has a job advert for you.

Yes, it’s that seemingly annual moment when someone remembers that GMWRAG can advertise jobs at a small cost to that £50 note in your purse/wallet that you’ve not opened throughout 2020 because, well, you know… that thing. No, not general miserliness. That thing. Begins with P…

Anyways, for the first time since last September (can this be so?) we have that almost magical combination of a GMWRAGauthor with almost enough time on their hands to do some page updates on here; an actual job vacancy and an opportunity to finally nip into the office to pick up the famed GMWRAG cheque book and statements of account (all stored in a golden gilt edged box obvs.).

So, a full-time permanent Welfare Rights Officer vacancy has arisen within Salford Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Service. Full details can be found on our most excellent Job Vacancies page. Closing date is 11:59pm on the 31st of May 2021.

Now, we’re off to find the person who erased our Jobs Archive button and persecute them fix it.

Quick update re: the next North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group meeting agenda.

As previously detailed the next meeting will still be on Friday the 28th May at 10am.

The planned speaker, Karen Hartley, DWP lead on Safeguarding for Greater Manchester, has had to re-arrange for Friday 24th September 2021 so this meeting will now be an information exchange.

The meeting will held online on Microsoft Teams. In order to access it, you’ll need to receive an email invitation from Helen Rogers with the link. Please email Helen for the link before 5pm on Monday the 24th of May 2021 as she may not be able to issue invitations to people who make contact after that date.

Next ZOOMWRAG meeting date.

If you’ve managed to access the minutes and read them to the end, you’ll have noticed that there’s already a date for the next meeting. It will be on Friday the 9th of July 2021, and will again be a Zoom event, with the hope of meeting up in person for the one after. More details nearer the time, but be sure to tell your employer and HMCTS that you’re not available, and cancel that holiday – you can always go away some other time.

At the moment no host has come forward for the event, so there is a very real risk that Mr Jenkins will be doing it again, on behalf of the Stockport whatever they’re called this week. If he does, he has threatened to call the meeting ‘Zoomwrag’ – not because it fits, but just so he can dump his zoo related pictures on the website.

GMWRAG does not want this to happen, so if you want to be next, get in touch.

The minutes of the last GMWRAG meeting have been zoomed to us and now they’re being zoomed to you.

Feel free to groan.

In a rare example of the pandemic actually speeding things up GMWRAG is pleased to say that the minutes of the April 2021 GMWRAG meeting are now available for download from our dead exciting (well, likely dead) page of minutes stretching back to pre history.

Yes, it’s password protected. Yes, the information about why and what to do about that is already on this site. It’s Friday and GMWRAG is tired and we’re going home. All six steps from the laptop to the bed. Have an enjoyable Bank Holiday all.

North West Mental Health WR Advisers Group next speaker announced.

First “legacy” benefits became “heritage” benefits. Weirdly, unlike most things with “heritage” attached, not a lot of protection abounds.

Now “safeguarding” has been re-branded as “Advanced Customer Support”.

The speaker at the next meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group will be Karen Hartley, Safeguarding Lead for the DWP in the Greater Manchester area.  Karen will be talking about safeguarding (or Advanced Customer Support in DWP parlance).

The meeting will take place from 10am on Friday the 28th May 2021. It will be held online via Microsoft Teams.

Details of how to request the link for the meeting will be sent out nearer the time.

Next Meeting 23rd April

GMWRAG is rolling its virtual wagon into Stockport on Friday 23rd April, and we’re looking forward to a full day of activity, and possibly fun.  Read on for further details.

9.40am for 10am start – Morning meeting to catch up on all things GM Welfare Rights, and share experiences of current issues.

11am     Guest speaker Michael Collins (appellant in R(Connor) v Secretary of State for W&P) will take us through his amazing and inspirational tale of strategic casework in action.  You don’t want to miss this.

Finish by 12pm

2pm – GMWRAG future – welcoming all those who wish to help shape GMWRAG’s direction as we lurch out of the pandemic.   Do we expand out of GM?  Continue with the UC Forum?  Hosting duties in the future – online/face to face?  Do we need an organiser?  Does GMWRAG do what we want it to do?  

Please come along with ideas and opinions.

To finish no later than 3.30pm

Finally, from 5.30pm we will be having the long-awaited GMWRAG zoom social get together.  The pubs might be open again, but you’re out of practice on how to talk to people, so come along and see what happens.  All that we ask is that you bring with you one cultural selection which has brought you pleasure during the last year.  It might be a book, an album, TV programme or film, a poem, or who knows – perhaps a special statue, or the spot where it used to stand.  In the course of an hour or two, we will diligently compile contributions to form a GMWRAG list which might even be published on the website as a cultural time capsule for the pandemic.  Don’t miss out on your opportunity to be a part of this historic event.  Anyone with a sniff of a GMWRAG connection more than welcome to join in.  Bring your own refreshments.

All the above will be taking place on Zoom, with keyboard maestro Dan Manville on the controls.

Please note :  GMWRAG meetings are open to anyone with an interest in Welfare Rights in GM (and beyond).  You will not be quizzed about your credentials.

How to get an invite :

Send an email to benefits@gmlaw.org.uk  with GMWRAG as the subject.  Invites with the crucial Zoom numbers will be sent out the day before the meeting. You don’t need to attend all three sessions of course – but we know you want to.

Any questions?

Meeting is being hosted by Robert.Jenkins at Stockport.gov.uk, who denies in advance any liability for IT not working or being interrupted by dogs.  He’s also basking in the Ironbridge sun over the next week, ignoring emails. You can DM on the Twitter, if you like that sort of thing.

The minutes of the January 2021 GMWRAG virtual meeting are now available for download.

So, GMWRAG finally managed to go to Oldham and survive. Nobody froze. Nobody foolishly tried to get there by bus rather than tram (or at least, if they did, they have yet to turn up so we won’t worry about it). We could get used to “virtual Oldham”. It was almost tropical (and likely will be by 2050).

As if the above sequence of events were not unusual enough – GMWRAG meeting; virtual GMWRAG; and no 10 minutes of brewing up whilst you thaw out – we now have actual minutes available for download prior to your next virtual funscape in Stockport.

Minutes as ever can be downloaded from our famed/notorious Minutes of previous meetings page. Notorious because of course it is password protected. Every time we say this we are deluged (well okay, it’s usually the same four people) asking what the password is and the same one person asking “but why is it password protected?”

The answer to the former is always “Contact us” whilst the answer to the latter is that having professional contact details in the minutes has resulted in several claimants contacting GMWRAG members directly to request advice even when the claimant does not live in the Greater Manchester area. Indeed the latest of these incidents has occurred just today. So, for now, minutes will remain password protected.

Of course GMWRAG is not the last word in end to end encrypted comms so we will apologise in advance for those occasions this goes horribly wrong.

Welcome to Stockport

Restrictions are easing, but we don’t know when you’ll be able to go on holiday. One thing you can be sure of – you’ll be able to come to Stockport instead for the next GMWRAG meeting due Friday 23rd April. Sadly for all Stockport enthusiasts it will be another virtual get together – but there’s nothing to stop you closing your eyes and dreaming of the Hat Museum. More details to follow soon.

Announcement of the next meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group.

The next meeting of NWMHWRAG will take place at 10am on Friday the 26th of March 2021.
The speaker will be Dan Manville from Greater Manchester Law Centre.
He will be talking about Students and Universal Credit.

The meeting will be held on Microsoft Teams.
You will need an email invitation from Helen Rogers with the link to be able to access the meeting.
If you would like an invitation, members should email Helen by 5pm on Monday the 22nd of March 2021. If you’re not already on the mailing list or don’t know how to contact Helen you can always contact GMWRAG and we can put you in touch.

An invitation to attend and contribute to an online tribute to our colleague Terry Patterson.

We know many of you will have already read the GMWRAG tribute to our colleague Terry Patterson as well as the many tributes from NAWRA and others on social media.

GMWRAG members have been shaken to our core by the loss of Terry and so we are immensely pleased to let you know about an online tribute event taking place between 7 and 8pm on Monday the 8th of February 2021. This will offer a brief opportunity for attendees to explain how they knew Terry and express their thoughts on him. It is a free but ticketed event and tickets can be booked via EventBrite.

We hope that all GMWRAG members will be able to free up an hour to be able to pay tribute to the one GMWRAG member of whom it could truly be said we simply wouldn’t have continued to exist without him.

The minutes of the last meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group are now available.

In which the title of the post was almost longer than the post itself.

Your minutes from this morning are already here. GMWRAG will be having a quiet word. Speed of this sort puts all sorts of unwelcome pressure on the rest of us to look timely and competent and we can’t be having that.

First 2021 meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group.

Happy new year to all NWMHWRAG members. The next meeting of the NWMHWRAG will be at 10am on Friday the 29th January 2021.

It will be an informal catch up and information exchange. There is no speaker scheduled at this time.

As per the November 2020 meeting this one will also be on Microsoft Teams.

Please email Helen Rogers by midday on Monday the 25th January 2021 (yes, that is today. Yes, GMWRAGauthor has been tardy) if you would like to take part.

An email will then be sent out to those people with the link to join the meeting.

If you have any problems accessing the meeting, you can contact Helen on 07800 617 866.

Terry Patterson

It is with deep regret that we start the year by sharing the tragic news of Terry Patterson’s untimely and unexpected passing over the festive period. 

Terry played a massive role in Welfare Rights work in Manchester and beyond, and was a huge contributor to GMWRAG for many years.  He blazed a trail in take-up work, provided memorable and entertaining training, and was committed to policy work, as well as battling to maintain Manchester Advice against budget cuts.

He was a perceptive and intelligent contributor to our meetings, and could be relied on to ask searching questions and raise awareness of issues about social welfare.

As the North West representative he has been described as ‘one of the driving forces behind NAWRA’.

He worked on the editorial board of the Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, and as social security adviser to the LGA.

He was also a sociable and popular friend and colleague, and was always entertaining and engaging company in and out of work.

Condolences to his family, and the many people affected by his passing.

GMWRAG simply won’t be the same without him.

Greater Manchester Law Centre AGM announced.

GMLOC word cloudAt last year’s GMLC AGM the focus was on the next stage of developing a campaign to fight for access to justice for communities across Greater Manchester. They celebrated the progress that the Law Centre had made and looked forward to expanding our work.

The general election provided opportunities to expand access to justice and to reverse the cuts to legal aid and GMLC highlighted that they had secured funding to develop their advice offer and looked to expand these across Greater Manchester in partnership with others.

The COVID19 crisis broke and everything changed.

They have plans (and funding!!) to expand their services. Come and hear what they are doing and how you can help their work over the coming months.

You are invited to the Annual General Meeting, which will take place via Zoom given the current restrictions on Tuesday 24th November 2019, from 6.00 pm.

The Zoom link for the event is here – https://us02web.zoom.us/j/9563546884

Formally they will receive the Annual Report and Financial Statement and we will be electing “Directors” to become members of the Management Committee. Only members can vote.

Supporters are welcome to attend. Anyone wishing to become a full “member” of the law centre is invited to fill in the form on the website.

PLP is recruiting a Welfare Rights Hub Coordinator.

PLP is recruiting – Welfare Rights Hub Coordinator.

PLP LogoLooking to address systemic unfairness in the welfare benefits system?

Public Law Project (PLP) is searching for an adviser/lawyer to coordinate our innovative new welfare benefits support hub, which will sit within our award-winning casework team. We want someone who enjoys working collaboratively and is excited about using the law creatively, with a detailed understanding of the welfare benefits system. The role is open to specialist welfare benefits advisers and qualified lawyers.

PLP is a growing and lawyer-led access to justice charity, which was founded in 1991. Our vision is a world in which individual rights are respected and public bodies act fairly and lawfully. We act directly for individuals, and are regularly instructed by law firms, lawyers’ groups, such as the Law Centres Network, NGOs and other public interest organisations. We work consistently at the leading edge of access to justice issues and there is always lots of scope for development.

Recent high-profile cases have engaged with diverse issues such as Home Office removals policy, funding for advice services and legal aid, and the recent prorogation of Parliament. PLP funding comes from a range of sources, including legal aid and charitable grants.

Our mixed funding model gives the organisation financial security and stability – particularly at the moment – and means that our lawyers are able to work creatively to achievable income targets.

Please email all completed applications to PLP’s HR team by no later than 11.59pm on Monday, the 12th of October 2020.

Documents are here:

Documents are also available in large-print:

You can as ever find this advert permanently located within our Vacancies section.

UC Taking On The Challenge Conference.

Conference 2020: Universal Credit – Taking on the Challenge

This year Housing Systems will be celebrating its 15th birthday and to celebrate they will be hosting their first ever conference (remotely).

Join Housing Systems on Thursday the 15th of October 2020. They think there’s something for everyone!

Places are limited and with the cost being just £129+vat for a day packed full of great speakers and workshops it’s expected to fill up fast.

Click on the link below for more information on the Workshops and the plan for the day.
https://www.housingsystems.co.uk/Training/Conference-2020

EU rights and Brexit Hub.

The EU rights and Brexit Hub at the University of York offers a unique, specialist, free second-tier advice and advocacy service on EU welfare rights.

This service can provide advice and support across the UK on cases involving EU, EEA or 3rd country national family members seeking to access public services.

They opened last week and are ready to take referrals.

If you are working with EU/EEA nationals and come across problems e.g. claiming benefits/accessing other services then do please send them a query – or if you do not need advice, please consider sharing your experience with them as evidence.

Please let colleagues know about the service and circulate to your networks.

You can follow them on Twitter for updates.

 

 

 

 

North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group Meeting to be rescheduled.

The next meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group was scheduled to take place this Friday, the 25th of September 2020.

A speaker from Disability Services at Chorlton Service Centre has agreed to speak to about PIP but there have been technology issues.

GMWRAG cannot resist the obvious joke about reasonable adjustments at this point!

The rescheduled meeting will continue to be an online meeting. Details once we have them.

Black Friday

So, whilst GMWRAG is fiddling around waiting for services to step forward and host an online GMWRAG meeting or indeed the several we are now owed, NAWRA steals another one of our Fridays once again.

The next NAWRA online conference will take place on Thursday the 10th of September 2020 (1-4pm) and Friday the 11th of September 2020 (9.30am-1pm) on Zoom.

Agenda and booking information coming soon.

NAWRA conferences are free to attend but open to members only.

Find out about joining.

Commission on Social Security consultation launched.

The Commission on Social Security held an event last week to propose some changes to our current system. These are up for consultation until the 30th of September 2020. Broad details can be found at the excellent DNS site. The Commission blog can be found at the preceding link whilst the original launch event can be found here. Anyone wishing to respond to the consultation can do so at https://warwick.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/preview/SV_8ku7Q6sluYLvFfD?Q_CHL=preview&Q_SurveyVersionID=current If you would like to be involved in a small-scale discussion Zoom or if your group would like something tailored to its particular requirements please contact Michael Orton. In brief the proposals are The Commission’s headline proposals are

  • A Guaranteed Decent Income of £222 for a single adult and £322 for a couple (paid on an individual not household basis).
  • Child Benefit of £50 per child per week.
  • An entirely new start on Disability Benefit. + principles, underpinning points and links with other policy areas.

The proposals offer a hugely simplified but comprehensive approach, with much more realistic benefit rates. • The consultation form is here. • • The full recording of the event is available here (apologies that the first few seconds are missing). • For further information about the Commission click here.

GMWRAG has whispered. Who will heed the whisper?

So, the poll results are in and GMWRAG members have responded with a resounding whisper in low numbers but, nevertheless, “some numbers”. Indeed, more people voted than have attended some GMWRAG meetings on occasion (!) so we’ll go with it and declare ourselves quarantined or quorate or quixotic or quite easily pleased or whatever the term is.

And the verdict is:

  • you want virtual meetings but you’d also entertain a virtual social.
  • Zoom is very much the tool of choice.
  • most of you would prefer to stick with the traditional “GMWRAG Friday” despite the efforts of others to screw that up. NAWRA, we’re looking at you (sternly).

So, by our reckoning we have missed meetings in Bolton, Manchester and Trafford with Oldham to come in September 2020.

We fully appreciate that circumstances may reduce the number of services capable of running a virtual meeting but GMWRAG hosts should know where they are on the meetings list – here’s a reminder – and the process has long been that hosts organise their own meeting and provide a chair and minute taker.

So, the big question now is who will step up and set us going once again? GMWRAG members, we’re looking at you.

Greater Manchester Welfare Reform Dashboard – an update

Those of you with long memories (or nothing better to do) may recall we have posted previously about the excellent GM Welfare Reform Dashboard was back in March 2019. It was good then. It’s even better now and you can see the latest version here. It is updated monthly.

Those of you who like long urls can rejoice with

https://www.gmtableau.nhs.uk/t/GMCA/views/WelfareReformDashboardQ12020/WelfareReformDashboardQ12020?:iid=1&:isGuestRedirectFromVizportal=y&:embed=y.

That’s why we prefer “here”.

If you want to more about GMCA you can find that “here“.

GMWRAG on Tik Tok

Bah, humbug.

No, this is not a post about GMWRAG creating a new social media channel on Tik Tok (featuring dancing WROs and cavorting judges twerking to the latest K-Pop hits obviously). This is a GMWRAG post explaining that our last poll included Tik Tok as a joke. The worrying thing about that joke is that either the majority of you decided to bite back; didn’t realise that Tik Tok is not a place for hosting online meetings or… we were hacked.

So, the 70% of you who voted for Tik Tok for a GMWRAG social… no! We’ll come back to that in a moment.

However, we also noted that nearly 60% of you would like a GMWRAG meeting ahead of a social. We’re not sure how this will pan out but below you can see a few more quick polls we’d like you to complete asap and we’ll move things forward from there. We note that Bolton, Manchester and Trafford were due to host meetings this year and all 3 have escaped thus far. If the vote is for a meeting ahead of a social we’d appreciate it if at least 1 of those 3 services could step forward to host and make the arrangements to do so.

Anyways, here’s your further starters for 10.

GMWRAG has now firmly put away it’s errant sense of humour.

Covid Realities – families needed for research project.

CPAG is working in partnership with the universities of York and Birmingham on a new project called Covid Realities.

The project aims to understand the challenges faced by families living on a low income during the pandemic, to help policymakers make better-informed decisions.

The project is looking to work with parents and carers with children under 19, living on a low income, to document the everyday realities of life during the Coronavirus pandemic. Parents and carers will be able to share their experiences in an online diary, take part in online activities, and participate in virtual workshops. Participants will be able to do as little or as much as they like and they will be completely anonymous. There’s a lot more information about the project on the website.

Can you help reach out to parents and carers in any way? There’s some suggested text below.

If you have any questions or would like more information about the project please contact maddy@covidrealities.org

Many thanks in advance for your assistance – your support is invaluable in spreading the word about the project.

Text to share with parents and carers:
Are you a parent or carer finding it difficult to make ends meet?

COVID-19 has swept across the globe, causing suffering for millions. But it’s not just the virus that’s the problem…

The lockdown has seen the closure of businesses, local services and schools, causing economic hardship and stress. We know that families living with children face particular challenges, especially when they are on low incomes and cannot access childcare. If you’re one of them, we’d love to hear from you.

We’re a research team from the universities of York and Birmingham, looking for the experiences of families and carers who have children under the age of 19. Leave us a diary entry, audio or video message about how you’re coping. Tell us about your frustrations and worries! Let us know how daily life could be improved for you!

Our aim is to understand the challenges you face, gather evidence of the impact of COVID-19 on families, and help policymakers make better-informed decisions.

If you can help us do that, or would like more information, do get in touch.

More information: http://www.covidrealities.org or email maddy@covidrealities.org

GMWRAG social

Aside from this week’s GMWRAG GM UC Forum there have been no GMWRAG meetings during lockdown. In part this has been driven by necessity. The priority for all of us has been our own day jobs and the welfare of those around us. It’s also been driven by the sense that many of the issues GMWRAG members might want to discuss in our new pandemic driven advice environment have been more than adequately addressed by NAWRA.

However, as things move along we think it’s time to put the feelers out as regards stepping things up once more. In the first instance those feelers are tentatively edging their way towards a GMWRAG social event. This will likely include virtual rooms for people who want to be part of a raucous drunken session; people who would just like a quiet chat and catch up and maybe even people who would like a quiz? With that in mind we’d appreciate it if members could complete the following poll asap and we’ll go from there.

Once we have co-produced our social event we will look to setting up regular GMWRAG meetings online if we’re clear that the demand and a distinct agenda exists.

Anyways, answers within the week please…

UC deductions presentations from the GMWRAG GM UC meeting now available.

GMWRAG is pleased to say we were given immediate permission to share the two presentations from Wednesday’s GMWRAG GM UC Meeting. These can be found permanently on the relevant pages. However, for the convenience of all they are also available below.

Anyone who attended the meeting on MS Teams will still have access within Teams to the chat which accompanied the meeting and you should also be able to access the presentations within the Files tab there.

A date and topic for the next GMWRAG GM UC Forum has not been set but at least one topic has been suggested. If anyone has suggestions for the next meeting please contact GMWRAG by email and we’ll go from there.

DWP Health Transformation User Research.

A group of user researchers working in the Health Transformation Programme at DWP, specifically focussed on understanding and improving claimant experiences of PIP need to undertake regular research with claimants claiming benefits, as well as the organisations and people who support them, to explore perceptions and experiences and test ideas for improving the service.

A piece of work is currently underway looking at Orientation into PIP; how people find out about PIP, what they understand it to be, what they understand about eligibility etc., to inform how we think about improving experiences. Other active work is looking at the Apply journey, with the focus somewhat changed to quickly ensure applications can be made digitally as part of the COVID-19 response.

These are just 2 examples and across teams they are working on the end to end journey so there’s lots of work going on, which will be the case for the foreseeable future, and the input of claimants and their representatives is key to getting it right for the future.

They are aiming to build a network of contacts who can support with involving the right participants in their work, so at this stage are linking in with different groups to understand whether they can support and if so, the best ways to approach this with them.

They are flexible in terms of approach; for example, they have created content for newsletters, websites and emailers and spoken at group meetings regarding research, sharing contact details for people to get involved. With some contacts they have simply had a conversation and have asked their clients (claimants) if they might be interested in getting involved and then shared details. They like to work with individuals and organisations to determine what will work best for them and tailor the approach accordingly.

If this feels like an area you may be able to help they’d love to set up a call to discuss further, getting an ‘in’ for a conversation with third parties and charities can be our greatest challenge so any advice, support or contacts would be hugely appreciated. The best starting point is to send a message to health.userresearch@dwp.gsi.gov.uk – a secure inbox accessible only to 4 PIP user researchers and so ensuring a swift response.

They look forward to hearing from you.

Health Transformation Programme PIP User Research
health.userresearch@dwp.gsi.gov.uk

Housing Systems online workshop on “Lost Job? Benefits during COVID-19”.

Sadly, many people have lost their jobs during the Coronavirus outbreak. With changes to the Job Retention Scheme that mean employers will have to contribute more towards their employees’ wages, we may well see even more.

We have already heard that many of those finishing work have lost out financially due to being given the wrong benefit advice.

This interactive case study based Workshop will answer all the key questions:

Is Universal Credit someone’s only option? Is it their best option?
How do the different payments at the end of a job affect benefit entitlement?

What if someone can get New Style Jobseekers Allowance?

The Workshop will use real life examples to investigate the key benefits someone finishing work can claim, what claimants need to do and the problems they may encounter.

By the end of the Workshop delegates will have a better understanding of the different benefits available to someone finishing work, what options they may have and what they should consider when choosing which option is best for them.

The workshop takes place on the Wednesday the 17th of June 2020 between 10am – and 12 noon. It costs £49+vat per delegate. Bookings can be made by emailing Housing Systems at training@housingsystems.co.uk.

They will need:

  • The name of the Workshop you would like to book.
  • The date of your chosen Workshop.
  • The name and job title of the delegate.
  • Their email address.
  • Invoice details ie who to send it to (and any PO number required).

NOTE: Bookings will be taken on a first come first served basis.

Greater Manchester Law Centre have produced a Covid-19 Survival Guide.

Greater Manchester Law Centre has developed a survival kit to support residents and front-line organisations assisting people through the current public health crisis. You can download a pdf copy here.

• The GMLC Survival Kit includes comprehensive information to help people protect things such as their homes and jobs, explaining people’s rights and clear ways to enforce them. They will be regularly updating this guide through their website.

To ensure you are up to date with changes as and when they occur you can access the live version here – https://www.gmlaw.org.uk/covid-19-survival-guide/.

Please feel free to share and circulate.
• They are running a telephone advice service for people wanting advice on housing, employment and benefits issues.

This service is open Monday – Friday, 10am – 3pm.

Please call 0161 769 2244, or alternatively you can send your enquiry via email: housing@gmlaw.org.uk or benefits@gmlaw.org.uk.

If you require any further information please contact at jasontetley@gmlaw.org.uk

Fraudulent website warning. Probably the first of many.

Apologies if you have read this elsewhere but DWP have issued this warning this week. We, sadly, have little doubt this will be the first of many.

There is a new Fraudulent website that is going round on Facebook saying

“For your free £258 award from the Government to assist you during the Coronavirus outbreak, just enter your bank details”.

The pages look authentic as a real Government website, then it may encourage people to input their personal information/bank details.

Please remind residents not to share their bank account details on any ‘possible’ Government offers on Social Media as that is not how Government Departments deliver their business. DWP Fraud teams & Police are aware of these scam websites and in the process of investigating and closing them down.

Key Messages:

  • DWP, along with many other government departments, are sometimes targeted with fraudulent activity. Please be vigilant and report any suspicious activity.
  • Do not share your personal information with anyone else, as this may be used for fraudulent activity.
  • Protecting your personal information can help reduce your risk of identity theft.
  • If you are contacted by someone claiming to be from the DWP and doubt their legitimacy – please do not share your personal information. Report any suspicious contact immediately.
  • Criminal gangs are targeting people to obtain their personal information. If in doubt, please do not share your personal information. Report any suspicious contact immediately.
  • If someone approaches you claiming to be from DWP, always ask for ID.
  • Report any suspicious contact immediately on www.actionfraud.police.uk or phone 0300 123 2040

First GM update on available welfare rights advice/representation – Stockport.

Further to our recent post about acting as a hub to detail welfare rights advice provision during this difficult period we’re pleased to be able to give you our first update, which is from Stockport Help With Benefit Appeals Team.

NB: We are painfully aware that this information may have changed pretty much by the time we post it. Please bear with us. Both the people providing the information and the people updating it are all doing the best we can in difficult circumstances. We’re happy to apologise in advance if this information falls to be out of date. 

Anyway, if you need welfare rights advice/representation in Stockport or you need to contact professional colleagues there then please note that they are all pretty much working from home at the moment.

Their details are as follows:

• No advice line as such but calls can be made to 0161 217 6003 which is the contact centre for Stockport Council and they will signposted.
• They currently deal with cases from the appeal stage unless it is a complex issue e.g. right to reside. General enquiries go to our advice centres or Citizens Advice. This service is currently changing with Citizens Advice taking over the management of it.
• The team email is benefit.appeals@stockport.gov.uk The online referral form is at https://www.stockport.gov.uk/start/request-an-appointment-for-specialist-help-with-benefit-appeals
• They are providing telephone appointments.
• Accessing post may be limited so contact by email or direct to an adviser once a case is taken via their direct number will be best.

Housing Systems Briefing on Coronavirus and benefits.

Our friends at Housing Systems have put together a briefing and have asked us to specifically share it via the GMWRAG web site?

For once we’re not even nicking off Rightsnet. Housing Systems have told us what they put there and asked us to duplicate. So here you go. Simple and to the point.

Housing Systems have put together a briefing for benefits advisers
https://www.housingsystems.co.uk/News/Briefings/2020

Please note that the briefing will be updated as more information becomes available. It is very clearly and somewhat inevitably labelled “v1”.

The GM bit of GMWRAG.

GMWRAG is painfully conscious of trying to avoid being yet another source of (often duplicated) information about the many social security changes caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In light of that we’d like to offer a slightly different role.

Firstly, we’d like to offer all GM welfare rights advice services the opportunity to post information up here (and via @GMWRAGtweets) about how access to welfare rights advice has been affected and amended in light of events. Please contact us either via Twitter DM or the usual email routes if you have information about your advice lines; online referrals; opening times or any other aspect of alternative service provision.

We think this would be a good way to highlight local provision as well as innovation.

Secondly, we’d like to offer any advisers who are currently socially distancing or socially isolating the opportunity to write about the experience from the perspective of being an adviser; trying to keep a service going and trying to not stress out.

This can be as long or as short as you want. In many ways the longer the better. This is your opportunity to describe what the front line currently looks like. We fully appreciate we may get no responses at all at present as people work flat out to maintain something like a status quo. However, the offer is there.

You can email us re: either of the above at

GMWRAG

at

hotmail

dot

co

dot

uk

We absolutely cannot guarantee our responsiveness at present but we’ll certainly do the best we can.

It’s been a long time comin’ but I know a change gonna come!

GMWRAG is only mildly ecstatic to bring to your attention to the launch of an inquiry by the Work and Pensions Committee into the five week wait for the first payment of Universal Credit. Putting aside our only slight incredulity that it’s taken them this long in the face of such overwhelming evidence of there being a fundamental problem based on a fallacy about the frequency with which people get paid and the way in which people budget… GMWRAG welcomes the inquiry and urges all GMWRAG members to make a contribution. This really is a “put up or shut up” moment. Indeed, it could be argued that most of the work has been done already.

“Five weeks too long” by the Trussell Trust.

“We need to end the five week wait” by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

“Five week wait must go” by Citizens Advice.

We could go on, and we will (this is the but we always thieve from Rightsnet).

Many claimant support organisations have concluded that the five-week wait must be reduced or eliminated entirely so the Committee summarises some of the suggested options for change, including making advances non-repayable; offering non-repayable advances to some claimants, such as those with a vulnerability; allowing more flexibility to backdate claims; extending run-on payments to cover all legacy benefits; substantially reducing the repayment rates for advances; and paying universal credit two-weekly.

With the aim of helping the government ‘better understand’ the upsides and downsides of these options, and to explore other possible solutions, the Committee seeks views on the following questions –

  • to what extent have the mitigations the government has introduced so far (such as advance payments) helped to reduce the negative impact of the five-week wait?
  • what problems do claimants still experience during the five-week wait?
  • what is the best way of offsetting the impact of the five-week wait?
  • is it possible to estimate how much this would cost the Department?
  • is it possible to estimate any costs or savings to third parties (for example, support organisations)?
  • are different mitigating options needed for different groups of claimants?
  • are there barriers or potential unintended consequences to removing the five-week wait – either for claimants or the Department? How can they be overcome?

NB – responses must reach the Committee by Friday the 17th of April 2020.

Commenting on the inquiry, Committee Chair Stephen Timms said –

‘It’s now widely recognised that the lengthy wait for a first payment of universal credit is causing real difficulties for people—so it’s hugely welcome that the Minister is open to looking at how to fix it. The Committee wants to look carefully at all the possible solutions, and work out which are the most practical, affordable, and likely to make a meaningful difference to people’s lives.’

For more details see New Inquiry: Universal Credit: the wait for a first payment from parliament.uk.

If anyone would like to share their responses with GMWRAG we will be more than happy to publish them both as a repository of suggested good practice and to inspire those of you so overwhelmed with anger and cases you don’t know quite where to start.

Ipswich, Bolton, Dead Parrots and the resurrection of the “northerly” GMWRAG Strategic Casework Group.

Many GMWRAG members looked forward enthusiastically to meetings of our Strategic Casework Group. Indeed, the last entry on the SCG pages (until today)looked forward to the GMWRAG meeting on 16th June 2017! Sadly, thanks to life getting in the way of the steering group, the wheels fell off. However this parrot is not quite dead:

Greater Manchester Law Centre are hoping to breathe life into the Norwegian Blue once more and propose a meeting to plot a way forward on Tuesday the 28th of April 2020 at, 9.30am, at the Law Centre, above the Jain Community Centre, 669 Stockport Rd, Levenshulme, Manchester M12 4QE.

Anyone interested would be wise to email danmanville@gmlaw.org.uk so Dan can keep an eye on the numbers; it’s not a huge room!

We’re hoping to create a more northerly focus to the group going forward so please don’t be put off by the Greater Manchester badging…

See you there.

Open University research into PIP appeals and invisible impairment.

GMWRAG can only apologise for being a little tardy in publicising this (especially as some of us have already signed up). We’d vouch that there’s not a WRO alive in the North West who would not have something of value to add to this if you have ever been involved in a PIP claim from start to end at appeal.

So, here’s the original blurb (kindly nicked donated by Rightsnet).

My name is Alexandra Murray and I am conducting a study on appeal hearings for Personal Independence Payments (PIP). This is to gain a better understanding of how disability is defined in the welfare state and how this impacts on disability benefits.

I am looking to speak with welfare benefits advisers, welfare lawyers and tribunal judges who have been involved in hearings with claimants that had a hidden, less visible, or invisible disability. This is to draw together accounts of PIP hearings from different perspectives to investigate how invisible disabilities are evaluated by the tribunal. To take part in this study, you must have provided advice or represented someone who wanted to appeal their PIP decision.

Participating in this study will give you an opportunity to share your knowledge and experiences of the PIP appeal process anonymously.
What will I be asked to do if I want to get involved?
• To provide a short, written reflection or diary entry based on a time when you were involved in a PIP appeal (at any stage) for someone with an invisible disability.
• To take part in a semi-structured interview that will last for approximately 1-2 hours that will be audio-recorded and transcribed. This will be arranged for a time and place convenient to you.

To take part in the study, or if you would like to know more about it, please contact me via email: Alexandra.Murray@open.ac.uk. Your information will be held in compliance with GDPR regulations.

This project is funded by a PhD studentship in the Faculty of Business and Law at The Open University. This project has been reviewed by, and received a favourable opinion from, The Open University Human Research Ethics Committee, reference: HREC/3369/Murray.

If you’re interested, and we can’t think why you wouldn’t be, then you can also download an information sheet here.

NAWRA in Wales.

GMWRAG used to be really good at notifying you all about NAWRA meetings. Indeed we used to make our web site do clever things like count down to the day of the meeting but then… well then we just got too busy. So here we are with 3 days left to go to the next NAWRA meeting and we can probably no longer refer to them as “our friends in NAWRA” as we keep messing this up. Anyway…

All NAWRA members are invited to attend their quarterly conference.

Date: Friday the 6th of March 2020.
Time: 10.00am – 16.00pm (registration from 9.30)
Location: Swansea Civic Centre, Oystermouth Road, Swansea, SA1 3SN

Guest speakers will be Fran Bennett of Oxford University on recent research about universal credit and couples followed by Lisa Reese, a tribunal judge, on the role of representatives.

There will be participatory workshops on mixed age couples in UC, conditionality in UC and public law remedies, support for disabled people in UC, and assessing mental health for PIP.

Download the agenda

NAWRA meetings are only open to members.  There’s no need to book a place.  Please let them know if you have any accessibility needs.

GMWRAG has fond memories of their first visit to NAWRA being a trip to Swansea approximately 30 years ago in the back of a some kind of van with people from Flintshire Welfare Rights. Nowadays there would be a hashtag attached to that and some kind of legal action! Nowadays we think the train may be an option.

Make Yer Mind Up.

Sigh. No sooner had we put up this post than we’ve been advised that NWMHWRAG do in fact now have a speaker. GMWRAG is not of course in a position to comment having failed conspicuously to pull off a January meeting.

Julie Conneely, Disability Employment Adviser at Openshaw JobcentrePlus will be coming to speak.

Ends (or something).

Well, that’s all we’ve got folks.

GMLCAGM – oh come on. It’s not that hard to figure out!

GMWRAG members should already be aware Greater Manchester Law Centre has moved to 669 Stockport Road, Longsight, Manchester M12 4QE (next to the Jain Centre). Why should you be aware? Well, because we told you.

GMLC want to work closely with local community organisations.

They have a new director, Jason Tetley, starting work middle of November. The first opportunity to meet Jason will be at their Annual General Meeting, to be held in our new premises on Thursday the 28th of November 2019 at 6pm. Presumably tea will be on offer?

GMLC would be pleased if members of your organisation could attend. You will hear about their progress so far, get a chance to meet the law centre workers and volunteers and contribute to developing our future plans.

GMWRAG thinks this is like one of those Facebook parties where a well meaning 16 year old throws a party and then an entire neighbourhood turns up. Go on. Make their day 🙂

University of Salford and Salford City Council research into the experience of Universal Credit.

So this is one for those of our advisers who live or work in the Salford area of Greater Manchester. Nevertheless we think it will be of wider interest to the rest of you. The University of Salford and Salford City Council are doing research into the experience of Universal Credit.

How has Universal Credit impacted you, and what can we do about it?

We know that Universal Credit is having a huge impact on Salford’s Residents and family, friends and organisations that support them, but what exactly does that look like? What can we do about it? The University of Salford and Salford City Council are working together to answer those questions and you can help!

Can I take part?

Are you a Salford resident in receipt of Universal Credit? The answer is yes!

How do I take part?

Contact us and we will arrange a time and date for the interview at the place of your choice. We want to know how people’s experience with Universal Credit are changing over time, so we would like you to undertake two interviews, the first one now, and the second one in 6-8 months. We would like to ask you about your experiences with Universal Credit, its impact on your life and finances and what you think about it as well as what kind of support you have found useful.

In recognition of your time and knowledge, you will receive £10 for undertaking each interview.

Interviews will last about an hour. You do not have to talk about anything you don’t want to discuss and you can withdraw from the research at any time. We will record the interview with your permission, but will take notes if you prefer. Everything you say will be treated in confidence. Your name will not be used in any published reports and we will not pass your details on to anybody else. We will also keep you informed about the research findings.

Want more information?

If you want to ask any questions about the research or want to know more about taking part, then please text, call or email Andrea Gibbons at 07773 948 841 or

a

dot

r

dot

gibbons

1

at

salford

dot

ac

dot

uk

This sounds like the plot of a potential EastEnders episode but sadly it isn’t.

NAWRA has been contacted by a BBC journalist looking at options for pieces relating to young people

  • being asked to leave their parent’s home
  • (or experiencing conflict or becoming homeless)

because of parents losing benefits, particularly where the young person has disengaged from the social security system. This illustrates problems with the cliff edge around the loss of familial benefits such as Child Benefit and Child Tax Credits/Universal Credit for children and then a potential double whammy of the non-dependant deduction being applied to HB or UC housing costs.

The journalist is looking for young people (ideally aged 18 and under) and parents in this position. He may also want to speak with experts and is looking for people who would be happy to discuss the issues faced by young people and their low income parents that you and your team encounter on a day to day basis.

If you would like to get involved please email

kelly

at

nawra

dot

org

dot

uk

and she will pass your details on.

First dumbass to point out that the email is formatted oddly will win no prize. This is a means of avoiding spam bots etc. picking up email addresses and deluging them with spam.

Future meeting dates for the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group.

The meeting dates for the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group for 2020 are:-

7th Feb 2020

27th March 2020

29th May 2020 

31st July 2020 

25th September 2020

 27th November 2020

Please note the change to the usual date in January – the room is not available in January 2020.

These dates will appear on the NWMHWRAG pages as soon as the opportunity arises.

All meetings are on Fridays at 9.30am for 10am for the morning only.

Greater Manchester Law Centre is moving premises.

Our friends at Greater Manchester Law Centre are moving premises.

They have been based at 159 Princess Road, M14 4RE. But as of the 7th of October 2019 they will be operating out 667/669 Stockport Road, M12 4QE.

The new building is by the Jain Centre, near Crowcroft Park. It is mainly serviced by bus number 192.

Please note that they aren’t taking on new clients between now and the 7th.

If  you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact reception.

A virtual day out in Liverpool

There’s an all day Access To Justice conference being held on Teams on 7th September, with an invite extended to all interested parties. It’s being hosted by Citizens Advice Liverpool and Our Liverpool, and has a stellar line-up of speakers. Details are here.

If clicking the link is too much trouble, here is a brief copy and paste :-

“This year saw enormous changes to the immigration system: the end of the treaty right to free movement for EEA citizens in the UK, the end of the grace period for making applications to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS), the introduction of the Points-Based-System (PBS) and its implementation to EEA citizens. As EU citizens are now subject to the Hostile Environment Policies.

This conference hopes to explore what problems can be expected to arise and what lessons can be learned from the Windrush scandal to avoid greater problems in the future.”

Although the focus will be on Liverpool, the content will be relevant to all, and importantly carries GMWRAG’s seal of approval.

Get conferencing!

The law centre is having a do

Do your clients every ask you questions that nobody pays you to know the answer to? Enquiries such as employment, housing and the like might come up during a conversation about a welfare rights matter and often we don’t know who can give decent advice on the issue.

GMLC is hosting an event to give people the answers:

FREE event taking place remotely via Zoom on 9th June 2021 at 16:00-17:15. This event is being organised in partnership by Greater Manchester Law Centre and Citizens Advice North Lancashire.

You will probably know that many individuals in the region are often left to resolve legal issues by themselves and that they rely on the support of free advice services, like yours, to navigate their legal issues. Therefore, we would like to invite you to join our upcoming event, Access to Justice – Sources of Legal Help.

In this session we will show you how to grow your advice network, diagnose legal issues and navigate advice services. We will provide you with an overview of the issues and remedies that individuals in our communities are facing. Our main focus will be on areas that you are likely to encounter when supporting the vulnerable clients coming to you for help. These include:

  • Family;
  • Employment;
  • Housing;
  • Welfare Benefits;
  • Debt;
  • Discrimination;
  • Domestic Violence;
  • Immigration;
  • Community Care;
  • Public Law; and
  • Civil Litigation.

Please see the flyer & video attached for more information and feel free to share the event with others you think may be interested.

You can register for this FREE Event HERE. Or if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.