URGENT information for tomorrow’s meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group.

Please see below for details of how to access the room tomorrow:-

Venue: Town Hall Extension, St Peters Square/Lloyd Street

Room: 4003, ‘Baguley’

For those of you who attended the January meeting this is the same room.

Access to the Town Hall Extension is by by way of sliding glass doors at the Cenotaph/St Peters Square end of Lloyd Street (see map below).

Buzz the FM reception on the intercom to open glass sliding doors, then turn to right and go into FM office. They will issue a red visitor card.

Go through the swing barriers, using card, and take stairs or lift to 4th floor. Turn left from the lifts, through double doors, and room ‘4003’ is on right hand side.

Please bring any hot drinks with you.


Room update for the imminent meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group.

Full details of the next meeting have been previously posted at https://gmwrag.wordpress.com/2018/03/12/the-next-meeting-of-the-north-west-mental-health-welfare-rights-advisers-group-is-upon-us/.

That post did promise to inform attendees of the room for the meeting, We can now confirm it will take place in room 4003. We’ll see you there.

Can you help Panorama?

With thanks to Ken Butler of Disability Rights UK.

Kathleen Mullin of BBC’s Panorama programme is asking for help with the following –

“BBC Panorama is interested in speaking to people about their experience with the universal credit system.

If you would like to speak to the research team please call 07714 956 934.

Thanks very much to any advisers or their clients who can help.”

The next meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group is upon us.

The next meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group will be on Friday the 23rd March at 9.30am for a 10am start at Manchester Town Hall.

Details of the room and how to access it are to follow but can we please have volunteers to chair and to take minutes?

The minutes of the last meeting can be found in the usual places.

We will be discussing the group’s “Mission Statement.”,  which you can view by clicking on the foregoing link. This is the blurb that we have used in the past on letters and responses to consultations but, as you can see, it needs updating!

We will also have a discussion about PIP decisions post the RF judgement and the Government’s announcement that it will trawl cases for incorrect decisions. Members may also want to read the minutes of the last GMWRAG meeting which provide significant detail on the live-streamed talk re: RF and what should happen next.

Please bring any (anonymised) cases that you want to discuss.

Leigh Day need case studies to support their JR case on lack of transitional protection in natural migration/

With thanks to our friends at Rightsnet for bringing this to our attention and now yours.

Tessa Gregory and Lucy Cadd from the law firm Leigh Day are bringing a judicial review challenge to the discontinuance of the Severe Disability Premium (SDP) and Enhanced Disability Premium (EDP) contained in legacy benefits when individuals are transferred, or ‘naturally migrated’, to Universal Credit (“UC”) without any transitional protection to cover the resulting significant shortfall to their income.

We represent two individuals who have lost their disability premia by virtue of moving house, into another UC full service borough. The two individuals are bringing anonymised claims and are known as ‘TP’ and ‘AR’, they both suffer from physical and/or mental health conditions. The loss of their SDP and EDP has resulted in a loss of approximately £200 per month, which is causing them significant financial and emotional hardship.

We have now reached the stage of the judicial review in which we need to collate and prepare supportive evidence. It would be helpful for the court to be provided with other case studies which show the broad and varied range of situations in which individuals are caught by the UC provisions, as well as the different impact that the loss of the SDP and EDP has had on peoples’ lives.

If any of your clients, or anybody you have been in contact with, have been moved on to UC as natural migrants, and have had their legacy benefits discontinued, in particular their SDP and EDP which had been paid through their ESA as a result of them being in receipt of DLA or PIP, we would be extremely grateful if you could provide a short summary of their situation which sets out how they came to be on UC and how the loss of their SDP/EDP is affecting them.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you require any further information. Our contact details are Tessa Gregory – tgregory@leighday.co.uk and Lucy Cadd – lcadd@leighday.co.uk.

More information can be found at https://www.leighday.co.uk/News/News-2018/February-2018/Landmark-legal-challenge-to-Universal-Credit.

Top quality videos about Universal Credit from Housing Systems.

GMWRAG has written extensively in the past about the increasingly bewildering beast which is Universal Credit and the many, equally bewildering, attempts to explain it to us as advisers and indeed claimants. We continue to be largely bemused by DWP attempts on this front.

Soooo, it gives us a certain amount of pleasure to bring to your attention some jolly good videos from our friends at Housing Systems.

We are particularly enamoured by their rather splendid attempt to wholly muddy the waters of the “lobster pot” by introducing the concept of “Universal Credit as a smoothie?” Monty Python graphics combined with a simple explanation. Indeed it’s so effective we think they should remove the question mark. Like GMWRAG they have a YouTube account and you can find it at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqdtFTlvg8GEzViBw7_fBkg/videos. GMWRAG has already subscribed and is looking forward to more along the same lines if only to see how they’re going to reconcile fruit salads, smoothies and lobsters 🙂

We’ve posted links to two of the three videos below. Enjoy and subscribe.

The Money Advice Trust wants to hear from debt advisers about what it’s like on the frontline

GMWRAG is aware that many of our members work for organisations which offer debt advice as well as welfare rights advice.

A new research project has launched today looking at how the debt advice sector supports people in vulnerable situations. Conducted by University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre (PFRC) in partnership with the Money Advice Trust and the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute and grant funded by the Money Advice Service, the research involves a large scale survey of UK debt advisers’ experiences with vulnerability and advice.

Central to the research is the gathering of first hand experiences of front line debt advisers, who are often working with people with complex needs such as serious illness, or wider life events like substance addictions or gambling problems.

Any organisations that provide debt advice and are interested in participating in the survey can register at:

New research on debt advice and vulnerability launched

Quick reminder – the Blue Badge consultation is ongoing and is not a done deal.

And a further quick reminder for GMWRAG members that the Blue Badge consultation in response to the loss of a legal case quite some time ago (and not because the government are nice as they seem to be proclaiming :)) is not a done deal and remains an open consultation.

Full details can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/blue-badge-disabled-parking-scheme-eligibility-review/blue-badge-scheme-consultation-on-eligibility and it’s worth GMWRAG members responding because whilst the proposal theoretically expands the scope of the scheme it also links it explicitly to two areas of already problematic wording used in the PIP mobility criteria.

The consultation closes on the 18th of March 2018.

Fit for the future: Transforming the court and tribunal estate.

This has been circulating the outer ring roads of the GMWRAG brain for a little while so it’s time to put the car into gear and… well,  we may have overstretched our analogy.

This HMCTS consultation sets out the proposed future strategy for HM Courts & Tribunals Service in its approach to court and tribunal estate reform.

The consultation document sets a number of proposals within the wider context of the modernisation work underway in HMCTS and discusses proposals for evaluating how the estate should change as a result. The consultation is aimed at court and tribunal users, legal professionals and bodies, the judiciary and magistracy and all other individuals with an interest in the court and tribunal estate in England and Wales.

That’ll be GMWRAG members then!

The consultation documents can be found at https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/transforming-court-tribunal-estate but for the lazy amongst you (us) we have included them below.

The consultation document itself.

Putting aside the main proposals, this is a useful document in terms of seeing how HMCTS sees itself in the immediate future re: modernisation; video links and virtual hearings; flexible operating hours (yes, you read that right)  and digital service delivery.

The Welsh version.

Because Wales is an independent and powerful state in Black Panther (amongst many other slightly more solid reasons) 🙂

The map of the HMCTS estate by region and country.

The latter is a useful document regardless of the consultation.

The consultation itself appears to be online only at https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/transforming-court-tribunal-estate/consultation/intro, which is not great but we’d urge GMWRAG members to complete it asap.

For those of you thinking there’s nothing here for you…

  • the consultation includes a proposed “benchmark” (not even a promise or guarantee) that “…  nearly all users should be able to attend a hearing on time and return within a day, by public transport if necessary?”. What then happens to those who fall short of the benchmark?
  • the consultation includes a change in the way in which travel time is calculated when venues are consolidated closed. GMWRAG strongly feels this lacks detail and the commitment to obtain local knowledge appears half-hearted with no accompanying commitment to talking to local tribunal users for example.

Refining Advicelocal

GMWRAG members, we would like to think, should by now be familiar with the Advicelocal web site run by LASA.  We’ve been asked by the latter to assist with getting the site noticed by search engines and, to that end, you’ll notice new links to the site have appeared down the right side of every GMWRAG page you view.

This is also a good opportunity for GMWRAG to practice what we preach.

So, the preachy bit… please have a look at Advicelocal and test out the functionality. Like most things, it can only improve its accuracy with decent feedback. There’s a contact form on the web site and it couldn’t be easier to use.

The practicey bit…  GMWRAG is about to undertake our occasional, annual, biannual, when we can be bothered trawl of said links on our web site and we’ll be doing updates where possible but weeding out and deleting dead links when we can. If as a consequence of this a link to your organisation disappears and you think this is wrong please, please let us know and we’ll be more than happy to post up any new links you have.

Initial details of the next GMWRAG meeting – in Bolton.

A date for your diaries.

GMWRAG is pleased to announce that (for once) we are wholly ahead of the game and can confirm that the next GMWRAG meeting will take place on Friday the 20th of April 2018 in the Hindleys Room at Bolton At Home. The full address is Valley House, 98 Waters Meeting Road, The Valley, Bolton BL1 8SW. This will be a full day meeting and as per the Salford meeting we are hoping to secure two excellent speakers.

The minutes of the Salford meeting and associated documents and videos have been available since the end of January 2018 and can still be downloaded from the initial post or their more permanent home. An agenda for the Bolton meeting will be available as soon as we have finalised speakers and at that point we’ll post up your full options for travel and food as well.

More information as we have it.

Children’s Society Research on local welfare assistance schemes.

The Children’s Society is conducting some research on local welfare assistance schemes.  They are looking for children and parents who have experience of local welfare assistance schemes in their area so that they can interview them for the qualitative part of the research.

Have you worked with a parent/carer with children, one of whom is aged 13-18, who has gone to the council for support because of a financial crisis in the last six months?

Please see the flyer for more information or contact Richard Crellin, Policy and Research Manager at The Children’s Society at richard.crellin@childrenssociety.org.uk

Minutes and presentation from the last North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group are now available.

The minutes from the last meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group, which took place on the 26th of January 2018, are now available for download. As ever, they will also be available permanently within the NWMHWRAG pages. The presentation from Manchester Early Intervention Team on “Understanding Psychosis” is also available for download from within this post and will again be available permanently within the “Presentations” section of the NWMHWRAG pages.

Minutes of the Salford GMWRAG meeting.

The minutes of the recent GMWRAG meeting in Salford are now available for download. They will also be permanently available at our minutes of previous meetings page.

Please note that these minutes are very detailed as they contain comprehensive additional notes for each speaker as requested by a number of attendees and members who sent apologies. They’re not a quick read but they offer a detailed insight into the work of both speakers!

The minutes also contain a significant number of links to useful resources mentioned by both speakers on the day, which we agreed to include in the minutes. If you want to view those resources you will need to read the minutes on a screen and click the links first rather than just download and print, albeit that we’d ask you to print a copy off to take to our next meeting in April 2018!

The presentation from our first speaker will remain permanently available in our Presentations and Notes section. Salford’s “Tackling Poverty Strategy” remains available by clicking on the title in this sentence.

Our second speaker also brought a number of leaflets with him re: PLP work on sanctions and we agreed to distribute these with the minutes. You can download the PLP sanctions project leaflet from here.

GMWRAG members will be aware we streamed the second speaker via Persicope. That stream was eventually viewed by 128 people. These were largely GMWRAG or NAWRA members. The foregoing number does not count those very strange scantily clad people who urged “Boys, look at my profile pic! The more eagle-eyed members at the meeting may have noticed some frantic profile blocking going on during the broadcast! We’re fairly confident most GMWRAG members don’t usually dress like that!

The broadcast itself was available until midnight on the day of the meeting. Now it has been summarised within the minutes the broadcast has been deleted. We have been given permission to allow a short, non-controversial clip to be used for the site and you can see this below.

Again, the more eagle-eyed will note that in order to facilitate this GMWRAG now has a YouTube channel. You can find this by clicking the link in the previous sentence. If GMWRAG members have any good ideas for things we could live stream or record in future then we’ll be more than happy to listen. Feel free to contact GMWRAG via @GMWRAGTweets.

Second presentation from the January 2018 GMWRAG meeting in Salford.

Matt Ahluwalia from PLPA quick update on the p.m. presentation from Matt Ahluwalia from the Public Law Project talking about RF. As you will be aware this was successfully streamed live from Periscope and by the end of the day of the meeting it had been viewed more than 120 times, which we consider excellent for a first go.

The broadcast itself was available for replay to midnight on the day of the meeting.Whilst we initially hoped to have this permanently available by via YouTube it was suggested that this may prejudice future legal action so we are sorry but we will not be posting a link to the full 1 hour 9 minute recording.  We have been able to post the accompanying screen shot and we will be able to give you a 1 minute taste of the presentation (again via YouTube) but the only permanent record will be the partial transcription/summary included as part of the minutes when we have finished them.

Matt was anticipating a DWP appeal on his desk upon his return to London but obviously events have moved on apace and our notes will hopefully reflect this. Watch this space for the minutes.

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank all those whose consent we required to make the live stream possible in the first place. We had a packed room morning and afternoon and, if nothing else, we have learned that live broadcast onto t’internet is definitely the way to get a GMWRAG meeting to behave! That one has definitely been noted for future reference 🙂

First presentation available from the January 2018 GMWRAG meeting in Salford.

There are a lot of materials to upload from the recent GMWRAG meeting in Salford so apologies in advance for doing this in a slightly piecemeal manner. All presentations at meetings are permanently located within Our Meetings sub pages if you can’t find posts like this which initially announce their availability.

Our a.m. speaker in Salford was Catherine Connors, Commissioning Manager from the People’s Directorate in Salford City Council. Her presentation on “The development and delivery of the Tackling Poverty strategy in Salford – the role of specialist advice providers.” is now available for download.

Summary notes from the presentation will be available as part of the minutes

Anyone wishing to view the strategy itself, titled “NO ONE LEFT BEHIND: A joint strategy from the Salford City Mayor and Salford Youth Mayor can view/download it from here.

Practice claiming Universal Credit!

Our friends at Rightsnet have drawn our attention to the following link from We Are Digital. This allows the rare treat of being able to practice a claim for Universal Credit. GMWRAG can foresee that this would be useful in multiple circumstances for claimants, advisers and perhaps many other front line professionals. To the best of our knowledge this absolutely unique. Please have a look at www.we-are-digital.co.uk/ucp-form/

Next NAWRA meeting.

The first NAWRA meeting of 2018 takes place from 10:00am to 4:00pm with registration from 9:30am) on Friday the 9th of March 2018 at The Tab, The Square, Stockton-on-Tees TS18 1TE.

The NAWRA web site provides a link for the above venue but it appears dead to us and a quick search didn’t reveal a web site so at present you’ll be navigating by post code. Agenda, minutes etc. will be on their meetings page as soon as they’re available.

NAWRA quarterly meetings are held around the country and include keynote speakers, workshops and a range of networking and professional development opportunities. You must be a member to attend. Details of how to become a member are available on their web site.

In the meantime, there’s a GMWRAG meeting taking place…


The BBC are looking at the accessibility of every ESA and PIP assessment venue and your help is needed.

With thanks to our colleague Peter Turville via our friends at Rightsnet.

A BBC disability correspondent is compiling details of the accessibility of every ESA and PIP assessment venue – following up on a piece on ‘You & Yours’ some months back.

They are looking at practical issues including:

• Where is the venue located – city centre, out of town industrial estate, rural location etc?
• How easy is it to get to by public transport? Frequency of service, distance from nearest bus stop / trains station etc. Would a client need to take a taxi for part of the journey?
• Parking – at venue or nearby, cost etc. Problems if not a Blue Badge holder.
• How well is the venue signed – big sign or little plaque on door / in window? How is it identified – providers / sub-contractors name / logo?
• Financial difficulty for client paying for the travel cost up front / delay in provider paying refund or refusing to pay taxi fares.
• Accessibility – steps, ramps, for (electric) wheel chairs etc. Issues with suitable adaptions, provision of BSL and other interpreters etc.
• Pre-appointment info. – does it provide details of public transport routes, parking, accessibility restrictions, prepayment & refund of fares, paying for taxi, requesting an alternative venue or time of appointment?

They would be interested in particularly difficult to get to or find or otherwise inappropriate venues and other related problems like clients refused appointments at local / most easy to get to/accessible venue.

For example: a venue (featured in the previous item) is ‘hidden away’ in a small industrial estate in a village which has no public transport on a Sunday (when claimants are offered appointments). City centre(ish) venue is on a busy main road with no parking (double yellow, residents only in side streets, public car park 150m away and often full), old shop front with whitewashed windows (looks empty) with a tiny sign in the window (if you can see it due to condensation!).

If anyone has a claimant who is willing to be interviewed (radio – probably pre-recorded) about issues they had with a venue Carolyn would love to hear from you!

So for example – if a client missed their appointment because they couldn’t find the venue (tucked away on an industrial estate with a tiny sign on the door) or couldn’t get to the venue for the correct time (or had to go hours early or hang around for hours after) because of infrequent bus services etc.

Perhaps what they are not so interested in is claimants who were given an appointment at a venue a long way away when they had a more local venue. That was covered in the original piece – although if the provider refused to change the venue that would still be of interest.

Please contact: carolyn.atkinson@bbc.co.uk


Simplification of the benefits system – GMWRAGs Christmas surrender.

GMWRAG has recently posted twice about the DWP and new freephone numbers for Universal Credit. You can find these tremendously exciting posts both here and here. Additional to these we now have new JobcentrePlus freephone numbers as follows:

Telephone: 0800 169 0310
Textphone: 0800 169 0314
Welsh language: 0800 328 1744
Monday to Friday between 8am and 6pm

All of this information is coming out in what we believe to be quaintly knows as “dribs and drabs” or has been discovered more by accident than design on social media. One is left with the impression DWP marketing have signed off for Christmas and possibly forever. We’re struggling to keep up. One can only imagine what a UC claimant must feel about all of this! Simple, easy to find and transparent? Er, no.

We are doing our best to agree that things are indeed getting better. Proof positive can be found in the strangest places. 5 years ago the CPAG Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits handbook had 1,784 pages. This year we’re up to 1,800. Clearly the pace of change is finally changing! Simplification is afoot!

Much of 2017 has been characterised by the cognitive dissonance between what DWP do and what they say they do. Thus we have a whole pile of freephone numbers to make life cheaper and easier for claimants but nothing resembling an easy way of finding them.

GMWRAG is a huge fan of W1A, the BBC series in which the BBC comedically dismantles itself.

GMWRAG would therefore like to gift you all of the freephone numbers either in or linked to from this post and end 2017 with an entirely appropriate quote from W1A. It appears this was the year in which DWP identified “… what we do best and found more ways of doing less of it better”. Neil Couling clearly fits into this picture somewhere.

Are we rambling? Yes, we are. Okay, we’ll stop now 🙂

GMWRAG would like to wish all our members an excellent Christmas 2017 (“it’s been worse than good and it’s about to get worse than bad”) and an excellent 2018 (“Let’s nail the jelly to the hothouse wall!”).

DLA and PIP caselaw for visual impairment.

At the June 2017 Stockport meeting GMWRAG members had a rare opportunity to look directly at issues around hearing and sight impairment in relation to DLA for children and PIP.

Presentations have previously been circulated from both speakers and made available via a post here on the 4th of July 2017. However, for reasons which escape, but which are most likely wholesale incompetence, the presentations have not been made available on a permanent basis in our “presentations and notes” page. Indeed, we had managed to turn the menu item for this off in our Meetings section. Good to see no-one noticed 🙂

Anyway, a number of requests have been made for the case law pack for people with a sight impairment, improvised for the session, to be made properly available. Additionally a number of GMWRAG members have contributed new decisions to be added so, we have been able to produce an updated edition. Nowt special but it’s as good a place as any to start. You can download it from here and find it permanently here, which is a different “here” if you see what we mean. We have also added the NDCS new line on PIP and safety document to the same place.

In other news we appear to have posted up the minutes of the Oldham meeting and then completely forgotten to add them to the minutes section of the web site. Fixed it now.

Updated – GMWRAG resources for advisers.

GMWRAG has updated the sub pages of the NWMHWRAG so that the presentations to the group page now includes recent DWP responses to group questions about Universal Credit.

Within our “Protected: Resources for advisers in the North West” section we have now added email contact details for every DWP Partnership Manager within the Greater Manchester area. You’ll be needing these for those rare UC failures you may occasionally come across when you need some soothing Vivaldi and a cushion to bite.

These are only accurate as of today and you will of course need the asymmetric encryption key and pass card…

Oh, okay. Ask nicely and we’ll give you the password.

New Universal Credit freephone numbers part 2.

Further to our recent post on UC freephone numbers we  have noted that our colleague Barbara Knight from Derby has posted online at the following additional numbers.

Universal Credit housing line

0800 328 3844

Welsh line

0800 328 1744

Payment services

0800 328 0128

At the same time GMWRAG feels it important to bring to your attention the details of Christmas closures for these lines as reported in a somewhat sensationalist manner by the media. We’ll just give you the Grauniad version and leave it at that.

The Miracle Before Christmas.

GMWRAG will of course offer a grovelling apology to Oldham WRS for the tongue in cheek title of this post. We simply refer you to our minutes page and mention “January 2014”! 🙂

However, following on from the recent post confirming initial details of the first GMWRAG meeting of 2018 we are happy to confirm that the minutes of the last meeting in Oldham are now available for download.

GMWRAG will now have to stop pretending we’ve got an agenda and speakers and pull our proverbial finger out 🙂 We’ve booked the room okay! We’ve booked the room! 🙂 Anybody got a number for Frank Field or the award winning Neil Couling?

You may gather GMWRAG is rapidly approaching end of November “No, it is not Christmas yet!” levels of hysteria.

New Universal Credit freephone numbers.

Following the announcement by David Gauke that call charges for calls to Universal Credit would be scrapped it appears that the new freephone numbers have been published on Twitter. You can find the actual tweet at https://twitter.com/rightsnet/status/935754885794058240. Rightsnet think these could be free from today. They are as follows:

Universal Credit Live Service

Telephone: 0800 328 9344

Textphone: 0800 328 1344

Universal Credit Full Service

Telephone: 0800 328 5644

Textphone: 0800 328 1344

All numbers are available Monday to Friday between 8am and 6pm so it looks like little account has been taken of those people on UC and in employment. The very people who will mostly only be able to ring at lunch times or on their way home. Ah yes, employment. The thing UC was meant to incentivise!

Calls to these numbers have been free on all providers since 2015. However, GMWRAG has already noted that the textphone number for live and full service is the same. The potential for confusion for when dealing with hearing impaired clients should be obvious, but apparently not. Granted the tweet does says that “If you don’t have a Universal Credit online account and contact us by phone you are using Universal Credit live service… If you have a Universal Credit online account and contact us via your online journal you are using Universal Credit full service.”


GMWRAG is highly amused that “building a welfare system that is fit for the modern world”  doesn’t seem to include spending money on having phone numbers which automatically re-direct so, yes, you guessed it… anyone unaware of the new freephone numbers will of course ring the old numbers and will have to listen to a message telling them to ring the new numbers. Will the original phone call still cost? No answer as yet but we think we can guess.

Critical social policy work from NAWRA.

NAWRA has been liaising with a firm of solicitors talking about possible ways to take judicial review action on various aspects of Universal Credit. They are very interested in taking challenges on working disabled people and the self-employed – they are already taking a challenge on behalf of claimants losing the SDP.

They remain keen to hear about clients who have lost out moving to UC who are either –
• a working disabled person moving from WTC to UC and losing money due to loss of the disabled worker element;
• a self-employed person who is losing out because of irregular income and so gets less UC than an employed person earning a similar amount, or other self-employed people losing out under UC.

NAWRA are also widening their search for potential UC judicial review claimants to people in the following circumstances:

1. Claimants who are naturally migrating from ESA – failure to pay the LCW/LCWRA element straight away

2. The application of waiting days when they shouldn’t be applied as claimant was on legacy benefits before migrating

3. Submission of a DS1500 by a third party and a refusal to accept without explicit consent

If you have a client who is affected and would consider taking part in a legal challenge please email daphne@nawra.org.uk




Future GMWRAG meetings.

We’re around the time of year when people start asking when the next GMWRAG meeting is. What they really mean is “is there a GMWRAG meeting before Christmas?”. The answer to this is “No, there isn’t.” Details of GMWRAG meetings have long since been plotted considerably in advance and full details can always be found on our meetings page.  We’re currently up to 2019 although those people hosting then probably haven’t noticed 🙂

The next GMWRAG meeting will be in Salford and, although it’s not finally confirmed, we are hoping it will take place in Swinton on Friday the 19th of January 2018.  We’re anticipating a full day meeting with two or more speakers. More details will be posted as soon as we have them. Minutes of the last meeting will be out in due course.

Greater Manchester and London handed new “disability powers!”

GMWRAG is wincing reading back the above title but that is what Gov.UK said yesterday when they released a press release. You can find the document at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/greater-manchester-and-london-handed-new-disability-powers but in case you were wondering what it’s really about then it’s about getting “thousands more disabled people into work” and we think it’s talking solely about claimants in receipt of ESA.

There are numerous issues around this starting whether the devolution of such monies does anything other than create a postcode lottery. We could easily take an “I’m alright Jack” approach to this but at present we’re still in the middle of a consultation period for the Green Paper on Work, Health and Disability which this now seems to over-ride with no real clues as to how the money is to be spent beyond procuring and delivering “localised versions” of the Work and Health programme. No reference to barriers to work like a fragmented public transport system; affordable child care; the deteriorating service being delivered by Access To Work and so on.

This talks in terms of the new Work and Health Programme when scepticism has been expressed already about how likely that is to succeed with less money; work coaches on the same grades with more responsibilities and less Jobcentres to begin with. This same climate has seen a deterioration in the work done by Access To Work and cuts to funding of those organisations who do exactly the sort of intense and long-term work needed to get a very small number of disabled people back to work. Add in the weirdness of announcing cuts to Disability Employment Advisers and now an announcement of 500 more and it would be easy to conclude that what we have here is a long way from clear.

So, GMWRAG watches with interest… and not a little confusion.

GMWRAG updates.

Please note that GMWRAG has deactivated our Facebook account with a view to deleting it permanently in due course. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • posts from this site automatically post onto our social media accounts but only Twitter has seen that information shared or commented upon.
  • Members have never approached GMWRAG for information via Facebook and there has only been one occasion when members offered apologies for attendance at a meeting via Facebook.
  • Non-members have repeatedly sought benefits advice and, whilst we have sought to direct and assist, this is untenable in terms of the amount of time it takes.
  • Facebook makes regular changes to its processes compared to other social media companies and this alone makes it difficult to keep up; difficult to manage correctly and so on. The introduction of a separate messaging application further complicated this.

Please accept our apologies if you have enjoyed following GMWRAG on Facebook but our priority has to be an up to date web site linking members into meetings, consultations and so on.

In the meantime we have also taken the opportunity to review aspects of how this site works and we have

  • done a hopefully thorough trawl of all the links posted on the right side of every page within the site and ensured that all broken links are updated or fixed.
  • reduced the post count and widgets (those little boxes of information on the right side of each page) on the home page to make it easier for members to locate currently relevant posts having had repeated comments that members could not locate information about the next meeting. No excuse now 🙂

Universal Credit

Never let it be said that GMWRAG doesn’t have a sense of humour.

GMWRAG would like to present for your delectation two fantastic videos on Universal Credit and one on giving away your data verifying your identity. The first one is especially fascinating. We have at least learnt that DWP have now managed to design a form which can be saved as it goes along. Bravo! How many years? It even gives you a “To Do” list. This apparently includes creating a LinkedIn profile!
You will be especially fascinated to read all about how your identity is verified by giving your data to a private company. The explanation given for this is that your data will be safer because it’s not all held in one place. This is a well known nonsense argument. You can even choose which company with security vulnerabilities provider you give your data to so they can verify you are who you say you are. give it away. Experian anyone? As recently as last year we were reading headlines like “Experian hack exposes 15 million people’s personal information”

Then again, a quick look at the other providers is hardly reassuring. Digidentity have history on this front. Verizon? Ooh, look!

LinkedIn itself has hardly been a paragon of virtue on the data retention front. Losing the data of 164 million users is quite impressive. Of course, no need to worry, most users will be coralled into using the exemplary security of Universal JobMatch. Oh, wait… Could a theme be emerging here?

Scared yet. The above-named and others are the same companies who have your data for the purposes of viewing or sharing your drivers licence information; pretty much most key interactions with HMRC and… well, plenty more you can learn about below!

We could go on. Unfortunately this is but one aspect of UC which is disturbing. Delays in payment. Persistent wholly incorrect advice on who can and can’t claim. A lack of incentives to work. Plenty more where all this came from but in the meantime settle down and view this wonderfully smooth, professional video on how simple and straightforward it is.

We’re not sure what this third video adds beyond the staggering assertion that anyone involved with the digital service is “lucky”. Fill your boots as “they” say!!!


The first edition of NAWRA News is out now.

It has recently come to light that around 75,000 incapacity benefit claimants lost out when they were migrated over to contributory ESA (cESA) but not assessed for income-related ESA (irESA).

Find out how the DWP intends to contact those affected and NAWRA’s advice for advisers in NAWRA News.

NAWRA News is in the members area of their website.  Those of you within NAWRA should have already received an email detailing how to access using a password. If not, please talk to your NAWRA representative.

A quick update on tomorrow’s GMSCG meeting.

Full details if the meeting can be found at https://gmwrag.wordpress.com/2018/03/14/next-meeting-of-the-greater-manchester-strategic-casework-group/ but we just wanted to let members know that we’re planning to live stream Lucy Cadd from Leigh Day during the morning meeting.

If you’re not in the GM area or unable to attend the meeting please keep an eye on the @GMWRAGtweets Twitter account tomorrow for details of the precise time we’ll be going live. As per our first broadcast we’ll be doing this via Periscope and you’ll need either an account with them or to log in using Twitter, Google or Cambridge Analytica Facebook. At this stage we have no indication as to whether we’ll be able to keep a permanent record of the stream via YouTube so please don’t miss the stream and assume you’ll be able to watch it later. It may not happen.

Periscope offers the facility to ask questions during the stream so we’ll happily put these to Lucy if time allows.

if you know of anyone with an interest in the live stream please let them know, RT, etc. We’ll see you there.

Next meeting of the Greater Manchester Strategic Casework Group.

The next meeting of the Greater Manchester Strategic Casework Group will take place on Wednesday the 21st of March 2018. It is a game of two halves and the agenda currently looks as follows:

10:00am to 13:00pm

Garden Court North Chambers, Blackfriars House, Parsonage, Manchester, M3 2JA


1) ‘Rutherford’  and ‘Bedroom Tax’. The case  taken to the Supreme Court.

Sangeeta Enright, formerly caseworker at Ridley and Hall, (solicitors) and Tom Royston of Garden Court Chambers.

2)  Update on ‘ripple-bob’ [working title] – proposal for a share and refer digital platform (and not a discussion on near space astronomical object!).

Jo Chimes, Equality Project Lead at Rossendale Citizens Advice. 

3) Attendees brief activity


4) ‘Small claims courts’ and compensation for claimants, using duties under the  Equality Act 2010 – Kester Dean.

5) Update on some recent JR applications over Universal Credit  and current Court of Appeal stage in the argument regarding applying the Human Rights Act to social security appeals by way of the Carmichael case – Lucy Cadd from Leigh Day solicitors.

6) Cases and issues update, including disputes over reasonableness of home visits for claim assessments.

7) Any other business.

Details of what we’re doing in the afternoon will have already been circulated to the small select group of invitees (that’s got you intrigued :)). More information as we have it.

For those new to the Strategic Casework Group, its purposes are:

  • use a strategic approach to stop wrong and harmful decisions and actions by the DWP,  its agents, and HMRC, alongside revisions and appeals
  • share experience, knowledge and practice as widely as possible
  • use the Equality Act 2010, public law duties and human rights legislation
  • promote the take up of this approach, with advisors and others
  • produce strategic casework materials, provide training, and develop process for referrals to specialist legal advice and representation