Quick reminder re: the 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 on Friday the 31st May at 9.30am for a 10am start.

Our speaker will be Jane Crawford, Training and Development Manager at Housing Systems. She will be talking about Housing Costs under Universal Credit.

This meeting will be in the Community Room at Central Manchester Fire Station.

Address: Cassidy Close off Thompson Street, Manchester, M4 5FP.

It’s a short walk from Piccadilly and there is a car park on Thompson Street.

The Community Room has its own entrance.  Please don’t enter the Fire station by any other entrance.

From Cassidy Close you take the first turning on the left. Walk towards the building and then left again.  You should now be at the back of the building.

Walk towards a set of double doors under an overhang.  The entrance to the Community Room is on the right just before you reach the double doors.

Please contact Helen Rogers if you can’t find the room on the day.

If you’ve been before then you’ll know the routine. If not then Contact GMWRAG or another NWMHWRAG member and we’ll sort you out

(Please note she won’t get any messages until 31st May.)

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Agenda for NAWRA in Greenwich.

Following GMWRAGs post about the notes from the Salford meeting we now have further information about the Greenwich NAWRA meeting agenda.

Date: Friday the 7th of June 2019
Time: 10.00 – 16.00 (registration from 9.30)
Location: Queen Anne Building, Old Royal Naval College, King William Walk, London SE10 9NN (number 2 on the Greenwich University campus map)

The guest speaker will be Marsha De Cordova MP, Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions, Disabled People)  

There will be participatory workshops on how to claim universal credit, procedures to identify vulnerable clients, recent benefit changes for pensioners and the White Paper Commission on Social Security.

They will also hear about using judicial review to resolve welfare rights issues without going to court and there will be a presentation from Policy in Practice on how data analysis can be used to design better support.

The full agenda, along with details of travel, accommodation and social evening is now available.

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

GMWRAG is especially pleased to Marsha De Cordova as the guest speaker as we have had the opportunity to hear her in person in the past 12 months and found her both refreshing and inspirational. She also has a background in benefits advice.

Bedtime reading, Brexit and low-income housholds.

GMWRAG is busying up for our Brexit and Benefits half day epic later this month (not to forget the GM UC Forum) and in the spirit of making sure everyone is up to speed here’s some bedtime reading from Policy In Practice on the impact of Brexit on low-income households. GMWRAG remains (sorry, don’t draw ANY conclusions from that word) surprised at the lack of such modelling at such a key moment so this is if nothing else a good starting point for discussion.

You can find similar from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research but it’s 3 years old now. We were about to say that a lot can happen in 3 years but that’s probably not appropriate in relation to the B word.

More recently you can read https://ukandeu.ac.uk/poverty-after-brexit-no-dividend-for-those-on-low-incomes/ but how much bedtime reading do you actually want?

Far better to come hear our two brilliant speakers on the 17th of May 2019.

If you can’t make it please bear in mind that GMWRAG has just received the best apology ever. Can it be topped? It may get topped off.

“I am helping build a Celtic roundhouse that day” is pretty impressive. GMWRAG will simply accept no apologies which fall below this standard. We can think of no better way to make attendance compulsory 🙂

GMWRAG has thusfar resisted the temptation to get into a discussion as to how the whole concept of Celts is genetically dodgy etc. We’re willing to add it to “AOB” though!

NAWRA notes from the Salford meeting now available.

NAWRA hasn’t happened too many times in Greater Manchester over the years so we’re not going to let go easily.

The notes and presentations from the day are now available on the NAWRA website. If you don’t know the password then you’re probably not a NAWRA member so… we’re not going to tell you. Your manager will likely know and if not please contact NAWRA not GMWRAG.

The next NAWRA meeting will take place from 10am-4pm (registration from 9.30am) on Friday the 7th of June 2019 at The Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich. To be fair it looks spectacular but it’s not Salford is it! They’ll be back.

The agenda will be available here (and there) in early May.

GMSCG updates.

Busy day for GMWRAG. GMSCG members may be wondering when we’re meeting next and how the group fits into the many other things going at present. We’re hopeful we’ll have news on this soon. In the meantime our friends at Rightsnet have brought to our attention what they rightly describe as a “great report” from PLP that “… that uses their experience in working on the ‘RF’ personal independence payment challenge to highlight key lessons about litigation as a means of addressing discrimination and disadvantage”.

As per Rightsnet we’re going to quote from it verbatim

“The research carried out by Dr Lisa Vanhala and Dr Jacqui Kinghan of UCL identifies strategic lessons for third sector organisations that use public law to challenge unfair systems and highlights the ‘pivotal role’ PLP played in coordinating with a wide network of individuals and organisations.

‘Using the law to address unfair systems’ is based on interviews with some of those most involved in the legal challenge, including PLP Deputy Legal Director Sara Lomri, and gives first-hand insights into how NGOs, funders and litigators won the judicial review brought by PLP’s client, RF.

Co-published by The Baring Foundation and Lankelly Chase, the report also looks at the post-litigation ‘legacy’ phase and raises important questions such as how the Government can be held to account to implement such rulings, and who has responsibility for communicating subsequent policy changes to those affected.”

but we’re going to insert proper links 🙂 and strongly suggest that all GMSCG and GMWRAG members download a copy now in preparation for our next meeting.

You can download a copy right now from https://publiclawproject.org.uk/uncategorized/using-the-law-to-address-unfair-systems/

An actual almost bog standard GMWRAG meeting. Oh no, hang on. Brexit and Benefits.

Some of us have forgotten what an actual ordinary GMWRAG meeting looks like. Between Neal Couling; Everyday Equality North; a new GM UC Forum; sell out rooms and new booking systems it’s been a busy 8 months.

The next GMWRAG meeting was originally scheduled for April 2019 and was to be hosted by Stockport Help With Benefit Appeals as a half day meeting along with a half day GMWRAG GM UC Forum. We had plans for 2 speakers and a broad agenda of Brexit and Benefits. Alas, as with the B word itself, matters were not straightforward. We delayed in empathy (honest :)!

“Events dear boy. Events!” as Macmillan once allegedly said.

We are please to announce that the next GMWRAG meeting will be hosted by Stockport Help With Benefits team on Friday the 17th of May 2019 in BS 1.22 (N Atrium) in the Business School at Manchester Metropolitan University. See https://venues.mmu.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/11764-Business-School_First-Floor.pdf and https://venues.mmu.ac.uk/venues/business-school/

GMWRAG is hugely indebted to Ngaryan Li of GM Law Centre for making this happen.

GMWRAG is especially taken with the MMU Business Centre strap line “It is a real hub of activity where great minds meet”. We’ve made a joke about this in the previous post. It’s still worth finding 🙂

This will be an p.m. only meeting following on from the a.m. GMWRAG GM UC Forum meeting which will conclude circa 12pm at the same venue.

Please note that the meeting will be open for refreshments/networking at 12:30pm and will start at 12:45pm. You have not misread this. The intent would be to finish at 4pm as per usual.

We are fully aware this is an unusual start time but would appreciate people arriving promptly as the timings have been arranged to accommodate the fact we have 2 excellent speakers giving freely of their own time (and who are travelling a long way to do so) as well as deal with some GMWRAG business which has not been addressed as part of an agenda since (we think) Bolton in April 2018. More details of our speakers will follow but we can confirm that we have

1pm – Professor Charlotte O’Brien from York Law School. You can read more about Charlotte here but we’re confident many GMWRAG members will recall her excellent contribution on the consequences of Brexit at PLP North in 2017. We certainly do. The phrase “administrative cataclysm” has resonated down the years.

2:30pm – Alexandra Sinclair from the Public Law Project. will be talking on ”

“Brexit, Statutory Instruments and Social Security: An early analysis”.

You can read all about the SIFT project here. and you’ll immediately see the link with the many recent social security Statutory Instruments and Brexit.

The exact subject matter/titles for the above will be detailed in due course but if you haven’t figured out it’s “Brexity” then you haven’t been clicking on those links have you! Tsk. EDIT: The title of Alexandra’s talk is now detailed above. Charlotte’s will follow.

We also hope to deal with some routine GMWRAG business such as the appointment of a new Treasurer; web site management; take-up work etc.

Please note that unlike our last 2 meetings there is no booking process for this meeting. It’s a GMWRAG meeting and you can just turn up. However, as per our last 2 meetings, we are expecting a full room so please arrive early if you want a seat.

If you’re unable to make the meeting we have tentative plans to live stream but again we’ll let you know about that in due course. In the meantime we look forward to seeing you all there.

Oh yeah, transport. Ahem, nearest railway station is Manchester Oxford Road and the venue is a small walk from there. We won’t talk about buses because if you can’t get a bus down Oxford Road then you’re really not trying. We strongly recommend cycling as Oxford Road has 2 cycle lanes. We strongly recommend insurance though as we’ve never been able to figure out which way the cyclists are supposed to be going.

See you all there.

Details of the next GMWRAG GM UC Forum are finally here.

The GMWRAG Greater Manchester Universal Credit Forum grew directly from our invitation to Neil Couling, director general of Universal Credit, to come talk to a GMWRAG meeting in Trafford, which he kindly did back in October 2018. You can read all about that here but only if you’re a GMWRAG member and have the appropriate password.

The first meeting took place in January 2019 and we’ve created a new section as a means of making the minutes available to all attendees as well as anything else of relevance. The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that the next meeting was scheduled for Stockport on Friday the 19th of April 2019 but due to a complex set of circumstances we were unable to make that happen.

The second meeting will now be hosted by Stockport Help With Benefits team on Friday the 17th of May 2019 in BS 1.22 (N Atrium) in the Business School at Manchester Metropolitan University. See https://venues.mmu.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/11764-Business-School_First-Floor.pdf and https://venues.mmu.ac.uk/venues/business-school/

GMWRAG is hugely indebted to Ngaryan Li of GM Law Centre for making this happen.

GMWRAG is especially taken with the MMU Business Centre strap line “It is a real hub of activity where great minds meet”. A bit like Principal Officers meetings then 🙂

This will be an a.m. meeting (as this is the only way we could make this work) and will run from 9:30am to 12:00pm (midday) at the latest as it will be followed by a full afternoon GMWRAG meeting. More on that imminently.

Please note that there is no booking process for this meeting. We are confident the room can accommodate attendees.

The draft agenda currently reads:

  • Vulnerability – no right to reside, emergency funds and accommodation.
  • Feedback on actions from the last meeting e.g. the accessibility meeting held in Tameside.
  • Plans for the next meeting.

We welcome additional agenda item suggestions but please bear in mind this meeting has been designed to have a restricted agenda so issues can be explored in depth.

For those of you travelling by public transport the nearest railway station is Oxford Road and if you can’t get a bus down Oxford Road you’re not really trying.

We look forward to seeing you there. However, please take note of our next post as some of you will be in for a very busy day.

Leigh Day and their Universal Credit Group Claim.

Leigh Day have now set up a web page plus FAQ & online referral form to make the whole process of signing up to their claim(s) a little more convenient. This can be found at: https://www.leighday.co.uk/Employment-discrimination/Current-cases/Universal-Credit-group-action. They have produced separate referral forms tailored for advisers and for individuals.

For their TP & AR linked claims they now have enough claimants to launch the action. They have identified potential lead claimants and will shortly be sending out client care letters to those who have been referred to them or made their own enquiries.

They are also hoping to generate some media interest in the coming weeks. They could do with much higher numbers to make this litigation really effective and that is why they have set up the website. There are 13,000 people out there who have lost out as a result of the wrongheaded implementation of natural migration.

A lot of service users might not have access to the internet so you can still refer people to them by just emailing a name and telephone number. Ryan Bradshaw (a long-standing friend of GMWRAG and GMSCG) and Niall Byrne are available by phone for any enquiries that you might have.

Feel free to circulate this amongst your contacts and colleagues.

NOT a job advert and twice as funny.

GMWRAG was, remarkably, getting a tad bored with posting up job adverts all the time. How quickly we become blasé at the extraordinary! We’ll soon alleviate our boredom by chasing up (well, invoicing) all those organisations who need to pay us for those adverts but in the meantime you can have the same amount of fun we did filling in this exciting “communication survey” from our friends at HMCTS.

The gist of this appears to be that they don’t want to know anything helpful or detailed. Consider it of the ilk of those emails you get every now again from Costa Coffee or Cineworld asking about your experience and which then ignore everything you say when you tell them you nearly died of food poisoning or were hideously over-charged.

It says here that

“Today, HM Courts and Tribunals Service has launched a survey of users and those working within courts and tribunals to inform and improve how it communicates with users. The deadline for completing the survey is the 10th of May 2019.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/hm-courts-and-tribunals-service-launch-communications-survey

Our guess is that not many “users” who are also claimants will have got this link. Feel free to forward it on.

GMWRAG is sort of expecting to receive a letter back advising us that our response is out of time and asking for us an explanation. You can probably insert your own HMCTS and communication joke at this point.

No direct line? Talk to the DWP.

Researchers at the Department for Work and Pensions would like to speak to advisers in organisations who work with benefit claimants but don’t have any sort of formal relationship with the department.

The DWP is particularly interested in finding out how organisations with no direct line to the department would raise any queries they have for the DWP – for example, would they go online, or call the claimant helpline?

At the moment, they’re concerned that their research is largely dominated by external partners who have an established relationship with the DWP.

The interviews themselves will take place via telephone and last about 30/45 minutes. A researcher from the DWP will call you at a time and date that is most convenient for you. They’re interested in both national and local perspectives on this issue so please do get in contact even if you’re unsure whether you suit the bill – you probably do!

GMWRAG is aware DWP don’t exactly have a great reputation when it comes to keeping the promise of a call back but on this occasion we think it’s worth persevering.

If you’re interested in taking part in the research please email Hannah McLennan, the research officer working on this project.

Initial details of the 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 on Friday the 31st of May 2019.

The speaker will be Jane Crawford, Training and Development Manager for Housing Systems.

She will be talking about housing costs in Universal Credit including managed payments to landlords.

Minutes of the first GMWRAG Greater Manchester Universal Credit Forum ALMOST available. Another new GMWRAG web site section created in anticipation.

The minutes of the 1st ever GMWRAG GM UC Forum, which took place in sunny Oldham (we’re writing this as it’s snowing in March) way back in January 2019 are now almost available for download. Apologies for the delay in getting these out to you but we’ve had technical issues getting them to the DWP for comment.

In light of the delays these issues have caused we’ve decided to go down the “publish and be damned” route and just get them out there (sort of). At present though you won’t be able to access them until DWP have confirmed there are no issues with them from their perspective.

Once they do go live (yeah, we will say) could those of you who were present at the meeting please take a look and note any suggested/required amendments? Bring them with you to the next meeting and we’ll deal with them under a hopefully brief, focused “minutes of the last meeting” item at the outset.

In order to view the minutes you will need to find them in (yet another) new GMWRAG section where they are located and password protected. We’ll leave it to you to figure out what it’s called. If you can’t (clue: it starts with “NEW”) then we despair. We just do.

As regards passwords, GMWRAG members know the score. If you don’t then just contact us and we’ll let you know (the score that is. Possibly the password too.) once it’s all live.

GMWRAG has recently discovered what happens when we momentarily and accidentally leave minutes unprotected. Apparently, we end up in Private Eye! You can read more about that here but GMWRAG wishes to issue a resolute “no comment”.

In the meantime, you’ll obviously want to know that we’re working towards a slightly amended date and timings for the next UC Forum/GMWRAG meeting.

We were scheduled for Stockport in Spring (sorry, we just liked the alliteration – we meant April) but we’re now looking at a mid May date. The draft minutes also suggested that the UC Forum would run 1pm to 4pm but we’ve had to amend that immediately in order to accommodate our speakers at the GMWRAG meeting on the same day.

So, at present the intent is that the UC forum will be a.m. and will be followed by a packed p.m. meeting with 2 speakers looking at various aspects of Brexit and Benefits. We’ll give you something more concrete on this as soon as it’s been finalised but we’re hoping for the 17th of May 2019. If the weather persists we shall of course rebadge it as “Brrrrexit and Benefits”.

Please note that we can’t guarantee that the future order of these meetings will be the same. We suspect it will change depending on the availability of speakers for the GMWRAG meeting. We are busy finding out whose hands to slap for suggesting the UC Forum would always be p.m.

Finally, we have had several queries asking about the accessibility/access group which was suggested at the 1st meeting. There is clearly much enthusiasm for this and much anxiety about perceived delays. DWP are doing a lot of work behind the scenes to make this happen (most notably to make it as accessible as it can be) so please bear with us. As soon as we’re able to announce anything, we will.

Greater Manchester Welfare Reform Dashboard. A chance for you to comment upon and shape the data.

Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) collate data on a quarterly basis with a view to monitoring the rollout of Universal Credit and other welfare reforms. The main intent of collating this data is to inform the priorities of the GM UC and Welfare Reform Group and its focus on skills and employment opportunities.

However, as the intro. also notes it is also a “resource available to partners in GM”. GMWRAG takes the view that this data is extremely useful in informing on the work we’re all doing and the data tables alone are worth the price of admission. So, we’re pleased to bring the last quarterly report to your attention for the first time.

You can download a pdf copy of the report from here and we’re confident you’ll find much that is useful within about your own a. Of equal importance though is the fact that GMCA would like your feedback. They are looking to add additional datasets to the Dashboard all the time and, whilst they have some ideas on that, they would welcome the views of GMWRAG members on

  • the data as it stands;
  • whether any GMWRAG members could contribute further data or datasets and,
  • any suggestions on further information which could be added.

If you’d like to feedback, and GMWRAG urges you to all consider doing so, then please contact Hannah.scriven@greatermanchester-ca.gov.uk

GM Law Centre Legal Advocacy Support Group

GM Law Centre’s Pro Bono LASP (Legal Advocacy Support Project), modelled on the work done at Avon and Bristol Law Centre LASP, have advised GMWRAG that they “… have capacity to take on failed WCA, ESA and UC appeals” as they have a new intake of student caseworkers from MMU Law School proactively looking to prepare and represent alongside University of Manchester colleagues.

They can take on appeal bundles issues 3-4 months ago, which leaves time to prepare. The team have recently been nominated for the Manchester Legal Awards Pro Bono/Community Initiative Award.

Claimants can get an appointment by calling GMLC reception on 0161 769 2244 between 9:30am and 3pm, Monday to Friday except for Bank Holidays (we presume) of which there are some soon. Alternatively you can email reception.

Advisers should note that GM Law Centre serves the whole of Greater Manchester and thus you are being offered a service which can help you manage your own capacity issues in a world of contracting advice services and advice deserts.

Salford City Mayor welcomes ‘national heroes’.

Sa;fprd City Mayor tweetA significant number of GMWRAG members enjoyed a fantastic day out in Greater Manchester on Friday the 1st of March 2019 at the 1st ever Salford NAWRA meeting hosted by Salford Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Service. at Swinton Civic Centre.

GMWRAG is hoping to provide a fuller report in due course but in the meantime we’d urge you to check out the great article about the forceful and passionate opening message from City Mayor Paul Dennett.

GMWRAG was unable to live stream any part of the event but we were pleased to see that social media was alive with great comments and uninspiring photography (we’re excepting the photo to our left and referring to the ones below). We’ve been assured that better images are on the way but then we’ve also been assured austerity is at an end!

Presentations from Everyday Equality are now available for download.

Alan Turing banner at LGBT Foundation in ManchesterGMWRAG is very pleased to say that all of our speakers at the recent Everyday Equality Act have now provided us with their presentations from the event for download. We also have a bonus presentation from Ryan Bradshaw of Leigh Day which was not available on the day.

Please note:

  • there are no minutes available for the January 2019 meeting. There were 14 speakers and the presentations below represent all the content available from the event bar images posted by @GMWRAGTweets and other attendees.
  • a number of presentations have been subsequently updated or revised by speakers. The versions on this site represent the most up to date versions.
  • all presentations are detailed below in this post but will be permanently available on our “Presentations and notes from GMWRAG meetings” page.
  • The minutes which would ordinarily be on our “Minutes” page link to the above page.
  • Some of the presentations have similar titles. Please be assured that all presentations are distinct. No content is repeated.

Jo Chimes, whose magnificent work was pretty much solely responsible for making the whole day happen, has also kindly added her own summary of the take away messages from the event and we’ve added that as well..

Leigh Day looking for examples of claimants adversely affected by the UC Minimum Income Floor to support a JR case.

Tessa Gregory’s team at Leigh Day represent an individual who is self-employed and finds themselves in significant financial hardship due to the application of the Minimum Income Floor (MIF) since they first had to claim Universal Credit. They have brought a claim against the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions challenging the lawfulness of the application of the MIF on the basis that it discriminates against self-employed individuals and is irrational.

They have now reached the stage of the judicial review in which they need to collate and prepare supportive evidence. It would be helpful for the court to be provided with other examples which show the broad and varied range of situations in which individuals are caught by the UC provisions, as well as the different ways in which the application of the MIF has affected peoples’ lives.

If any of your clients are self-employed, have been moved on to UC and have had the MIF recently applied, make the NMW across the year, but experience significant fluctuations in income on a monthly basis, they would be grateful if you could provide a short summary of their situation which sets out how they came to be on UC and how the MIF is affecting them. You may also wish to inform them of this ongoing challenge of the MIF which may be of interest to them. They are happy to consider any queries in relation to this challenge that any of your clients may have.

Please do not hesitate to contact them at universalcreditqueries@leighday.co.uk if you require any further information or if your clients have any questions in relation to the ongoing challenge.

An update on the GMWRAG archives.

GMWRAG has been quietly digitally archiving our past for around 7 of the 10 years existence of this site. As our history is long and convoluted there is no single archive location so this may not be immediately obvious to site viewers as much of the material can be found buried in sub-menus in related sections. We long ago decided that, for example, NWMHWRAG archives could be buried/located in their section of the site and so on. Most of our archive is inevitably minutes but you will also find plenty to entertain you in our training and presentations links associated with those minutes.

The GMWRAG archive is about to grow considerably as we have obtained 4 boxes worth of material stretching back to the late 1980s. For the first time we have much more than minutes and agendas and we’ll be posting these up over a period of many months rather than weeks.

However, this is a long process and there is no single location where you will immediately notice the growth. This site is maintained on goodwill and obviously there are limits to the amount of scanning, uploading and writing which can be done in the working week and (yes) outside of working hours. However, watch this space as the depth and breadth of the site content will grow during 2019 like never before.

In the meantime, if you have any documents (paper or digital) which you would like to donate to the GMWRAG digital archive please Contact GMWRAG and we’ll happily (within reason) take them off your hands and add them to the list of things to be digitally archived.

It would however help us immensely if you could check out the site first and weed out any duplicates before handing over your documents. Thank you.

Tracking FOI requests from or on behalf of GMWRAG.

Research panel links.GMWRAG previously advised members of our WhatDoTheyKnow account back in August 2018 with an entertaining exchange with the DWP which ultimately resulted in the presence of Neil Couling at our October 2018 meeting in Trafford.

We’d like to remind GMWRAG members that this account is available for any of you to make benefits related FOI requests either on behalf of GMWRAG or anonymously under the umbrella of GMWRAG.

If you have particular requests please Contact GMWRAG and we can agree appropriate wording. In the meantime you can easily view those requests which have been made by using the quick link below.

A permanent link to this list can be found in the links panel to the right of every page on the site under Research. See the ridiculously blurry panel to the left if you’re not sure what we’re talking about.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/user/gmwrag#foi_requests

New job advert on GMWRAG.

GMWRAG is pleased to announce our second job advert of 2019. As ever this is replicated on our permanent Job Vacancies page.

Welfare Rights Officer

Business & Corporate Services

Administration

Oldham council logoOldham Council

Corporate and Commercial Services

Welfare Rights Service

Welfare Rights Officer

Ref: G6/OL-24749

Contract Type: Permanent (and 1 post for 12 month maternity cover)

Salary: £25,463 – £29,909. (pro rata for part time post)

Hours: 1 x FTE 36.40 per week (permanent)

1 X PTE  ( 0.5 fte Wed pm, Thursday and Friday)

1 x FTE (36.40 per week to cover maternity leave for 12 months)

Based: Level 13, Civic Centre, West Street, Oldham, OL1 1UT

Closing date: 22nd February 2019

Shortlisting & Interview Dates: To be confirmed.

Role overview

To contribute to the provision of a comprehensive high quality Welfare Rights Service advising residents about entitlement to welfare benefits supporting residents to challenge benefit decisions and providing representation at Appeal Tribunals.

Key responsibilities

  • Interpreting legislation and case law, providing specialist technical information and advice on welfare benefits to residents, partners, internal and external organisations.
  • Mediate and negotiate with appropriate agencies on a resident’s behalf, submitting mandatory reconsiderations and appeals to relevant bodies and represent clients at Tribunal Hearings, where appropriate.
  • Progress complex casework, gathering evidence as needed and keeping residents updated
  • Support the delivery of an effective duty service, and outreach provision
  • Contribute to the planning and delivery of Health & Wellbeing campaigns and Financial take up initiatives through the development of innovative approaches

 Key Requirements

To succeed in this role you will need as a minimum:

  • Proven experience and expertise in Welfare Benefit advice work
  • Excellent organisational skills, to ensure completion of necessary tasks to meet deadlines
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills, with an ability to deal with issues in a tactful and sensitive manner

The post is subject to a standard disclosure from the DBS.

Oldham Right to Work in the UK.doc

Job Description & Person Spec.doc

About Us

For more information about the Oldham Council, please visit:  https://www.greater.jobs/content/4559/working-for-oldham

For details of how we use your data please see our privacy notice: https://www.oldham.gov.uk/downloads/file/4967/employment_privacy_notice_-_oldham_council_10

First job advert of 2019 thanks to Age UK in Trafford.

Trafford Age UK logoInformation and Advice Manager

Salary: £14,319 (£23,866 pro rata 21 hours) + pension

21 hrs per week to be worked flexibly to suit operational needs

We need an experienced and enthusiastic benefits adviser to work in our Information and Advice service. The post holder must be able to complete benefit application forms and to provide general benefits advice and support.

Closing date: 4th February 2019

Interview Date: 8th February 2019

To apply go to our website www.ageuktrafford.org.uk and click on the vacancy section on the front page. Return your completed pack by email to: admin@ageuktrafford.org.uk or post: The Sharples Building, 1-3 Church Road, Urmston, Manchester M41 9EH.

Registered Charity No: 1109047

Company Ltd by guarantee no: 5384301

The details of this post can also be found in a information and advice manager advert jan 2019 and on our Job Vacancies page.

Her Mightily Confused Tribunals Service. What could possibly be going wrong?

Which address?Here’s a quick follow up from our post announcing the redacted minutes of the first Manchester Tribunal User Group in 18 months. GMWRAG is relieved but utterly bewildered to discover our observation that HMCTS have not sent out minutes to anyone not in attendance may not be accurate. One of our member organisations has now received no less than three copies of said redacted minutes.

So, instead of receiving 7 pages they have received 21. Our member has only ever signed up using individual names and yet all 3 addresses are no longer addressed to those individuals. The 1st and 3rd of the 3 addresses above haven’t existed for 3.5 years. The 2nd is the same address but apparently in Manchester. GMWRAG probably doesn’t need to tell our members the perils of suggesting that any part of Salford is either “in Manchester”; “just Manchester” or “Manchester really”.

More to the point, staff at said service (long located within the Civic Centre in Salford) to the best of our knowledge continue to represent appellants and receive correctly addressed papers from Liverpool on a daily basis.

HMCTS and liaison. What could possibly be going wrong?!

GMWRAG would be very interested to know whether any other members have had similar issues. No TUG minutes at all or an excess? Please let us know.

The minutes of the Manchester Tribunal User Group are now available.

GMWRAG is old enough to remember when Tribunal User Groups (TUG) were held four times a year. We have long been of the view that holding a Manchester TUG once a year is largely tokenistic and speaks to an organisation largely disinterested in genuine engagement with its “customer base” or whatever it wants to call tribunal users this year. At a point when HMCTS is closing venues; relocating regional centres and tentatively entering the virtual world about 25 years after the rest of the world we can’t bring ourselves to express much surprise then that it has been 18 months since the last Manchester TUG.

Nor will we express much surprise that HMCTS once again demonstrates itself incapable of competent organisation having listed this one for “hearing” during half term and then not sending out the minutes to those organisations which it invited but who were, quite understandably, unable to attend for rather obvious practical reasons. Next, HMCTS will be claiming there’s no need for a TUG because few people attend. Well… we can’t imagine why that would be!

A quick GMWRAG review of Manchester TUG minutes shows that pretty much nothing has changed in the best part of 30 years. End to end administration remains poor and delays remain unacceptable. The same issues occur repeatedly.

We are therefore almost delighted to present for your delectation a set of 2018 minutes in which HMCTS have presented us with something new. Plus an accompanying document in which HMCTS have presented us with something about “reform”.

Manchester TUG GMWRAG Minutes 2018.

Another “reform” document.

The “something new”? GMWRAG has never seen a set of TUG minutes in which the basic performance statistics with which we have been provided for the past 30 plus years is accompanied by the following statement:

“This information does not form part of the Official Statistics and is restricted and should not be shared more widely than the attendees at this meeting.”

This leaves GMWRAG members in the extraordinary position that not only are TUGs now 18 months apart (and every TUG meeting for the past 30 years has contained a question from an attendee about the continued failure to hold meetings with the required frequency) but if you can’t make it then you don’t even get to see the contents of the meeting nor the basic performance statistics which enable you to for example advise clients of how long it might take for their appeal to be listed!

GMWRAG is extremely grateful for the member who provided these minutes. We can say we have redacted the relevant “performance” statistics with the utmost reluctance and feel grubby for having done so. We can see no reason for their redaction and will be writing to HMCTS to query the approach. We look forward to the likely GDPR related explanation. We wonder if this will be as credible as the recent attempt to explain away problems with introducing implicit consent to Universal Credit as also being because of GDPR!

In the meantime we have been amusing ourselves with the interwebs many apposite acronyms for GDPR. We’re quite taken with “Generally Dreadful Permanently Rubbish”. Why that one stuck? Who knows.

And yes, it’s not you, the Christmas snow on the GMWRAG web site should now be back in business.

A record (legal) high.

That moment when you don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

GMWRAG has inevitably suffered along with our members over the past few years of austerity as we’ve seen member organisations and well-respected individual members find themselves on the wrong end of significant cuts and areas of Greater Manchester and indeed the North West of England become advice deserts. During the past 5 years we have worked hard to maintain the usefulness of our site and group but it has been a battle. The number of views tell their own story. Back in 2013 we hit a peak of 12,261 views over the whole year but this dropped dramatically a year later to 11,346 and we have done well to keep numbers over 9,000 in the intervening years.

Whilst austerity is still being foisted on many of our members with the inevitable consequences on both them and their clients it does seem as though things have stabilised to some extent and there’s some small belated recognition that advice saves more money than it will ever consume. Good to read therefore about proposals to build more law centres and to see some services which have struggled in recent years holding steady.

Over here at GMWRAG HQ we’ve been pleased to note that our numbers are back on the rise and significantly so. Our views for this year already significantly exceed those for each of the past 3 years and are currently the 3rd highest in our history and rising. Additionally we have just exceeded 1,000 view per month for 4 times in a row for the 1st time in our history.

In part this is clearly a reflection of the sheer volume we have been posting but it’s also clear that it’s also a measure of the fact many of you are still out there and thriving and the concern about those issues about which we have posted e.g. Universal Credit.

We’d also like to thank many of you for being “social” and sharing our many ramblings across social meejah. You’ve shared our posts 8,180 times over the past 9 years including Facebook 1,434 times. Interestingly you’ve shared our stuff 1,326 times on Reddit (no, us neither) and on Twitter a mere 928 times.

Amusingly our most shared post was one on something which did not come to pass (the transfer of AA to local authority funding). Perhaps depressingly the single most viewed thing on our site (after the home page) is our copy of the ESA 3 change of circumstances form.

Some people do actually think there is a GMWRAG HQ! We think we could get them PIP!

The rapid demise of local authority welfare assistance schemes, Universal Credit and complex need plans.

GMPA have produced an excellent report – “local welfare assistance schemes: the urgent need for a new approach” – weirdly enough talking about the urgent need for a new approach to local welfare assistance. Information wasn’t obtained in the case of 19 local authorities but nevertheless key findings include

Key findings include:

  • 22 local authorities don’t operate local welfare assistance schemes. GMPA estimates that this means 7.75 million people are living in areas where crisis support isn’t available.
  • A further 29 schemes are under threat, with local authorities having cut the budget for their schemes by two-thirds over the last three years or operating schemes on budgets of less than £100,000 a year.
  • The number of awards made through Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans was over 1.3 million in 2010/11 and over 700k in 2012/13 (the final year of the national scheme). This compares to a little over 161k successful applications for support through local welfare assistance schemes in 2017/18. This represents a fall in support of 88% between 2010/11 and 2017/18.
  • In Greater Manchester, spending on crisis support in 2017/18 was £3.8 million. This is over £15 million lower than spending under Crisis Loan and Community Care Grant provision in 2010/11. The number of successful applications for support through local schemes in Greater Manchester was 10,077 in 2017/18 compared to 123,220 Community Care Grants and Crisis Loan awards made in 2010/11.

The context for this decimation needs to be that, where an area has Universal Credit full service, complex needs plans may be referencing local welfare assistance which no longer exists. We don’t need to add anything to that do we! Well, there’s this we suppose.

“A useful step forward but we need to keep walking.”

GMWRAG is an intermittent fan boy of the work being posted on the Inequalities blog. Unless you have been living under a rock you may also be aware of the announcement of a new poverty measure this week. It would appear DWP have been living under a very shaded rock as a quick glance at their web site suggests nothing is going on with poverty at all but the employment rate is at a “near record high“. We suspect this translates roughly as “a bit better than it was”. Anyway…

Ben Baumberg-Geiger of the Inequalities blog has written an interesting article about the steps forward in the new poverty measure and the deficiencies. You can read the full article here. GMWRAG also recommends the thought provoking “The need for right-wing research” from the same author.

The sorry tale of how GMWRAG received a response to our first ever Freedom Of Information request; missed a chance to do some DWP wide research and learnt more than we possibly intended.

On the 13th of August 2018 GMWRAG made a Freedom of Information request to DWP via our new WhatDoTheyKnow account. You can read all about the context for that first request in our post of that date but it’s worth reiterating the basics here.

On the 3rd of August 2018 @neilcouling posted the following tweet.

“Nice end to the week. UC claimant on work experience in jobcentre tells whole of DWP, UC is better than JSA, feels more customer-friendly, giving people responsibility for their money means work less of a culture-shock, that change is inevitable but this one is welcome.”

@GMWRAGtweets has enjoyed “bants” with Mr. Couling previously and we’re well aware of an infamous occasion claims were made of being inundated with thank you cards from claimants who had been sanctioned. The final number could be described as something less than “inundated” unless DWP are now using a dolls house sized letter box as the front end for mail handling.

We have no idea whether the above account is controlled by Mr. Couling (or perhaps a “UC claimant on work experience”) but the above tweet provokes more questions than answers and Mr. Couling wasn’t very forthcoming.

We probably don’t need to comment further on the phrase “UC claimant on work experience in jobcentre”… but we will! We think the very concept of “work experience in jobcentre” begs a question as to what on earth JCP think they’re doing? Why would you place anyone on work experience in a jobcentre? If you can do it for one why can’t you do it in all (recognising the problematic nature of doing it in even one JCP)? What safeguards are in place if the work experience doesn’t work out? Is the work coach the supervisor? And so on… ad nauseam.

However, our more immediate concern was that this was someone giving out a message which offers a perspective on UC which flies in the face of all the evidence accepted by the Public Accounts Committee, the Work and Pensions Committee and the National Audit Office and in the context of doing work experience in, of all places, a JCP. So, this would be someone who not only seemed unlikely to have had any issue with the fluctuations inherent in UC in other situations and is therefore potentially largely uniformed by the wider issues but also who looks from the outside to have said something which at worst looks potentially coerced given that the language used, to most reasonable people, does not appear to be the language of a claimant. Indeed it bore remarkable similarities to those leaflets the DWP had to concede contained case studies of claimants who weren’t exactly real!

So, GMWRAG elected to ask a simple question? Which jobcentre? When we didn’t get an answer we decided to just keep asking. Every day!

At first we couldn’t any response at all but then, after 5 days Mr. Couling denied we’d asked him anything.

“Think you need to check back on your twitter history. I don’t recall you asking me anything. This tweet suggests you have asked a local jobcentre? But if I missed a tweet from you apologies”.

By this time we had, of course, on the 4th of August 2018 asked every JCP on Twitter in the UK whether this inspirational claimant had been at their office. We didn’t think this was unreasonable. Weren’t these the same JCPs who had claimed to be so responsive on social media that they had once prevented a claimant setting out to sign on in those notorious “adverse weather conditions” less then 10 minutes after they’d been asked if they were open! Yes, they were.

At the time of writing, a mere 40 days later, not a single one of those JCPs has shown enough social media manners to offer us a polite response. Not a “Sorry, not us”. Not a peep. Were there to be a storm of biblical proportions it seems most unlikely any JCP would be able to offer up a response in 9 minutes.

On the 8th of August 2018 Mr. Couling finally responded that this “… wasn’t from a jobcentre, which perhaps explains why jobcentres haven’t responded.”

Well, on one level, we had achieved a little more clarity, albeit only in the sense that we had established that blood wasn’t likely to leak from a stone any time soon. On the other hand, are we truly alone in thinking that an organisation which gets asked a questions and fails to acknowledge that even if only to confirm that they couldn’t help is best described not as “customer friendly” (to hark back to our original concern) but simply unprofessional? If GMWRAG members received a query from a client or another government department or indeed just about anyone, and simply failed to answer does “unprofessional” not leap out as the obvious adjective?

GMWRAG then asked, not unreasonably, if not in a JCP, then where. Mr. Couling was on fire now. He came back with the brilliant phrase “Sure, social media.”. We then asked which account and… silence.

ON the same day GMWRAG then found the account of one @AfrikKwame who quite remarkably had tweeted (on the 29th of March 2018 mind you) the words

“@JTomlinsonMP @ MMorley_JCP @Director_LHC I’m Deaf and loving my work experience at Barnsbury JC, coaching non-Deaf UC claimants into work.”

Putting aside that this means that work experience in a JCP is actually “a thing” we didn’t think this was our man (more on this later) but Mr. Couling then tweeted the astonishing

“This exchange reminds me of the bit from the Life of Brian where a follower says “only the true messiah denies his own divinity”. Brian replies “well what chance does that give me?”. Noted you never accept anyone might be happy with UC. I’m listening why not reciprocate?”

Two days earlier Mr. Couling had accepted an invitation to the October GMWRAG meeting! He then clearly set about doing some serious listening as his Twitter account fell mysteriously silent…

You can read the full text of the DWP response here. Like us you may wonder at how the DWP intranet translates into “social media”. Despite encouragement from elsewhere we think it would be futile to pursue this angle. Whilst most of us think of social media as specific platforms like Flaccidbook or Witter, it can be defined sufficiently loosely for Mr. Couling to be able to get away with the use of the phrase in connection with a post or broadcast on an intranet. See here for an example.

We do now have the full text of the voluntarily provided feedback, which reads

“I’m doing work experience at the job centre and I’m on UC. In my opinion UC is
much easier for customers than the old JSA system, it feels much more customer
friendly. Also, giving the customers full responsibility for their money is less of a
culture shock when we enter into full or even part time employment. I do
understand that some of the staff are concerned about the possibility of a heavy
workload due to the change of procedure, however, I think that once the change is
implemented, it will make the whole process smoother for all. In every system
change is inevitable, but I can tell you now, to me this is a very welcome one.”

GMWRAG is willing to listen to arguments that the above is real. The extent to which it was voluntary is open to discussion and ditto the extent to which the above is couched in the language of a claimant as opposed to a broadcast by DWP. However, the matter is not at an end. Indeed we have just tweeted @AfrikKwame to ask if they were in fact the person in question. Watch this space.

Brilliantly, it appears that when DWP posted the above responses they managed to not only fail to fully redact the name of the relevant claimant (too late folks, it’s apparently been sorted) but also managed to post a link which enabled a user to message the whole of the DWP! Yes, you read that right. GMWRAG of course missed the boat on this once in a lifetime opportunity to do some research in partnership with the DWP and that has been taken down also. Bearing in mind that UC is intended to be wholly digital and DWP is currently looking to migrate UC to a cloud computing platform. Let’s not even start on online ID verification. GMWRAG is both mildly amused and simultaneously horrified that such basic errors and data breaches continue to occur. It appears one little question can open up a whole can of worms.

Mysteriously, @NeilCouling is back on Twitter as of today! Perhaps someone lost the password and just found it in a journal!

The same “long read” as last time but possibly in a more digestible format and with a different title.

Back in July 2018 GMWRAG published a long read via TruPublica titled “Research Paper Update: State Crime By Proxy: Corporate Influence on State Sanctioned Social Harm”. You can read that post here and the actual article here.

The whole thing has now been formally published by the Centre for Welfare Reform and is available for download as a pdf by clicking below. The new title is the much more understandable “Preventable Harm and the Work Capability Assessment”.

If you want to know how we ended up where we are with the WCA, and why, then this is an essential read. The same caveats we wrote last time probably still apply.

What Do They Know?

GMWRAG is pleased to announce that we now have an account with the excellent “WhatDoTheyKnow?” web site. We’re easy enough to find. Just do a search for the word “GMWRAG” and up we’ll pop along with our very first question to a public authority. You will be shocked to learn this is the DWP.

We’re sure most GMWRAG members know exactly what “WhatDoTheyKnow?” does but in case you don’t we’ll save ourselves some time by directing you to their FAQ page.

If any GMWRAG members wish to use the account to ask a welfare rights related question of a public authority whilst remaining anonymous please Contact GMWRAG and we’ll be happy to help. Please note this is not a service we will make available to advisers outside our geographical area nor anyone whose identity we cannot verify.

Our first request relates to a recent tweet from Neil Couling CBE, the Director General of the Universal Credit Programme. You can read all about it at “WhatDoTheyKnow?” but also by following @GMWRAGTweets and @NeilCouling.

GMWRAG will let you know the outcome of the request as soon as we have it.

“… supportive eye rolling”.

GMWRAG is having an enjoyable “long post” period and our recent UC post was given considerable traction by social media so we’re not going to apologise for the length of this one.

Once again we offer thanks to our friends at Righstnet but before reading this it’s worth understanding what a UN Special Rapporteur actually is else the significance of the person and the action may not register.

The title Special Rapporteur is given to individuals working on behalf of the UN within the scope of “special procedure” mechanisms who have a specific country or thematic mandate from the United Nations Human Rights Council. The term “rapporteur” is a French-derived word for an investigator who reports to a deliberative body.

The mandate from the UN has been to “examine, monitor, advise, and publicly report” on human rights problems through “activities undertaken by special procedures, including responding to individual complaints, psychological operations and manipulation via the controlled media and academia, conducting studies, providing advice on technical cooperation at the country level, and engaging in general promotional activities.”

Yes, you read that right. “… human rights problems… individual complaints, psychological operations and manipulations”. Worth bearing that in mind the day after the Public Accounts Committee heard the following surreal statements regarding Universal Credit.

“Q96 – Luke Graham MP: why do you think that food bank footfall is increasing in areas where we have full-service Universal Credit?

Peter Schofield: I don’t know. It is a really good question …”

“Q132 – Peter Schofield: …. just because you can’t measure something, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

Gareth Snell MP: Like hardship?”

“Q146 – Shabana Mahmood MP: Mr Schofield and Mr Couling, just thinking about the demeanour with which you are giving evidence today, has it ever occurred to you that a little humility and a willingness to listen might go a long way towards rebuilding some trust in this process?

Chair: Mr Schofield.

Peter Schofield: No, look, well, I—

Chair: No. Thank you. That was very cat out of the bag.”

“Q160 – Chair: Perhaps you can help us out by saying which of the stakeholders and organisations are only raising issues because they don’t approve of the policy. Which of the organisations that we heard from earlier, or that you have heard from, are doing this because they don’t agree with Government policy and actually want to undermine it? Do you want to name them? It would help us to know which ones are doing that.

Peter Schofield: No, I don’t particularly want to name them here …”

“Q225 – Chair: What worries you about that? We have covered some of that today, but what genuinely worries you about what could go wrong there? A lot could go wrong. Every individual is different.

Neil Couling: I worry about the perception of Universal Credit. I am on record saying I am worried about how some of the debate is carrying on and what that is doing to claimants, making them quite fearful. There are a large number of people who will gain from this move over to Universal Credit, getting higher entitlements, but all of the media noise about it is making people quite fearful and I am worried about that…”

“Neil Couling: Yes, and I think we have good policy here, but that may be because I am the one who gave this advice.

Chair: I record for the record the eye-rolling of the permanent secretary.

Peter Schofield: It was a supportive eye-rolling. You will see that on the video afterwards.”

Anyways…

The United Nations Special Rapporteur, Professor Philip Alston (and you can read more about him here), is seeking evidence relating to poverty and human rights ahead of his UK visit in November 2018. Particular areas of interest include austerity and the implementation of Universal Credit.

Professor Alston’s visit – which will take place between the 6th and 16th of November 2018 – will focus on the interlinkages between poverty and the realisation of human rights in the UK.

Calling for written submissions by Friday the 14th of September 2018, Professor Alston highlights a number of themes to focus on, including austerity and universal credit, and he asks –

  • have austerity measures implemented by the government taken adequate account of the impact on vulnerable groups and reflected efforts to minimize negative effects for those groups and individuals?
  • what have the effects of austerity been on poverty (and inequality) levels in the UK in the last decade?
  • have the human rights of individuals experiencing poverty been affected by austerity measures?
  • how have local governments been affected by austerity measures in the last decades by, for example, administration of the welfare system?
  • what alternatives to austerity might have been considered by governments in the last decade that might have had a more positive impact on poverty (and inequality) levels in the United Kingdom?
  • what has the impact of universal credit been on poverty and the lives of the poor in the UK until now, particularly considering specific groups, including for example children, persons with disabilities, women and other groups which may be more vulnerable on the basis of their identity and circumstances?
  • what has been the impact of universal credit being a ‘digital-only benefit’ on the ability of potential claimants to apply for this benefit?
  • what has the impact been of various forms of ‘welfare conditionality’ in the context of universal credit in terms of incentivising work?
  • to what extent has the introduction of universal credit reduced the incidence of fraud and error in the welfare system?

For more information see Visit by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from 6 to 16 November 2018 from the UN website. You could also perhaps tweet him @Alston_UNSR.

The Equality and Diversity Forum launch “Practical Equality Rights in Welfare Benefits” handbook.

Equality and Diversity Forum have now launched their ground-breaking online handbook, Practical Equality Rights in Welfare Benefits Advice, to help everyone providing advice or information on welfare benefits to use equality rights to solve everyday discrimination problems. The handbook is part of the Everyday Equality project, funded by the EHRC.

What is the Practical Equality Rights in Welfare Benefits Advice handbook?

For welfare benefits advisers and information providers working in community groups and advice organisations, the handbook has tips and tools about identifying discrimination. For advisers we have case studies, checklist and tools to help you use the Equality Act to solve your client’s everyday problems in a practical way.

For advice managers, the handbook has a new guide about managing and improving the delivery of discrimination advice.

The handbook also includes a new guide to demonstrating the equality impact of welfare benefits advice, using the Equality and Human Rights Commission Measurement Framework, an A-Z of Equality Rights, a directory of equality resources, FAQs, four downloadable posters, and a downloadable ‘quick guide’.

What’s next?

They are developing a short set of materials to help advice agencies to use the new online handbook and to raise awareness with their advisers. If you are interested in piloting or using these materials please let us know: jo.chimes@edf.org.uk

They are hoping to run a small event later in the year, in Manchester. If you are interested in taking part or attending, please let them know: jo.chimes@edf.org.uk

They would be pleased to hear from you with questions, suggestions and feedback on the handbook. Please contact them at info@edf.org.uk.

View our online handbook or download our quick guide (pdf).

To stay in touch with their work, and for updates to the handbook:

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/

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.

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.

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.”

QUICK UPDATE:

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.

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!!!