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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Terry Patterson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GMWRAG simply won’t be the same without him.

Greater Manchester Law Centre AGM announced.

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

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

The COVID19 crisis broke and everything changed.

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

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

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

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

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

PLP is recruiting a Welfare Rights Hub Coordinator.

PLP is recruiting – Welfare Rights Hub Coordinator.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Documents are here:

Documents are also available in large-print:

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

UC Taking On The Challenge Conference.

Conference 2020: Universal Credit – Taking on the Challenge

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

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

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

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

EU rights and Brexit Hub.

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

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

They opened last week and are ready to take referrals.

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

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

You can follow them on Twitter for updates.

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Black Friday

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

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

Agenda and booking information coming soon.

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

Find out about joining.

Commission on Social Security consultation launched.

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

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

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

GMWRAG has whispered. Who will heed the whisper?

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

And the verdict is:

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

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

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

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

Greater Manchester Welfare Reform Dashboard – an update

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

Those of you who like long urls can rejoice with

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

That’s why we prefer “here”.

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

GMWRAG on Tik Tok

Bah, humbug.

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

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

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

Anyways, here’s your further starters for 10.

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

Covid Realities – families needed for research project.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GMWRAG social

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

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

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

Anyways, answers within the week please…

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

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

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

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

DWP Health Transformation User Research.

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

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

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

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

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

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

They look forward to hearing from you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What if someone can get New Style Jobseekers Allowance?

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

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

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

They will need:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fraudulent website warning. Probably the first of many.

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

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

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

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

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

Key Messages:

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

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

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

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

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

Their details are as follows:

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

Housing Systems Briefing on Coronavirus and benefits.

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

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

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

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

The GM bit of GMWRAG.

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can email us re: either of the above at

GMWRAG

at

hotmail

dot

co

dot

uk

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

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

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

“Five weeks too long” by the Trussell Trust.

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

“Five week wait must go” by Citizens Advice.

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

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

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

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

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

Commenting on the inquiry, Committee Chair Stephen Timms said –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you there.

Open University research into PIP appeals and invisible impairment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NAWRA in Wales.

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

All NAWRA members are invited to attend their quarterly conference.

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

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

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

Download the agenda

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

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

Make Yer Mind Up.

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

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

Ends (or something).

Well, that’s all we’ve got folks.

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

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

GMLC want to work closely with local community organisations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can I take part?

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

How do I take part?

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

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

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

Want more information?

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

a

dot

r

dot

gibbons

1

at

salford

dot

ac

dot

uk

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

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

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

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

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

If you would like to get involved please email

kelly

at

nawra

dot

org

dot

uk

and she will pass your details on.

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

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

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

7th Feb 2020

27th March 2020

29th May 2020 

31st July 2020 

25th September 2020

 27th November 2020

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

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

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

Greater Manchester Law Centre is moving premises.

Our friends at Greater Manchester Law Centre are moving premises.

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

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

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

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

The experience of appealing to a first tier appeal tribunal.

Our friends at Rightsnet are reporting that Alex Homer, a reporter for the BBC website in Birmingham, is hoping to speak to someone who has challenged their benefits award at First-tier tribunal. He’s hoping to find out what the experience was like for them and also to find out if there were any common causes of complaint before people reached that far in the process. GMWRAG thinks we know the answer to all those questions. Our members will and we won’t be short of claimants either. It’s unclear whether this request is confined to Birmingham.

His contact details are alex.homer@bbc.co.uk and 0121 567 6299 for those who would be happy to talk to him.

GMWRAG suggests you email as we can see him being overwhelmed by phone calls!

Belta UC scam advice from Newcastle.

This information is courtesy of our friend in the NAWRA.

Newcastle City Council has provided advice and information about the UC scam(s) going around. Please use or forward this information if useful.

As you know there’s been quite a bit of press about this. So we thought it would be important to provide simple and straightforward guidance about what it was, how to avoid it and what to do if such a scam was suspected. Hence the following (with links):

This follows discussions with DWP and Trading Standards.

Please let Clive Davis at Newcastle City Council know if you think the webpage information could be improved as they can always change it.

More on no deal from Alexandra Sinclair.

Those of you who made it to our excellent Brexit and Benefits session recently will be fully aware of Alexandra Sinclair from the Public Law Project. A GMWRAG summary of the talk can now be downloaded from here. We’re awaiting word on whether we can use the PowerPoint presentation from that day.

In the meantime, Alexandra has been in touch to send you some further material that might assist our members.

She has written a research briefing paper on EU citizens’ rights in the event of a no deal Brexit after having reviewed all the SIs in areas related to citizens’ rights.

It covers immigration, housing, social security, healthcare and education. It’s published on PLP’s website here and they plan to update it regularly until such time as the Immigration Bill becomes law. Any comments/feedback are very welcome. Please circulate to your wider networks.

There is also a blog post on Free Movement about this https://www.freemovement.org.uk/what-legal-rights-will-eu-citizens-have-after-a-no-deal-brexit/

Right hand. Meet left hand! Wring in despair.

HMCTS have recently upped the ante as regards tribunal modernisation and in particular COR (Continuous Online Resolution). By “upped the ante” we do of course mean that they have finally started to engage with the outside world or at least broadcast to them, which is of course as “consulty” as HMCTS tend to get.

For those of you who have no idea what we’re talking about full (ish) details can be found on an excellent thread on Rightsnet. Why are we writing this now then? Very simple.

First of all a consultation has been launched on the Courts and Tribunals (Online Procedure) Bill.

The Public Bill Committee welcomes views from anyone with relevant expertise and experience or a special interest in the Bill (that would be you GMWRAG members) which has three main effects –

  • it confers regulation-making powers on Ministers, subject to the affirmative procedure – appropriate ministers can designate certain types of court or tribunal proceedings as ones which may or must be conducted by electronic means, subject to the Online Procedure Rules (OPRs);
  • it establishes the Online Procedure Rule Committee (OPRC) and defines that body’s powers to make OPRs; and
  • it determines the membership rules and appointments process for the OPRC.

While the deadline for evidence is expected to be 5pm on Thursday 25 July 2019, the Committee highlights that it is no longer able to receive written evidence once it concludes its consideration of the Bill which may be earlier than that deadline.

Having started in the House of Lords, the Bill was debated and read for the second time in the House of Commons yesterday, during which Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice Paul Maynard – responding to concerns about ‘digitisation by default’ – stated that –

‘I have said at least twice in the debate already that the alternative methods must be protected at all times. People can seek telephone advice, for example. We are also piloting face-to-face advice in at least 25 areas. At any point, people can opt out of the online procedure, and the paper-based alternative will always be available. Either side in a case can opt out of an online procedure to ensure that it does not occur online.’

GMWRAG members can submit evidence via have your say on the Courts and Tribunals (Online Procedure) Bill.

This brings us neatly to the second aspect of this.

The Infrastructure and Projects Authority annual report 2019 has concluded that successful delivery of the HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) Reform Programme is in doubt for the sixth year running. Yes, you really did read that correctly!

The IPA assessed 133 projects included in its GMPP programme this year, including 43 ‘transformation and service delivery projects’, providing each with a ‘Delivery Confidence Assessment’ of green (successful delivery probable) through amber (successful delivery feasible but significant issues exist) to red (successful delivery appears unachievable).

Anyone familiar with the mystery of disappearing online appeals will of course be wondering out loud at this point what realistic chance there is that any of the more complex stuff like COR is ever delivered. On the other hand disappearing online appeals could be described as a fairly efficient way of reducing the backlog which sees people in some areas waiting more than a year for a hearing date.

In relation to the HMCTS Reform Programme, the IPA gives a rating of amber/red – as it has done for the five previous years – defined as –

‘Successful delivery of the project is in doubt, with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas. Urgent action is needed to address these problems and/or assess whether resolution is feasible’

NB – data from the Ministry of Justice to support the IPA report advises that –

‘The programme continues to deliver new services to users and has now launched a new service in every jurisdiction. Over 140,000 users have now used these services and the average satisfaction rate remains high, at above 80 per cent. As part of the business case refresh the programme timeline has been extended by one year and will now expect to close in 2023. Learning from the services that we have already delivered and the feedback received, including from the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office, we have decided to re-order aspects of the programme. This will allow more time to develop some of the shared systems that sit behind our next set of online services.’

Elsewhere, the IPA reports that the DWP’s People and Locations Programme has left the GMPP after successfully delivering savings from a ‘rationalised’ DWP estate (although last year’s annual report rated the Programme as amber/red), the Universal Credit Programme is rated amber (as it was last year) and GOV.UK Verify is rated red (compared to an amber rating last year).

GMWRAG rather thinks these things speak for themselves.

A reminder of things to forget.

Just a quick reminder that there is not a North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group meeting in July.

Those of you paying attention may also have noticed that news on a Salford GMWRAG in July has been conspicuously quiet. You can safely assume this isn’t happening and the most likely date for this will now be September 2019. Our meetings page has been adjusted accordingly but obviously this has the usual knock on impact and other dates have been rescheduled accordingly. Please check out our meetings page for full information.

CPAG looking for test cases.

CPAG is looking for test cases. To be fair, CPAG is always looking for test cases. However…

Do you have a client who would be willing to be part of CPAG’s strategic litigation?

CPAG is looking for clients in the following circumstances:

1.    The date of claim for universal credit claimants who use the Help to Claim service operated by Citizens Advice.
CPAG is looking for a universal credit claimant who has used the Citizens Advice Help to Claim service co-located in a Job Centre and their date of claim is later than the date they requested the Help to Claim service.

2.    Benefit cap
CPAG is looking for a lone parent with a child under 5 who has been subject to the benefit cap in the past few months, hasn’t had the benefit of DHPs throughout and possibly has even had to move home because of the cap.

To refer a client living in England or Wales please complete CPAG’s referral form.

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/

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.

It’s happening, it’s tomorrow!

The invitations for tomorrow’s Zoom meeting should have just gone out.

Your convener and host with the most might not be so artful with his email rules as he might have hoped so, if you were hoping to get an invitation but haven’t please email danmanville At gmlaw.org.uk and pennance will be duly meted out.

See you tomorrow.

GMWRAG in Oldham Friday 22nd January

We mentioned it before Christmas, but are now happy to confirm that GMWRAG is back this Friday for the first meeting of the New Year.

The best laid plans for a speaker have not worked this time, which leaves us free to enjoy and participate in a morning only meeting which will be held on Zoom from 10am.

If you have not already registered your interest, don’t hang about – send an email with GMWRAG as the subject to Benefits AT gmlaw.org.uk. And when we say AT, we mean the swirly symbol which commonly features in modern email communication.

The plan is for invitations to be sent out tomorrow. Sadly we have not yet identified a need for breakout rooms.

It has been a long time since we last met, so the meeting will cover all the usual GMWRAG business, as well as the hope of cramming in Universal Credit and safeguarding, and dealing with telephone appeals during a pandemic. By the end of the morning we should also have a plan for GMWRAG moving forward in the year ahead.

The forecast for Oldham on Friday is bright and breezy with a temperature that feels like 0 degrees. You can avoid all that by staying at home and joining us online. Maybe turn the heating off and open a window, if you’re missing the experience of going there.

Save the date! New year, new GMWRAG!

It is said that King Arthur and his knights lie sleeping in a cavern under Alderley Edge, waiting for the right moment to enter the last battle. In a similar way, GMWRAG has been uncharacteristically quiet, biding its time for the right moment to unleash the forces of Greater Manchester-based welfare rights advice during the pandemic.

The wait is now over (almost). The first meeting of 2021 will be a virtual zoom event, currently scheduled for Friday 22nd January. It will be hosted by Oldham Welfare Rights with the able assistance of Dan on the zoom buttons. The plan is for a guest speaker along with all the usual GMWRAG business, and there may even be a breakout rooms experience, if we can think of any good reason at all.

More details will of course follow when available, but if you want to be the first to register your interest, please send an email with GMWRAG as the subject to Benefits AT gmlaw.org.uk to be included in the zoom experience.

No excuses, let’s see you there.