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

GMWRAG out of lockdown. Online GMWRAG GM UC Forum meeting announcement.

GMWRAG hopes all our members; their family; friends and co-workers remain safe and well. 

GMWRAG has quietly watched as NAWRA and PLP and all these new kids on the block steal our thunder (well, our Friday meeting times) and run online meetings via Zoom. Well, it’s over now kiddies!

GMWRAG is back and bigger and badder than ever. Or something like that! That roughly translates as “please come to our meeting too”.

Attendees at the last GMWRAG meeting will be aware we had a tentative proposal that the sole agenda item for the next GMWRAG GM UC Forum should be “Deductions From UC”. This has taken some time to pull together but we’re pleased to say this session is now a reality and we have agreed it will take place on

Wednesday the 22nd of July 2020 between 2:30pm and 4pm.  The meeting will be hosted by Microsoft Teams as a video meeting and admission is of course free.

We know those of you already used to getting drunk with family and friends on Zoom may be disappointed by this but both DWP and several local authorities do not currently allow access to Zoom so Teams (which is replacing Skype for Business) is the solution which securely allows the largest number of attendees from both sides.

We can confirm that in addition to our usual array (is that the word?) of JCP Partnership Managers, DWP have secured the attendance of reps. from both Debt Management and Strategy (Universal Credit and Employment Policy) which should facilitate an in depth discussions of current and past issues with UC deductions. This leaves a number of outstanding issues:

How do I join the GMWRAG GM UC Forum online meeting? In order to attend the meeting you will need to be a GMWRAG member. You know who you are!

You will then need to email us to indicate your intention to attend. We can be contacted at GMWRAG at Hotmail Dot Co Dot UK

NB: Please email us with the email address you intend to use to attend the meeting as we will be emailing out an Outlook meeting request.

Do I need Microsoft Teams or a Microsoft Teams account? You do not. You will need an internet browser compatible with Teams (Edge, Chrome; Safari; that sort of thing) and a Gmail or Hotmail address or similar.

When you accept our meeting request (and you will won’t you!) it will hopefully put the meeting in your calendar. On the day, open the calendar item and click the “Join Teams Meeting” link. That will take you into Teams where the chair will leave you in a “virtual lobby” until we spot you and admit you to the actual meeting asap.

If the meeting request doesn’t go into your calendar then, after you’ve finished berating your IT support, just retain the email in your inbox and you should be able to join on the day from there. 

This is however all a little smoother if you have the Teams app and your own login. It’s available for desktop or mobile from https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/microsoft-365/microsoft-teams/download-app

Is there a limit on the number of places? Places are limited by overall bandwidth and speed of response. We would not expect to host substantially more attendees than a usual GM UC Forum but equally we need attendees to indicate their attendance really quickly as we don’t want to spam inboxes sending out updated meeting requests every few days. Bearing this in mind, we’d ask all who wish to attend to indicate this by email no later than Wednesday the 15th of July 2020. If all goes smoothly you should receive no more than one initial invite and maybe one update after that.

Can I ask questions about deductions in advance? We think it will help give the session a sharper focus if questions are submitted in advance. We appreciate we’re on a short time scale here but we will give DWP every opportunity to come to the session knowing the areas in which we have an ongoing interest or concern. 

When you email us re: attendance please include any questions you have in the email. Where issues or questions overlap we reserve the right to butcher your question and give it a completely different meaning amalgamate questions as best we can to reflect the general area at issue. 

This of course won’t prevent questions on the day. We shall attempt to balance the two as best we can. 

Is there anything else I need to know? Yes, online meetings can be plagued with all manner of technical and practical issues. You can help the meeting go smoothly if you could kindly:

  • use appropriate real or virtual backgrounds if using video.
  • recognise not all users may wish or be able to use video for cultural or other reasons.
  • mute your microphone when not speaking. 
  • raise your “virtual hand” when you wish to speak. This will be acknowledged by the chair and you’ll be invited to speak as the moment arises. 

Owt else? Yes, please familiarise yourself with Teams as best you can if you’re not already familiar. Whilst the meeting will be on video there will also be a chat channel available for all attendees and there is a facility to share screens; presentations etc. if needed. 

We look forward to seeing and hearing you all on the day. 

We will post again in advance of the meeting to remind people to register and sort out any issues which arise in the meantime. 

Finally, if anyone would like to chat post meeting we’re sure a number of members will be around for you to do so. In the absence of a GMWRAG meeting at present we are intending that there will be a short AOB session at the end and we’ll be looking to facilitate a GMWRAG social event in lieu of a meeting as soon as possible after this meeting. 

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.

NAWRA and Stoke-on-line.

Pandemics do strange things to people. Never did GMWRAG think we’d mention Stoke and yoga in any post let alone together but there you go. The NAWRA conference in Stoke on Trent will no longer take place at Staffordshire University due to the COVID-19 situation. However, they are pleased to announce a special online event. On Thursday the 11th of June 2020 and Friday the 12th of June 2020 NAWRA will present ‘Stoke-on-Line’ – a virtual version of their planned conference with guest speakers, workshops, information exchange, pub quiz and yoga. GMWRAG does agree online is probably the best place to put Stoke but, if you’re still interested… read the agenda for both days and book a place on each session. The events will take place on Zoom. Email Kelly at NAWRA if you need help to use Zoom and she can send some instructions. This event is open to NAWRA members only. Kelly Smith Secretary and Treasurer www.nawra.org.uk

Public law and welfare benefits during the COVID crisis

Our friends at PLP are putting on the above “webinar” (GMWRAG thinks one should always pronounce such weird terms with a west country accent or maybe a Dudley accent – ahem!) next week titled “Public law and welfare benefits during the COVID crisis”. It will take place on Thursday the 11th of June 2020 between 11:00am and 13:00pm. We can only really quote from their own site. The crisis has seen a vast increase in those claiming Universal Credit, vulnerable people subject to sudden changes in circumstances and rapid action by the Government to change benefits rules. This session will help equip benefits advisers to use public law remedies during the crisis. It will include:

  • Sanctions during the lockdown
  • Universal Credit and issues such as challenging delays
  • Public law remedies and access to the courts during the crisis
  • Government support during the crisis including the benefit cap and two child limit
  • NRPF update and
  • Pre settled status benefits entitlements

There will also be a chance for participants to share issues and ask questions of presenters and other participants. Speakers: Matt Ahluwalia, Public Law Project Carla Clarke, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) Adam Hundt, Deighton Pierce Glynn Tom Royston, Garden Court Chambers There are a limited number of free places for volunteer / unpaid advisers / those with no budget at this time. But please pay if you can. Entrance costs a mere £12. GMWRAG can attest to having paid 10x that for events of much less interest (although to be fair they were usually gigs!). Booking can be done via the web form at the bottom of https://publiclawproject.org.uk/events/public-law-and-welfare-benefits-during-the-covid-crisis/

Rapid Consultation: The impact of COVID-19 measures on the civil justice system.

Background

The measures put in place to tackle the spread of COVID-19 have resulted in significant changes in the operation of the civil justice system, particularly the swift expansion of the use of remote hearings. It is unknown how long these measures will continue for. The Civil Justice Council (CJC) therefore considers it important and timely to seek feedback on the impact of these changes. This feedback will be used to inform any further guidance that is issued and identify areas where additional work may be needed.

About the consultation

The CJC has commissioned an independent review led by Dr Natalie Byrom, Director of Research at The Legal Education Foundation with the support of a wider virtual working group to gather feedback on the impact of COVID measures on the civil justice system.

This review will run for two weeks from Friday the 1st of May to Friday the 15th of May 2020 in order to report by the 22nd of May 2020. The aim of the review is to provide an overview of the operation of current measures and offer practical recommendations to inform the ongoing response to COVID. It will concentrate on the experience and reaction of court users. It will also provide useful ground work for any future wider review of the use of remote hearings, identifying areas where further evidence may be needed.

Sir Terence Etherton, Master of the Rolls

Sir Terence Etherton, The Master of the Rolls, Head of Civil Justice and Chairman of the Civil Justice Council said: “It is essential that we understand quickly how court users are being affected by the widespread changes adopted by the civil justice system in response to COVID-19. This review is a chance for users to give feedback on how the changes are impacting them and to suggest areas of improvement. The evidence collected by this review will be invaluable in shaping the way forward for the civil justice system, both immediately and in the longer term.”

The review is particularly interested in gathering feedback from court users in response to the following questions:

  • What is working well about the current arrangements?
  • Which types of cases are most suited to which type of hearings and why?
  • How does the experience of remote hearings vary depending on the platform that is used?
  • What technology is needed to make remote hearings successful?
  • What difference does party location make to the experience of the hearing?
  • How do remote hearings impact on the ability of representatives to communicate with their clients?
  • How do professional court users and litigants feel about remote hearings?
  • How do litigants in person experience hearings that are conducted remotely?
  • How do remote hearings impact on perceptions of the justice system by those who are users of it?
  • How is practice varying across different geographical regions?
  • What has been the impact of current arrangements on open justice?

How to get involved

There are three ways to participate in the review:

Submit material to the literature review: The consultation will review existing published accounts of the experience of civil court users during this time. If you or your organisation have published any relevant material (guidance, blog posts, opinion pieces), or if you have findings from a survey you would be happy to share, please email: consultation@theLEF.org

Complete the survey on the experience of remote hearings: The Civil Justice Council has a particular interest in understanding the experience of court users who have participated in a remote hearing since the 19th of March 2020. If you have participated in, or observed, a remote hearing since the 19th of March 2020, please follow this link: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/CJC_CovidReview to complete this survey. Due to the considerable pressures on judicial and court staff time, at the request of the Master of the Rolls, this survey is focussed on users; the equally important views of judiciary and court staff will be gathered by other means.

Join the remote consultation meeting: A virtual consultation meeting will be held on the 11th of May 2020 – further information and joining instructions will be issued in due course.

If you have any other feedback you would like to raise, or would prefer to contribute by email, or telephone please email: consultation@theLEF.org

Europia update their web site (and us).

Our friends at Europia have relaunched their web site and provided the following updates this week.

Coronovirus Info in different languages
Europia have relaunched their website. There is some useful written and video information on coronavirus in different European languages. Check it out at https://europia.org.uk/covid-19/

Simplified Referrals
They have developed a simplified referral process for anyone needing to refer someone to CABB/Europia Immigration and EUSS services. Please use the attached form and send and send it to officerteam@cabb.org.uk. Clients can still phone direct on 0300 330 9071.

Service Survey
Europia have just come to the end of their 1st year of funding for the EUSS project and would like to collect your views on the service they have provided up to know. They would be really grateful if you could respond to the short survey below – it shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes. If you could also encourage your team members to fill it in that would be fantastic – Thanks in advance https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/XXPSLNR

Home Office Guidance on NRPF
They have attached a copy of recent Home Office case worker guidance on NRTF which is useful. If you have anyone in this position who needs to apply to lift the NRPF restrictions to avoid destitution please get in touch via the referrals form.

Home Affairs Select Committee
Finally there was a Home Affairs select committee on Tuesday in which Colin Yeo of Free Movement, Adrian Berry of the ILPA and others did a great job in advocating for a Statutory Instrument to clarify various measures relating to immigration in the context of the effects of the COVID-19 Crisis on people subject to immigration control. Let’s hope their interventions achieve the desired affect. Watch this space for any emerging info.

‘ousing Systems E(eh By Gum)-Learning.

Yes, yes, we know it’s a very old cliched joke.

Anyway, our (possibly ex) friends at Housing Systems have asked us to share the following with GMWRAG members lest it be lost in the mass of information you’re no doubt drowning under.

Free e-learning on Coronavirus and Benefits
Housing Systems have put together an e-learning module on Coronavirus and Benefits.

This is freely available to everyone.The team at Housing Systems hope you find it useful and encourage you to share it with colleagues in other roles, such as housing workers or social workers, who might find it helpful too.

The module can be found here –
https://www.housingsystems.co.uk/COVID-19/E-Learning

Public Law Project Coronavirus: Court & tribunal user experience survey.

GMWRAG can only apologise for the lateness of this.

PLP would like to hear about your experience of how corona virus is affecting the operation of courts and tribunals.

Their goal is to centralise the data in order to identify issues and any patterns that arise. We would greatly appreciate you sharing your experiences using this form.

The prompts are broad; please give as much detail as you are able to.

Please help them by sharing this widely with your networks.
Go to the PLP Court and Tribunal user experience survey.

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

Leigh Day call for evidence re disabled students and universal credit.

This just in from Leigh Day.

Tessa Gregory and Lucy Cadd from the law firm Leigh Day. are bringing a judicial review challenge to the DWP’s policy which prevents disabled students from making a claim to UC. They are seeking further evidence to support the judicial review (in the form of case studies).

Students are disqualified from making a claim to UC. However, Regulation 14(b) Universal Credit Regulations 2013 provides exceptions to the requirement not to be receiving education. In the case of their client, the relevant exception is that she is in receipt of a qualifying benefit (attendance allowance, disability living allowance or personal independence payment), in her case being PIP. The exception stipulates that she must also have been determined to have limited capability for work (LCW). However, UC will not offer students who do not yet have a LCW determination, a WCA.

Therefore on making her claim for UC, the client was told that a work capability assessment would not be provided for her in order for her to be determined as LCW and her claim for UC was closed.

The Secretary of State’s policy ‘Students: eligibility, conditionality and student income – v 16.0 (2019)’ states that the exception in Reg14(b) only applies to disabled individuals who have already been determined as having LCW and who are seeking to become students. The exemption therefore does not apply to disabled students who attempt to claim UC whilst already undertaking a course of study.

They would be very interested to hear of others who are in a similar position to their client. If there are people you have represented who have been in the same or similar situation they would be extremely grateful if you could provide a short summary of their situation to us (gaining their prior authority to do so). They are seeking supportive case studies for the judicial review.

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

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.

Bedroom Talk.

In amongst the veritable storm of information GMWRAG members have no doubt found themselves on the end of in the past week or more it has been noted that very little has explicitly mentioned the potential impact Covid-19 has on Bedroom Tax. Self-isolation certainly raises the issue of exemption albeit how long for is a question yet to be answered. Presumably a minimum of 14 days would be inarguable if the consequence of self-isolation was separate bedrooms and longer if the virus were to then spread to household members in turn.

It does raise the thorny issue of whether separate bedrooms might be irrelevant if the virus were to spread within a household but there’s surely something to be looked at here?

We note the issue has been raised on Rightsnet with minimal comment. However, we’d be interested in raising what’s in danger of becoming a forgotten issue in the current maelstrom and we’d be especially interested in whether GMWRAG members are busy testing this out.

Usual deal. Contact GMWRAG by emailing us at

GMWRAG

at

Hotmail

Dot

Co

Dot

UK

And yes, doing it with that formatting really does help reduce our spam emails. We look forward to hearing from you.

An update from our friends at Leigh Day.

GMWRAG was doubtless amongst many who received a recent update from Leigh Day. This is a timely reminder of how strategic casework might never be more relevant. However, as the email began with “Alright…” some editing was in order 🙂

They think we are going to have a lot of work on unpicking the government response to Coronavirus, in particular in relation to the administration of benefits. A lot of people are going to become reliant on benefits for the first time and potentially for an extended period of time.

They have one JR already in relation to the requirement for ‘self-employed’ workers to claim UC rather than get SSP or benefit from furlough payments (https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/mar/22/rishi-sunak-under-pressure-to-bail-out-self-employed)

They are looking at the failure to raise legacy benefits in line with what has been done with UC. If GMWRAG members know of any rare person who is entitled SDP and self employed and also on legacy benefits they would be perfect for this but anyone impacted could potentially claim.

They would also be interested to know if any JCP’s are sanctioning people for failing to comply with conditionality at this time.

Welfare benefits advisers are going to be the first people to see the impact of any issues the changes made are having on the benefits system. If you spot anything you think is particularly grim and/or widespread and worth a challenge and want to talk it through please do let them know.

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.

URGENT: North West Mental Health WRAs Group meeting has been cancelled and re-arranged.

The meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group on the 27th March 2020 has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The speaker, Susan Perry, Team Leader at DWP Disability Services, has agreed to re-schedule for Friday the 29th of May 2020.

This meeting remains at 9.30am for 10am at Greater Manchester Law Centre as per our previous post.

A reminder and further confirmation nearer the time.

GMWRAG meetings part 2.

You may have been expecting the next GMWRAG post to be something about Covid-19. It is not (much).

Further to our recent post re: the next meeting of the NWMHWRAG we have been advised by Greater Manchester Law Centre via Twitter that they will “get the kettle on”. Better still the email which told us that all those complex instructions on how to get there – “press a buzzer and wait for someone to let you in.” – can be superseded as “The buzzer’s broke; just let yourselves in.”. We’re not sure this is the safest advice but go with it and see what happens.

GMWRAG takes no responsibility for people stood outside like lemons waiting for something to happen.

Those of you awaiting confirmation that the next GMWRAG meeting is cancelled will have to wait a little longer. At present, the meeting proceeds on the 15th of May 2020 albeit that our intended speaker @citizenbradshaw has been told to step down by his wife because he’s on holiday. Yes, you really did just read that correctly 🙂

A replacement speaker (also from Leigh Day) has been tentatively sorted by the kind Mr. Bradshaw so at present we’re all systems go for both the GM UC meeting and the pm GMWRAG meeting.

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.

And just like that… more GMWRAG meetings.

GMWRAG is pleased to confirm that our next meetings can already be confirmed as definite. This magnificent piece of organisation comes to you largely courtesy of people talking across other people and mumbling stuff during last weeks first post millennium trip to Bury. This may also explain why we’ve managed to announce the next meeting without actually getting notes written up from the last one as yet. Fear not. We’re “on it” whatever “it” may be.

The next GMWRAG UC Forum and GMWRAG meeting will both be hosted by Manchester and will take place on Friday the 15th of May 2020 at Greater Manchester Law Centre. Instructions on how to get as lost as several of us did in Bury will follow in due course.

The UC Forum will commence at 9:30 for refreshments/networking for a 10am start with a 12:30pm finish. The agenda has already been defined as follows:

1 Apologies.

2 Minutes of the last meeting and matters arising.

3 Deductions from Universal Credit.

4 Messages around mixed age couples.

There is plenty of time available for this agenda to accommodate additional items but we’re planning on asking for someone from Debt Recovery and the UC Service Centre to attend in service of item 3 and someone from the Pension Service in respect of item 4 so that might be more than enough to be going on with.

Nevertheless please Contact GMWRAG through the usual channels if you wish to do so (or we forgot something).

The main GMWRAG meeting will start at 1:30pm for refreshments/networking for a 2pm start and a 4pm finish.

Our speaker will be Ryan Bradshaw, Associate Solicitor from Leigh Day. At present the likely topic will be “Challenging welfare benefits decisions using the European Convention on Human Rights and the sorts of compensation that might be awarded.”

Again though, things move on quickly in the magical world of welfare rights so this is a movable feast and there may be something Ryan could do which might be more pertinent to the timing of the meeting depending on what happens over the next couple of months.

The rest of the agenda is up for grabs so if you have a suggestion for other agenda items or even a second speaker then, again, please Contact GMWRAG through the usual routes.

The notes/minutes of the last meeting will be available as soon as enough of us have pooled resources/spoken to each other to remember what might have happened. That’s two months advance notice that you can print your own and bring them with you by the way!

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.

Friday On My Mind.

The agenda for this Friday’s GMWRAG meetings in Bury is now available for download. Please note that this is the agenda for both meetings i.e. the GMWRAG GM UC Forum meeting in the morning and the GMWRAG meeting itself in the afternoon. The agenda is of course a movable feast so if you have any agenda items you’d like to add for a.m. or p.m. please contact our host as per the agenda.

A quick reminder that our guest speaker will be Jane Crawford, Training, Advice and  Information Manager from our friends at Housing Systems and the subject will be “UC and turning Pension Age. What’s going wrong? And what can we do about it?”.

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.

And after one slow post comes along, here comes another.

The Manchester Money Advice Group have announced their meeting dates for 2020. Venues and speakers to no doubt be confirmed. Whilst not all MAG meetings are GMWRAG members it’s obvious that the overlap between debt and welfare rights gets larger by the year so we will be endeavouring to keep you up to date with MAG events from this point forward.

Anyway, the dates for your diaries are

Wednesday the 4th of March 2020.

Tuesday the 2nd of June 2020.

Friday the 11th of September 2020.

Tuesday the 8th of December 2020.

The first GMWRAG member to mutter a question about why can’t we have our meetings of different days of the week will be taken outside and spoken to. We’ve had that debate repeatedly over the years and the outcome is always the same. No-one can agree a “better” day for “most” people who want to attend and so we stick with Friday.

Slow off the mark again.

Well first of all a Happy New Year from GMWRAG. Yes, we know we’re slow off the mark but all the best things come to those who wait, or something like that.

We are also aware that a Bolton meeting ought to have taken place in December or early January. The brighter amongst you may have realised that ain’t happening but we’ll get “on it” whatever and wherever “it” might be as soon as we can.

In the meantime, in keeping with our general tardiness here are some minutes from the last NWMHWRAG meeting of 2019. Obviously also up permanently on their pages within the site.

Just like buses, research projects are coming along in groups (possibly).

More University of Salford research into Universal Credit.

What is the research about?

This study aims to investigate the mental health experiences of people who are claiming Universal Credit. I want to hear from you if you: are currently claiming Universal Credit AND are currently living within Greater Manchester

They are looking for 30 people who are over the age of 18 to take part in a research interview. Results from the project will form the basis of a PhD thesis, and may be published in the future as a contribution to evidence around mental health and the benefits system.

Why is this research important?

Research into the way the UK’s welfare system has revealed some of the challenges associated with claiming Universal Credit, including how people may experience changes to their mental health while they are claiming. The aim of this study is to investigate how mental health is experienced by those claiming Universal Credit by inviting people to discuss their experiences.

Who is doing the research?

The research is being conducted by Joe Pardoe, an independent researcher from the University of Salford.

Will I be compensated?

They are happy to provide all participants with a £10 shopping voucher as a thank you for taking part in the study, and to compensate for any travel costs that may have been incurred.

How can I take part?

If you would like to take part, please contact me so that we can arrange a time, date and place of convenience to yourself, to conduct the interview. I will ask you questions about how you have experienced your mental health, including any changes you may have noticed, while you have been claiming Universal Credit. With your permission, I will record the interview with a digital voice recorder.

Interviews will last around one hour. You are free to choose not answer any question you feel uncomfortable with, and the interview can be ended at any time. Responses you give will be treated with the strictest confidence, and your anonymity will be protected, meaning that your name, address and any personal details will not be used in any published reports and I will not pass your details on to anybody else. They can also keep you informed about the research findings if you are interested.

How will they use the data generated?

Your data will be analysed as part of the write-up for a thesis. Data from the project may also be presented in a findings document, which may then be prepared for publication and/or included as part of a presentation at conferences.

It is important to bear in mind that your identity will be protected if you decide to take part; any responses given while you are being interviewed will not be identifiable to you and any personal details will be anonymised or removed so that you cannot be recognised.

There is an ethical duty to breach confidentiality if criminal activity is mentioned, or something that could place yourself or others at risk of harm; if this happens, they will contact the appropriate authorities to protect any individuals that may be at risk.

If you choose to withdraw your data from the study, any information you have provided will be deleted, and any record of your participation removed. Your data (the recorded responses from the interview) will be transcribed by the researcher, working alone, with any identifying detail removed. Your data will be kept for three years following the interview date, after which point it will be destroyed.

How can I find out more?

If you have any questions about the research or would like to take part, then please contact Joe Pardoe (researcher) via email at: j.pardoe@edu.salford.ac.uk

CPAG looking for payment on account test cases.

Apologies if you’ve already had an email from CPAG on this but these things need the highest possible profile (and besides our posts are better because they include actual links :)).

CPAG is looking for cases where a claimant was awarded a payment on account at the start of their claim, which is now being recovered at more than 15% of their standard allowance.

The DWP have said that they do not believe that reg 11(2) of the Social Security (Overpayments and Recovery) Regulations 2013, which sets the maximum rate of deduction at 15%, applies to payments on account of benefit.

CPAG is looking for a suitable case to challenge this, as they are aware that a number of claimants are affected by high deductions. Please submit a referral form or email: testcases@cpag.org.uk

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.

Blatant plagiarism in the name of a good cause.

GMWRAG noted the following posted on Rightsnet. We think this is too important to miss so we’re reprinting it in full below.

CPAG is partway through releasing a series of reports entitled Computer says “No” detailing problems arising in the automated UC system.  These hard-hitting reports wouldn’t be possible without your case studies, so thank you! It’d be great to receive some up-to-date examples which may contribute to the third and final report in the series.

1. Many of you have already seen our first Computer says “No” report detailing issues with UC statements [available here: http://www.cpag.org.uk/sites/default/files/Computer says ‘no!’ Stage one – information provision_2.pdf]

2. Our second report is due to be released next week, and will set out the problems encountered by claimants in challenging UC decisions (i.e. using the MR process). So do keep an eye out for it.

3. The third report will focus on how the DWP implements decisions (other than those concerning initial calculation of entitlement).  We’re interested to hear about recent cases of:
a) DWP delay in implementing Tribunal decision in UC
b) DWP delay or mistake in paying backdated UC entitlement
c) UC statements overwritten with corrected entitlement, not reflecting actual payments made
d) UC claim start date amended and assessment periods changed from start of claim
e) Possession case adjournments/ suspended orders requiring rent arrears payments lower than standard 10-20% deductions made in UC
f) Debt Relief Orders writing off UC Advances, or other debts, being ignored
g) Failure to apply legal judgments effectively e.g. Faulty SDP gateway, High Court Johnson assessment period ruling

The above are all issues that you’ve told us about before, but recent examples would help us ascertain whether they remain unresolved and if so, add to the strength of our report.

Many thanks for any and all contributions!

Best way to submit cases is our online EWS form: https://childpovertyactiongroup.wufoo.com/forms/m1vc0zeg1sr9zgh/
or email ews@cpag.org.uk

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.

MIND research on the WCA.

MIND are conducting some research into the WCA with a view to contributing to the Social Security Commission.

They are looking for volunteers who have had a WCA and who would be interested in taking part in an interview for research for MIND.

Who are they looking for?

• People who are going or have recently been through the WCA.

• Different types of mental health conditions.

• Would be open to an interview with our research team.

• They would be paid from £60 to £80 (depending on the research part they get involved with) to say thank you for their time.

If you know anyone who might be interested or have any questions, please contact them on 020 7735 8040, or email:

rosa.grossman

@revealingreality

.co.uk or

maeve.garner

@revealingreality

.co.uk

And, yes, we did break those email addresses down deliberately.

Please see the attached.

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/

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.

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.

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..

Book now for the 27th of May *ONLINE* Money Advice Group Meeting!

Given the nature of this crisis, the MAG planning group has considered what to do about future meetings of the group. The health and safety of group members, and of those who host MAG meetings, is of paramount importance, and this is why they have decided to move to an online format for the foreseeable future.

They have also decided to bring the date of the meeting forward, and it is likely that meetings will be more frequent given that it is now, arguably, easier and convenient for members to take part, and also because of the urgency of the situation advisers and clients face.

We are therefore pleased to provide details of the next Greater Manchester Money Advice Group, which will take place on Wednesday the 27th of May 2020.

The meeting will be facilitated by Payplan, who have offered use of their video conferencing system ‘Fuze’. They will email participants joining instructions in due course, but please note, you do not have to use the video facility to take part if you do not wish to: you can spectate and use audio/chat facilities to communicate if you prefer. There is a limit of 1,000 participants using this system, so they are not bound by the usual capacity constraints!

The theme of the meeting is, of course, ‘Covid-19 and Debt Advice’.

In the morning, we will be joined by Alistair Chisholm (Payplan), with a ‘sector’ update – what’s going on with creditors, clients and households?

Next up will be Bob Winnington (MALG): ‘Managing the present and preparing for the future’ on the work MALG has carried out with partners in the credit and advice industry during the current crisis

Our last speaker will be Joseph Surtees (Cabinet Office), with an update on the government response to Covid-19.

Recognising that long video conferences are not easy to attend, after the speakers, there will be a suitably long break for 2 hours, before reconvening for the afternoon session.

The afternoon session will be an opportunity to discuss the morning speakers, plus a chance to exchange information and discuss Covid-19 and the debt crisis.

You can join/leave the video conference at any point, but MAG hope you will appreciate the opportunity to network and share your experiences of the situation we find ourselves in and what the future holds for our clients and ourselves

Your early contributions for the info exchange/social policy session are invited if you either cannot attend and want feedback and/or wish the issues to be raised on your behalf. Please also send any observations you wish the meeting to discuss about matters arising from the most recent Shelter update, the Citizens Advice update and anything in the IMA’s Quarterly Account.

The MAG are grateful to Payplan for offering the use of their video conference system for this meeting. They feel that this was the best offer open to the group, which minimises cost, has no realistic constraints on the size of the meeting, and is safe and secure.

You can book a place for this meeting using this link https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/greater-manchester-money-advice-group-covid-19-debt-advice-tickets-103709778740 or you can let Richard Holland know directly. The agenda will be updated at this link, as necessary.

It goes without saying that lunch will not be provided at this meeting!

Shall we be nice to NAWRA? Yes, lets’s be nice to NAWRA.

Following on from our recent post cancelling the May GMWRAG meeting the details of how to book on the NAWRA online event have now been brought to our attention by 5 lovely people in about 5 minutes so we thought the decent thing to do would be to tell you that before all places have been grabbed.

In order to register for a place you simply use this link. 

You must be a NAWRA member in order to book a place.

GMWRAG will of course be Zoom bombing in protest at the clash of dates 🙂

Meeting cancellation (sort of) – number 2.

The next GMWRAG meeting was listed for Friday the 15th of May 2020. Previous posts on the meeting can be found here and here.

This included the a.m. GM UC Forum which this time around was to have a focus solely on deductions. Obviously, recent events have rendered this never more relevant but things are moving fast on multiple fronts and the logical thing to do at present is to cancel and reschedule the meeting asap. 

The reasoning for this is as follows:

1 – our full day meetings now clash with a special Covid-19 NAWRA event online with two interactive workshops focusing on the current benefit changes, homeworking issues and dealing with new ways of working. Read the agenda. It’s not obvious how you join (so if someone could tell us, that would be good).

2 – Friday is not ordinarily a working day for a number of GM Partnership Managers and obviously we would like as many as possible in the room.

3 – Taking the meeting online requires finding applications that allows DWP to appear remotely but also allows access forGMWRAG members. That’s not an issue we have fully resolved yet although we’ll be polling members on some options asap to move that forward.

4 – Advance notice of the meeting has (for once) allowed DWP to contact specialist colleagues in Deductions Operations to attend but the latter have been re-deployed to other tasks in the same way as Partnership teams. Thus July would be the earliest feasible time to do this.

GMWRAG will happily apologise for the lateness of the cancellation and would ask all members to complete the various polls on key questions about how we move forward which we’ll post up as soon as time allows.

Stay safe and well.