A human rights approach to welfare conditionality.

Greater Manchester Strategic Casework Group members Sian Jordan and Jo Chimes recently went to the Welfare Conditionality conference in York  and presented a paper. The PowerPoint presentation and the paper itself have kindly been made available to GMWRAG and we think they are well worth sharing, particularly in the context of the approach being advocated by GMSCG itself. The conference website also has the slides and paper along with lots of other really great presentations which are well worth a read.

In the meantime have a read of

A rights based approach to conditionality – the presentation.

A human rights based approach to conditionality – the paper.

and lets not forget the fantastic Welfare Conditionality site itself.

Those of you with an ongoing interest can follow the work @EqualityACRH on Twitter as well as Jo herself @chimesjo. Both the above documents will be permanently available as part of the GMSCG pages where we have just this minute added a News page for exactly what Father Ted would call “this sort of thing”.

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“… supportive eye rolling”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gareth Snell MP: Like hardship?”

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

Chair: Mr Schofield.

Peter Schofield: No, look, well, I—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyways…

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’re really going to have to find a more original way of saying this but the next meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group will be on Thursday the 26th of July 2018 at 9.30am for a 10am start.

The venue is Room 226 at Manchester Metropolitan University.

The address is:

Geoffrey Manton Building, Manchester Metropolitan University, 4 Rosamond Street West, Manchester M15 6LL.

There is an entrance on Oxford Road, directly opposite the Aquatics centre, or a wheelchair accessible entrance just off Rosamund St. West. The best place for car parking is the NCP at the Aquatics centre.   There is a café on site where you can buy tea/coffee etc.

IHelen Rogers is going to do a talk on claiming the mobility the mobility component of PIP for claimants with mental health conditions.

Volunteers for chairing and taking the minutes are required.

A big(ger) read than you’re used to having had your minds rotted by social media (allegedly).

Take a breath GMWRAG readers and prepare for another big but rewarding read.

Follow the link at http://truepublica.org.uk/united-kingdom/research-paper-state-crime-by-proxy-corporate-influence-on-state-sanctioned-social-harm to read a June 2018 paper titled “State Crime By Proxy: Corporate Influence on State Sanctioned Social Harm”. This is an interesting take on welfare reform in the UK. Whilst the usual caveats apply i.e. you are especially daft if you think GMWRAG endorses or totally accepts every word we link you to on any subject (we think “especially daft” was what the solicitor told us to say!)  we do think much of the factual content of this article is essential background for anyone interested in welfare reform and especially (hopefully) welfare rights officers even if we don’t necessarily agree with all the inferences and conclusions.

When we say “big”, the article claims to take 15 minutes to read. That’s not really big unless social media has actually rotted your brain and its ability to concentrate. We actually think it takes a tad longer but that’s only because we’re not very good at counting.

GMWRAG, having failed miserably to give immediate credit to our colleagues at Rightsnet for their huge part in our recent UC item, would like to give credit to the GMWRAG member who brought this item to our attention. He They wishes (oops) to remain anonymous so we have agreed to refer to them as a kindly old gent who has a thing about cars. That isn’t what their colleague said but you get the gist.

Minutes of the last GMSCG meeting and much more.

The minutes of the March 2018 meeting of the Greater Manchester Strategic Casework Group are now available for download. They will be permanently available within the GMSCG pages. Please remember that they will be password protected. Contact GMWRAG if you need that information.

Owing to events beyond our control the next full meeting of the GMSCG has not been set although a small working group will be meeting later this month to review progress and set the agenda for the rest of 2018.

In the meantime, those of you on social media may like to head over to @GMWRAGTweets to be entertained by our ongoing conversation with Neil Couling about Universal Credit. GMWRAG has extended an invitation to Neil for him to attend our October meeting in Trafford but as yet he’s not responded.

This was all triggered by our recent post on the SSAC consultation on Universal Credit, which in barely a week became the most viewed post in the history of the various iterations of the GMWRAG web site and has been retweeted by MPs and more. It is now likely that a further more detailed post focused more on UC (i.e. less on the SSAC) and over a longer period. Watch this space.

It’s time for the Public Law Project annual North conference.

This year, the PLP annual North conference, in Manchester, is on the theme of Legal Aid and Society. It takes place on Thursday the 19th of July 2019 and as in 2018 it will take place at BPP Law School, St James’s Building, Oxford Street, Manchester M1 6FQ

As the Government reviews the implementation of LASPO, we look at access to legal aid and the impact of legal aid cuts on society.

The conference presents a unique mix of practical workshops, research, discussion, and informal exchange with leading experts in legal aid, access to justice and advice provision.

Legal Aid and low income

Today the legal aid system only provides for people on the very lowest incomes and even those receiving out of work benefits are often excluded due the value of their homes being taken into account. Millions with low working incomes cannot afford to pay legal costs, whilst the numbers struggling to reach an acceptable standard of living has risen significantly. This talk looks at how austerity and legal aid cuts interact.

Prof Donald Hirsch, Loughborough University

Challenging procurement and grant funding decisions – what you need to know

This session will focus on Legal Aid Agency contracts, bids for grant funding and other public contracts, practice and procedure: the Public Contracts Regulations and judicial review

Polly Brendon, Public Law Project

Jason Coppel QC at 11KBW 

Exceptional Case Funding 

There are Common misconceptions regarding what is out of scope of Exceptional Case Funding (ECF), immigration and housing in particular. This session look at how to apply for ECF, common problems and what we know about success rates.

Joseph Markus and James Stark, Garden Court North 

Katy Watts, Public Law Project

Legal aid and access to justice for modern slavery victims

This session will look at immigration legal aid for modern slavery victims and a recent judicial review of the Legal Aid Agency when legal aid was refused for a victim. It will also look at cases highlighting why legal aid is essential to build the case of leave to remain during the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) process and to challenging unlawful decisions on leave.

Lucy Mair, Garden Court North

Carita Thomas, Anti–Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit (ATLEU)

Preparing evidence for the LASPOA review

This session will seek to help organisations or individuals preparing to feed into the Governments review of LASPOA implementation. It will look at evidence gathering and presentation and how to show insight from your clients or your organisations perspective.

Jess Mant, Cardiff University School of Law and Politics

Carol Storer, Legal Aid Practitioners Group

Emma Marshall, Public Law Project

Top legal aid and access to justice cases of recent years

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (2012) has generated a significant number of cases challenging the legislation and its implementation on behalf of those affected. Alison will look at the impact of the cases and some themes running through them.

Alison Pickup, Legal Director, Public Law Project

The experiences of self-representing litigants
This presentation concerns a three year project interviewing litigants in person (LIPS). Although Jess’s work focuses on the family court, the presentation will consider common problems facing those appearing in court without representation.

Jess Mant, Cardiff University School for Law and Politics

The full agenda can be found on the PLP web site whilst the pdf programme can be found here. Last year GMWRAG members, probably for the first time, attended en masse and were overwhelmed with the sheer quality of what was on offer in terms of the standard of speakers; the quality of the workshops and the intensity of the day. The buffet wasn’t half bad either.

A mission to get a massage!

GMWRAG is disappointed to report that once again we’re asking you for money rather than advertising jobs in the advice sector but we’ll live with it as this is once again for a good cause. We’ve even had to now (reluctantly) create a “Fundraising” category for web site posts. This has made us “sad”. That’s GMWRAG sad not Donald Trump sad.

You may recall that GMWRAG member Rob Jenkins raised money for The Wellspring in Stockport whilst Kate Anstee, Sean Finnegan and Yasmin Green raised money for Greater Manchester Law Centre. GMWRAG noted very carefully the bump up in sponsorship some of the above had after our posts. but all attempts to cream some money off the top for GMWRAG funds have thus far failed.

George Oldbury is now attempting to raise money for Wood Street Mission. Unlike the above named, George has set his sights low and is looking to raise a mere £100 through the folly of cycling from Manchester to Blackpool. Surely GMWRAG can help him do better than that?

For those of you who don’t know much (or anything) about Wood Street Mission please do have a read of the above link as they’ve been around a long time; do hugely useful work and will need to continue doing so (see our Universal Credit post/rant from yesterday).

If you’d like to sponsor George you can do so via his hugely disappointing JustGiving page. No pictures. No humour. He’s no Rob Jenkins is he 🙂 but he does need your money.

So, we’ll do the hard work for him and tell you all about cycling from Manchester to Blackpool. It doesn’t appear to involve much cycling. It starts from the Piazza in Salford Quays and covers (a mere) 60 miles to Blackpool with what’s described as “lots of refreshment stops along the scenic country lanes of Lancashire and finishes on the South Promenade in Blackpool.” That scenic stuff seems wrong to us as the route map we’ve seen suggests it goes through Leigh!

The mere act of finishing appears to entitle you to “food, beer tent, live music and a well-earned massage!” A what??? Pfft. Sounds a pamper session to us. There’s even special buses back to Manchester in the afternoon.

So, if you’d like to sponsor George to get a massage raise hugely needed funds then you know what to do.

Universally Discredited and yet still in need of a consultation?

GMWRAG is 100% (ish) confident that most of our members will by now be aware that the SSAC has launched a consultation on government proposals for managing the migration of claimants on legacy benefits to Universal Credit.

Testing of the full managed migration process will start in January 2019 with the intention to increase volumes by July 2019.

The draft Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions)(Managed Migration) Amendment Regulations 2018 – which were presented to the SSAC at its meeting on the 20th of June 2018 – set out the government’s proposals on –

  • requirements for claimants on existing benefits to make a claim for universal credit (including the deadlines for doing so) and arrangements for ending their existing benefit; and
  • the calculation, award and ongoing treatment of transitional protection.

In the explanatory memorandum to the draft regulations the government advises –

‘Between July 2019 and 2023, the final phase of universal credit roll out will take place. During this phase, the Department will manage the migration of all the remaining claimants with awards of existing benefits to universal credit.

From January 2019, we intend to start testing the full managed migration process on a small scale, with the intention to increase volumes by July 2019. This will enable us to evaluate the initial process to ensure that it supports claimants effectively. This ‘test and learn’ approach will allow us to change the process, where necessary, before larger volumes of claimants are managed migrated to universal credit.’

To help inform its examination of the draft legislation, the Committee has launched a consultation seeking views from a range of organisations and individuals and particularly welcoming case studies on the following aspects:

  • the overall migration timetable;
  • arrangements for contacting claimants and inviting claims from them;
  • issues associated with making a claim, and ending legacy benefit claims;
  • the calculation of transitional protection (including the treatment of earnings and capital);
  • the impact of proposed transitional protection (including how easily it will be delivered and the degree to which it will be understood by claimants);
  • the impact on workers, including the self-employed;
  • equality impact (whether there will be particular effects for different groups and how these can best be addressed), including whether there any groups that will not be covered by transitional protection; and
  • monitoring and evaluation.

Commenting on the proposals, Chair of the SSAC Paul Gray said –

‘SSAC is keen to ensure that the scrutiny report it submits to ministers and Parliament is as well informed as possible, and we therefore strongly encourage all organisations and individuals with relevant evidence to take part in this consultation process.’

NB – responses to the consultation should be submitted by 10am on Monday the 20th of August 2018.

For more information see Government proposal to move claimants on ‘legacy’ benefits to Universal Credit: consultation announced from gov.uk

Now, is it just GMWRAG or is there a bit of an issue here? We’re being asked to contribute to a consultation on what is in effect the final roll out of Universal Credit. What is the justification for that roll out? Anyone remember the UC pilots? The concept of “test and learn”?

In the first 6 months of this year alone a browse of Rightsnet shows we have learnt that

  • Based on its current design, the new benefit system will save only £1bn by 2022/2023, says Office for Budget Responsibility
  • In ‘Rolling out universal credit’, the NAO found that the DWP’s expectation that UC will eventually deliver £8 billion of net benefits a year – through a combination of savings from encouraging 200,000 more people into work, reducing error and fraud, and reducing the costs of administering benefits – is based on unproven assumptions.
  • The Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has called for the government to listen to the NAO and halt the roll out of UC completely and urged the actual Secretary of State to “… wake up to the misery being caused by her policy.’
  • announcing that it intends to take evidence from the DWP about the programme’s value for money and the experience of claimants under the new scheme, the Public Accounts Committee has said “The Government’s introduction of UC has been one long catalogue of delay with huge impact on people’s lives. After eight years’ work and £1.3bn spent on the project, not even 10% of claimants have transferred. Many who have moved are suffering hardship but the Department for Work and Pensions does not accept it is at fault. DWP needs to wake up and understand what is going so wrong before future claimants share a similar fate.”
  • the Treasury Committee’s March 2018 report on Childcare called for childcare costs within the new benefit to be paid either up front or direct to the childcare provider. They called payment in arrears a “fundamental design flaw”.
  • In ‘Universal Credit and Financial Abuse: Exploring the links‘, three women’s groups point out that, under universal credit, payments are made into one bank account for everyone in the household, rather than individual accounts, which risks giving more power to abusers in homes where women live with domestic violence.
  • The chair of the Work and Pensions Committee Frank Field has written to UC Director General Neil Couling questioning him about the impact of universal credit on rent arrears.
  • Almost half of UC claimants say that they needed help in registering their claim online, according to new research published by the DWP.
  • More than a quarter of the 2 million UC claims made since April 2013 have failed to result in a ‘start’ on the benefit, according to DWP statistics.
  • Whilst the research found that 98 per cent of claimants had claimed online, and over half (54 per cent) were able to register their claim online unassisted, it also found that – ‘Three in ten (30 per cent) of those who registered a claim online found this difficult, and the process of verifying their identity online was seen as particularly difficult. Overall, more than four in ten (43 per cent) claimants said they needed more support registering their claim for universal credit. Three in ten (31 per cent) said they need more ongoing support with using their UC digital account.’ Indeed, the research found that it was quite common for the claim process to take more than one attempt and, even amongst those with experience of claiming other benefits, again nearly half found it more difficult to claim UC.
  • A report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation finds that benefit delays, gaps, sanctions and harsh recovery practices are common factors that tip people into destitution.
  • Led by the University of York, the final report on the five year ‘Welfare Conditionality Project (2013/2018)’ – that is based on the results of repeat interviews with welfare service users drawn from nine policy areas including universal credit, jobseekers and disabled people – finds that benefit sanctions and mandatory claimant commitment requirements do not prompt ‘behaviour change’ or provide meaningful improvements to job prospects or work outcomes for most claimants.
  • The rate of overpayments in UC has increased to 7.2 per cent in 2017/2018, up from 5.5 per cent the previous year, according to DWP statistics.
  • UC work coaches often ignore the caring commitments of single parents, according to a new report from Gingerbread.
  • Changes to free school meal entitlement under UC will create a great number of winners, but also a substantial number of losers. 13 per cent of the 1.3 million children who would have qualified under the legacy system will find themselves ineligible under UC, says IFS
  • In ‘Universal Credit: supporting self-employment’, the Work and Pensions Committee warns that the MIF rules as they now stand – with a one-year exemption for self-employed start-ups and rigid reliance on monthly income reporting – fail to deliver parity of treatment between employees and the self-employed and pay little reference to the reality of self-employed start-ups that may take years to develop and often face irregular payment patterns.
  • In two reports about UC Citizens Advice looked at the impact of work allowance cuts on people’s budgets, and explored why the MIF can leave self-employed workers at a financial disadvantage. It highlighted that a self-employed worker who receives  could be worse off by £630 a year compared to an employee on the benefit, even if their year-end earnings are identical; and households affected by the cuts to work allowances will receive an average of roughly £100 less per month.
  • Appearing on a Channel 4 Dispatches programme – Britain’s Benefit Crisis – PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka highlighted that, in a recent survey, 79 per cent of DWP staff felt that there was an insufficient amount of staff to cope with demand from claimants and 70 per cent of DWP staff want the roll-out of UC to be stopped.
  • Highlighting that the negative impacts are largely driven by changes to the benefit system, in particular the freeze in working-age benefit rates, changes to disability benefits, and reductions in universal credit rates, the EHRC reports that an extra 1.5 million will be in poverty; households with at least one disabled adult and a disabled child will lose over £6,500 a year, more than 13 per cent of their annual income; Bangladeshi households will lose around £4,400 a year, in comparison to white households, or households with adults of differing ethnicity, which will only lose between £500 and £600 on average;; lone parents will lose an average of £5,250 a year, almost one-fifth of their annual income; and women will lose about £400 per year on average, while men will only lose £30.
  • the Trussell Trust highlights that between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2018 it distributed 1,332,952 three day emergency food supplies to people in crisis, of which 484,026 went to children – a 13 per cent increase on the previous year. The primary referral reasons were benefit delays (24 per cent), benefit changes (18 per cent) and debt (9 per cent);whilst referrals due to ‘benefit sanction’ have declined over the last year, those due to ‘reduction in benefit value’ have the fastest growth rate of all referrals made due to a benefit change, and those due to ‘moving to a different benefit’ have also grown significantly; and food banks that have been in full UC rollout areas for a year or more experienced an average increase in use of 52 per cent in the twelve months after the full roll-out date in their area, whereas foodbanks either not in full universal credit areas, or only in full rollout areas for up to three months, showed an average increase of 13 per cent.
  • Research from Policy in Practice shows that one in ten working-age households report earnings from self-employment., In London, 78 per cent of self-employed households on low incomes will be £344 per month worse off under UC.
  • The House of Lords voted in favour of motion to delay regulations that introduce an earnings threshold for free school meals under universal credit and stated that delaying the change would enable the government to ‘put their house in order’ and complete a full poverty impact assessment
  • Only 76 per cent of households on UC in December 2017 were actually receiving a payment, according to DWP statistics.
  • Four out of five UC sanction appeals are successful. DWP statistics also show that sanction decisions are not changed in 72 per cent of mandatory reconsiderations.
  • The universal credit Project Assessment Reviews ‘barely mention claimants’ and are ‘shot through with management gobbledegook’, according to the Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee Frank Field. Publishing its assessment of the reviews of UC carried out by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) and its predecessor the Major Projects Authority – which included five Project Assessment Reviews carried out between March 2012 and October 2015 and five other related reports – the Work and Pensions Committee says that the reviews ‘… are written in dense project management speak, a combination of the cryptic and the clichéd … [and] … do not examine government policy or the consequences for claimants’.
  • In the minutes of its November 2017 meeting, the Privacy and Consumer Advisory Group – that advises the government on how to provide users with a simple, trusted and secure means of accessing public services – reports that research shows that while 35 per cent of universal credit claimants can use the Verify online service, 30 per cent are not yet able to, and 35 per cent could verify online but do not. Research at a jobcentre also showed that out of 91 users, 48 needed help with the process.
  • In relation to tax credits, the Public Accounts Committee highlights that many of the 110,000 tax credits claimants who have so far transferred to UC also have tax credits overpayments that have become the responsibility of DWP to collect and raised concerns that the DWP’s greater powers to recover debts risk subjecting vulnerable people to more aggressive tax credit debt recovery attempts.

Now, hand up anyone who still thinks the legacy transfer is what the SSAC should be consulting about? GMWRAG is happy to hold our hands up and apologise for the length of this post but this is a moment to reflect on exactly how bad Universal Credit is and why it still exists, which appears to now amount to it being more expensive to get rid of it. Our trawl through the past six months of media coverage found but the one assertion by DWP as to the merits of UC. In most of the above cases they simply haven’t addressed the overwhelming evidence against the implantation of what is in effect structural poverty and destitution.

GMWRAG of course strongly encourages responses by members to all such consultations but this is one response where the terms of reference really need to be reframed by the respondents.

An invitation to GMWRAG members to take part in something a little bit different.

Elaine Craig, a Masters Psychology Student at Manchester Metropolitan University. who joined the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group along with Kim Heyes in November 2017, would like to inform you of a research project she is doing which is relevant to GMWRAG members.She’d like to ask whether the any GMWRAG members would consider taking part in a reformation agenda Focus Group. The aim is to review the current statutory out-of-work and back-to-work support experienced by individuals with mental health challenges in order to develop a more suitable intervention.

The study is called An Analysis of Workplace Wellbeing Supporting a ‘Staying Well at Work’ Intervention’.

There is evidence highlighting current statutory back-to-work process are inappropriate financially penalising and patronising people who cannot/do not engage. Workshops are job-seeker orientated and do not address mental health challenges specific to the workplace. Enhancing this understanding will enable us to develop a person-centered intervention, supporting people who want to get back into employment after a period of ill health. The findings of which, we will feed back to the DWP.

Focus group participants’ need have a working knowledge of the statutory welfare framework and practitioner experience of real life challenges faces by individuals trying to access support. They will be asked if they would like to participate in an informal discussion with four other group members, lasting approximately 60 minutes (but no longer than 90 minutes) at Manchester Metropolitan University.

GMWRAG have years of experience in supporting this vulnerable group and your support would be greatly appreciated. Additionally I am more than willing to come to the next meeting and give a 5 minute presentation about the research proposal should this be suitable.

Please find below an overview of the study, which will inform your considerations and feel free to contact Elaine should you have any further questions by either ringing 07730 032 826 or emailing elaine.m.craig@stu.mmu.ac.uk

Focus Group Particpant Information Sheet

Workplace Wellbeing poster

NAWRA coming to the North West of England.

It has been a couple of months since GMWRAG posted anything in respect of our friends at NAWRA. Details of future NAWRA meetings have caught our eye though because early in March 2019 NAWRA will be coming to your area (the North West of England) and to Salford in particular. We will be playing an active role in publicising said meeting but in the meantime details of the next two NAWRA meetings are below.

The next meeting will take place from 10am-4pm (registration from 9.30am) on Friday the 7th of September 2018 at Renfield St Stephen’s Centre, 260 Bath St, Glasgow G2 4JP (hosted by Glasgow City Council).

Following that meeting the next two meetings will be

Durham on Friday the 7th of December 2018 which will be held at Town Hall, Market Place, Durham DH1 3NJ (hosted by Durham County Council) and then Salford on Friday the 1st of March 2019.

Further details to follow as we have them.

Initial details of the next GMWRAG meeting now available.

GMWRAG is pleased to confirm that the next GMWRAG meeting will be taking place in October 2018 and will be hosted by Trafford Welfare Rights Service.

The meeting will be a full day meeting with the intention of having two speakers and will take place at the offices of Trafford Housing Trust, Sale Point, 126-150 Washway Road, Sale M33 6AG on Friday the 19th of October 2018. The venue is a very straight forward 14 minute walk from the Sale Metrolink stop (M33 2DG in case you were wondering) and is also on a main bus route. Drivers? You’ll figure it out 🙂

A quick reminder also that the minutes from the last meeting have long since been available and can be downloaded from our Minutes page. The agenda for the Trafford meeting will be published here as soon as it’s finalised and if anyone has either a great suggestion for a speaker or any other agenda items please contact GMWRAG in the usual ways.

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

The minutes from the last meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group are now available for download. They will of course be permanently available in their usual location.

Additionally, presentations from the same meeting are also available for download as follows:

All of the above will also be available within the NWMHWRAG pages.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s next?

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

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

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

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

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

GMWRAG starts a running thing. Hearts sink everywhere.

Following a post on here yesterday, GMWRAG member Rob Jenkins reports a small but effective surge in interest in sponsoring his attempt to raise money for The Wellspring as previously reported here. 

This means he’s actually reached his target (although that doesn’t mean potential sponsors can now look away) but the pressure is now on as he reports that

“Great news on my last run out before the big day. I was going up a bit of a hill, and I OVERTOOK someone. He was a bit younger than me, as well, and looked surprised. Then another runner with a heavy backpack ran past at about twice my speed – but he might not be in the race, so no need to worry just yet.”

Excitement on this can be countered by the statement that

“My race pack arrived today, and turns out I’ve been placed to start at the back, with the duffers and no-hopers who aren’t necessarily expected to finish at all. To add insult, my race number has a “Where’s Wally” theme. At least it will stand out on the telly, as I surge through the crowd to take top spot. Either that, or I’ll be relying on a big ‘chip time’ adjustment.”

Further bad news for Rob is that sales of British eggs are apparently on the up and dramatically so. We are most definitely labelling this the “GMWRAG effect”.

As an alternative to this frivolity, GMWRAG can now offer a further sponsorship opportunity to members desperate to invest in something resembling actual running. Actually, we’re not sure on that last bit but bear with us.

Yasmin Green of Salford Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Service “roped” Kate Anstee and Sean Finnigan of the same service into running the Great Manchester 10k run on Sunday the 20th of May 2018 in order to raise money for our friends at Greater Manchester Law Centre. We’ve no idea what terrible secret she knows about the other two which persuaded them into this folly but we’re working on it.

GMWRAG has also yet to figure out why Rob was dumb enough to volunteer to run further when a mere 10k was available but we won’t tell him if you won’t!

Whereas Rob has offered comedy in return for cash (and a possible refund if he wins) Yasmin, Kate and Sean are offering “… dedication and inspiration in the middle of Manchester, where some of you might like to meet us in a bar afterwards”. Three strangers in a bar or Where’s Wally? It’s a tough call! 🙂

You can sponsor Kate on her Just Giving page where she’ll tell you more about GMLC.

Alternatively you can sponsor Sean via HIS Just Giving page and maybe add a bit extra so he can get that shirt clean. We’re thinking that where Kate referred to inspiration Sean is offering only perspiration. Irresistible we’re sure you’ll agree. On the other hand, Sean has tried to con sponsors by suggesting he will be running “… a bit in freezing weather”. We know that this isn’t true and we think you should rack up the pressure by sponsoring him and making him run and finish in 20 plus degree heat as a punishment.

Yasmin on the other hand has at least been brutally honest.

“I hate running, I am rubbish at it and will be miserable all the way round to the pub at the end. I am willing to put myself through the embarrassment of being passed by panto horses and people being pushed on hospital beds because I want to help GMLC raise funds.”

This seems eminently reasonable to GMWRAG.

It could of course be worse. She might even be passed by Kate and Sean! You can sponsor Yasmin at Just Giving. We’re hopeful GMWRAG can retweet and maybe even post here some exciting sweaty pictures from @ansteekate; @objenkinsrob and @7yas on the day but if not we’ll be asking Sean for evidence that he’s washed the shirt before running!

GMWRAG notes that no-one from GMLC appears to be running or even walking. We’ll be having words 🙂

Do the right thing!

GMWRAG member Rob Jenkins recently made the terrible error of judgement of including GMWRAG in a round robin email advising that he was about to run a likely very warm half marathon this coming weekend in aid of local resource centre “The Wellspring” – a charity for the homeless; near homeless and disadvantaged.

Rob advises that he can be sponsored via Just Giving

“Any contributions would be amazing – or just turn up and throw something at me as I go past. But not eggs. I don’t like eggs.”

When GMWRAG pointed out that this was an open invitation to GMWRAG to post his email as it stood he, perhaps recklessly, responded that

“That sounds like an invitation to the whole of the Welfare Rights community to throw eggs at me, but why the hell not. It’s a bit ‘It’s a Knockout’ but I’ve got form there too, dressed up as Batman in a field in suburban Newcastle under Lyme.”

When GMWRAG responded that all this was going into a post, matters were compounded with the words

“My then colleague Geoff was Robin, and I seem to remember having wet sponges thrown at us.”

Rob, it appears, doesn’t know when to stop. An approach that may indeed serve him well this coming weekend.

Now GMWRAG members, plenty of options to ponder there. We’re inclined to go with suggesting a donation but it’s a close run thing. As you can see, Rob is anxiously keenly awaiting your responses.

As an added incentive we note that Rob has posted on the aforesaid page that

“As a special offer, I’ve decided that if I win the race I will agree to reimburse all my kind sponsors the full amount of their donations.   It’s a little unlikely, but they do say it’s a good course for a personal best.

That said, I’m over 50 now, and the bunions don’t get any less painful.”

By gmwragauthor Posted in Event

Seeking claimants to take legal cases over PIP dishonesty

Disability News Service has been investigating claims of dishonesty in the PIP assessment process for 18 months.

A leading discrimination lawyer has now said he may be able to take legal cases on behalf of PIP claimants who believe that the HCPs who carried out their assessments did not honestly report the results.

Cases would be taken under the Equality Act, but crucially the assessment must have happened in the last 6 months, for legal reasons.

If GMWRAG members know of any PIP claimants who have had an assessment in the last few months and want to consider legal action, please contact DNS – with some brief details of the dishonesty and when it took place – either by phone or email*.

Here’s some background to the DNS investigation…

In November 2016, DNS began an investigation into claims that healthcare professionals who carry out face-to-face assessments of benefit claimants had lied, ignored written evidence and dishonestly reported the results of physical examinations.

The claims involved HCPs working for both Capita and Atos.

The alleged dishonesty included HCPs: refusing to accept further written evidence from medical experts; wrongly claiming that physical examinations had been carried out; refusing to list all medications; ignoring or misreporting key information detailed during the assessment; and reporting a refusal to co-operate with a physical examination, when they were unable to complete it because of their impairment.

The first story was published in January 2017 and since then, DNS has compiled claims of dishonesty made by about 300 PIP claimants.

Over 18 months, evidence of institutional dishonesty has continued to build, and many of the stories published by DNS have been shocking.

DNS also reported how secret recordings revealed how a nurse failed to mention a disabled woman’s near-fatal asthma attacks, accidental overdoses and repeated blackouts in yet another dishonest benefits assessment report.

The DWP, Capita and Atos continued to insist that there is no dishonesty in the process as the evidence continued to mount.

Since the investigation began, many claimants have expressed a wish to take legal action against assessment companies because of harm caused to them and the discrimination they believe they faced.

There was some hope when a court ruled last year that a disabled woman should be awarded £5,000 compensation by Atos, after a dishonest report by one of its assessors led to her being awarded the wrong level of benefits, but Atos had failed to offer a defence to her claim for damages and is now challenging the court’s ruling.

And there was hope when solicitor Daniel Donaldson announced earlier this month that he was taking a case against DWP in the Scottish courts for allegedly discriminating against him in the way it dealt with his PIP claim.

DNS has now been in touch with a leading London-based lawyer, who has offered to consider cases of PIP claimants who allege dishonesty by their assessors, to see if there is a way to take legal action against Atos or Capita under the Equality Act.

*If you’re interested in potentially taking a legal case, contact DNS editor John Pring by phone (weekdays only, please: 01635 228907) or email: john@disabilitynewsservice.com

Minutes of the GMWRAG meeting in Bolton plus presentation.

The minutes of the last GMWRAG meeting, held at Bolton at Home, are now available for download. Additionally, you can view the presentation from Amanda Phillips, Priority Service Lead at United Utilities here and both items will be permanently available in their usual locations within the site.

The next GMWRAG meeting is scheduled for Manchester late on in sunny June but dates, venues and speakers have yet to be finalised so we’ll publicise that information as soon as we have it.

The first episode of GMPAs “Beyond Poverty” report has been issued.

Greater Manchester Poverty Action are committed to strengthening the voices of people in poverty. People who have lived experience of poverty are sometimes referred to as experts by experience, rightly
recognising the potential that they have to bring about real change for themselves, for their communities, and for wider society. Sharing people’s stories is important for raising their voices and helping them to be heard, and for developing everyone’s understanding of poverty.

The reasons why poverty exists in Greater Manchester, and in the UK as a whole, are well understood;
high living costs, a housing market that is incapable of meeting everyone’s needs, a broken social security system that fails to provide a sufficient safety net, and an economy that relies too heavily on insecure and low paying work in order to function are all among the structural factors that result in people experiencing poverty and hardship.

However, the reasons why one person experiences poverty and one person doesn’t, and why some
people are at greater risk of poverty are complex and multifaceted. Policy and practice needs to be
designed in a way that responds to these complexities and challenges. To do so the voices of people with
lived experience of poverty must be heard, and furthermore they must be involved in re-designing policy
and practice.

We are therefore pleased to announce the launch of GMPA’s “Beyond Poverty” report, which will be
serialised in a newsletter and on their web site over the next few months. The report will share the stories of people from across Greater Manchester who are either currently experiencing poverty or who have experienced poverty in recent years, describing the experience, the causes and the effects of poverty. They don’t offer detailed commentary alongside the case studies, we want the voices of these experts by experience to speak for themselves. When all the articles have been published we will print them as a single report – please let them know by email if you would like a copy.

They start with David’s story that describes being out of work due to illness and disability,
and shows the importance of a supportive and effective welfare system for those unable to work.
They want to take the opportunity to thank everyone whose story you will read in the coming months,
who have showed great courage and understanding in coming forward and telling their stories, as well as
Peter Cruickshank for having conducted the interviews with such sensitivity and dedication.

Going beyond the Beyond Poverty report, sharing stories is important, but it is only the beginning.
Poverty can only be addressed when those who experience it first-hand are involved in the process of
identifying problems and working on solutions. We are therefore also inviting experts by experience to
co-chair each sub-group of the Food Poverty Alliance (launching on the 8th of May 2018 – https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/greater-manchester-food-poverty-alliance-launch-tickets-44144968790). In so doing, we aim to co-produce a Food Poverty Action Plan for Greater Manchester with a deep understanding of the causes, effects and experience of food poverty.

Further Universal Credit roll out in Greater Manchester.

Full Service Universal Credit rolls out to some more areas of Greater Manchester in the next couple of months. Roll out is by JobcentrePlus and the postcodes attached to each one.

Cheetham Hill goes first on the 25th of  July 2018.  This may affect Salford residents with the post codes M7 4, M8 5, M8 8 and M8 9. The rest of Salford will go live on the 26th of September 2018.

Anyone who needs to make a new claim for one of the six “legacy” benefits that UC replaces will trigger a claim for UC.

About three months after these dates existing UC claimants on the live system will be contacted by DWP with instructions on what to do to claim on the digital system.

From about July 2019 to 2022 the DWP say the remaining “legacy benefit” claimants will have to start claiming UC.

Details of the next NAWRA meeting in Nottingham are now available.

NAWRA’s quarterly conferences are held around the UK and include keynote speakers, workshops and a range of networking and professional development opportunities.

Here are details of the next NAWRA meeting:

Date: Friday the 1st of June 2018
Time: 10am – 4pm (registration from 9.30am)Nottingham Trent University
Location: Nottingham Law School, Chaucer Building, Goldsmith Street, Nottingham NG1 5LP

The meeting is kindly hosted by Nottingham Law School Legal Advice Centre and Advice Nottingham. Our guest speakers will be Dr Tom Vickers of Nottingham Trent University, Tessa Gregory (Leigh Day Solicitors) and Elizabeth Davey (Equality and Human Rights Commission). There will be workshops on PIP case law, financial resilience and CPAG’s new Upper Tribunal Assistance Project.

Download the full agenda along with information about travel, accommodation and our social evening.

NAWRA meetings are free for members to attend. There is no need to book a place. Please let me know you have any access requirements.

EHRC looking for evidence re: the impact of explicit consent within Universal Credit.

It was predicted at our Oldham GMWRAG meeting that the requirement for explicit consent by DWP in Universal Credit was likely not a sustainable position in the face of the Equality Act 2010 requirement for ‘reasonable adjustments’; the oft overlooked fact that it’s for the claimant to determine what consent is given as regards their own data and the obstructive unhelpful nature of the approach which flies directly in the face of all DWP talk of “partnership”.

In light of this we are pleased to report that Jake White from EHRC is gathering evidence about the impact of the explicit consent requirement with a view to potential judicial review proceedings. The evidence accrued will determine whether such proceedings are an option.

Jake can be contacted on 020 7832 7820  or emailed via Jake.White@equalityhumanrights.com.

 

Fifty blogs for fifty years from the Social Policy Association.

Our friends at Rightsnet have drawn our attention to the web site of the Social Policy Association, which we have now of course added as a link on this site.

2017 marked the 50th anniversary of the SPA. To celebrate the milestone they commissioned 50 blogs from leading experts in the field. and have been releasing them on a weekly basis.

“Social policy matters. Rigorous, independent, robust study of it matters, as does teaching the next generation to be more policy-literate. At 50 the SPA is as important to all of these as ever, helping to develop, integrate and safeguard the subject and its members and contribute to better social policies.” (50 words to mark 50 years, Adrian Sinfield)

Commissioned from experts in the field to celebrate 50 years of the Association’s work, here are a few of particular relevance to benefits policy. We have added as many as we could as the navigation on the site leaves something to be desired (“ducks”). There’s 24 more to go as (only) 26 have been published so far.

No.3: Why the two-child policy is the worst social security policy ever. (by Jonathan Bradshaw)

No 5: Where do we go from here? Fifty years on from the ‘War on Poverty’ (by Stephen Crossley)

No 8: Universal Credit: A benefits system to increase debt. (by Steve Iafrati)

No 10: Where next for foodbank use? (by Kayleigh Garthwaite)

No 15: Universal Credit, means-testing and social security. (by Jane Millar)

No 21: 50 years of poverty studies: how our ideas of poverty have changed. (by Paul Spicker)

No 24: Social insecurity: a new consensus is needed to return security to the system. (by Sarah Batty)

No 26: Personal Independence Payment – a fair deal for people with mental health problems? (by Richard Machin)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Practice claiming Universal Credit!

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

DLA and PIP caselaw for visual impairment.

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

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

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

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

New Universal Credit freephone numbers part 2.

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

Universal Credit housing line

0800 328 3844

Welsh line

0800 328 1744

Payment services

0800 328 0128

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

New Universal Credit freephone numbers.

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

Universal Credit Live Service

Telephone: 0800 328 9344

Textphone: 0800 328 1344

Universal Credit Full Service

Telephone: 0800 328 5644

Textphone: 0800 328 1344

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

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

QUICK UPDATE:

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

Future GMWRAG meetings.

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

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

GMWRAG updates.

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

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

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

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

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

Universal Credit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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