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.

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NAWRA News

The first edition of NAWRA News is out now.

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

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

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

Can you help Panorama?

With thanks to Ken Butler of Disability Rights UK.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top quality videos about Universal Credit from Housing Systems.

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

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

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

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

Simplification of the benefits system – GMWRAGs Christmas surrender.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robot foodbanks – coming to Manchester soon!

GMWRAG was fascinated to come across “Action Hunger” via a colleague posting on Rightsnet. It’s worth quoting verbatim from their mission statement.

“Action Hunger is committed to alleviating poverty and hardship amongst the homeless. We install vending machines that provide free food and clothing in key locations of cities across the United Kingdom — and beyond.

The machines dispense water, fresh fruit, energy bars, crisps, chocolate, and sandwiches, as well as socks, sanitary towels, antibacterial lotion, toothbrush and toothpaste combination packs, and books. A considerable amount of the food we vend is received from redistribution organisations that seek to reduce food waste.

Use of the machines is exclusively permitted to those in need, and items can only be vended with the use of a special key card, which our partner organisations in each locality give to our users.

At the most elementary level, Action Hunger’s machines provide access for the most vulnerable in our society to satiate the most basic of needs — that of sustenance.”

They also say

“We’re growing across the U.K. and wider Europe. If you know of a suitable location for installation of a machine — particularly in London, Birmingham, or Brighton — please send us an email at hello@actionhunger.org. Prospective sites must be accessible 24/7 and ideally well-lit, safe, and sheltered from inclement weather.

We’re also planning for two installations in New York, USA in February 2018, with Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle to follow. If you’re interested in supplying food or other items, or would like to help in another regard, please get in touch.”

A report on their Nottingham location makes for an interesting read.

GMWRAG notes that they are “Installing soon…” in Manchester and have an impressive list of supporters. We will contact them directly but wonder if any GMWRAG members know anything more about this interesting idea, albeit that we can’t help thinking that if you know of a location that is “… accessible 24/7… well-lit, safe… and sheltered from inclement weather” then you’ve probably just identified a location for homeless accommodation rather than a vending machine!

Nevertheless we shall watch this develop with genuine interest and feedback anything we learn.

New Universal Credit freephone numbers part 2.

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

Universal Credit housing line

0800 328 3844

Welsh line

0800 328 1744

Payment services

0800 328 0128

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

The Nightmare Before Christmas – Improving Lives: The Future of Work, Health and Disability.

In the furore about whether the Grinch really did steal Christmas Universal Credit claimants will miss out on money during the Christmas period you may have missed that the government yesterday published “Improving Lives: The Future of Work, Health and Disability”.

This follows on from last years consultation on proposals to close the “disability employment gap”, which itself derived from the “Improving Lives: work, health and disability green paper” to which the government responded yesterday.

The proposals are nicely summarised at gov.uk but we’ll repeat them here for the sake of completeness. This includes:

  • Extending fit note certification beyond GPs to a wider group of healthcare professionals, including physiotherapists, psychiatrists and senior nurses, to better identify health conditions and treatments to help workers go back into their jobs faster. Fit notes are designed to help patients develop a return to work plan tailored to their individual needs.
  • Conducting large-scale employment research pilots in West Midlands and Sheffield which will include over 11,000 people. This research will gather evidence to help improve services for those with health conditions, supporting them get into and stay in work, and helping make sure services are accessible and inclusive for all.
  • 2,000 work coaches have received training since 2015 to help them work with benefit claimants with mental health conditions. The government is committed to building on this with the introduction of an enhanced training offer developed with a national mental health charity.
    £39 million investment to more than double the number of employment advisors in an existing NHS programme treating people with depression and anxiety disorders.
  • Responding in full to the 40 recommendations of the Stevenson/Farmer Review of mental health and employers – including reforming Statutory Sick Pay, improving advice and support for employers and encouraging transparency. The government is also encouraging other employers to take forward these recommendations.
  • Over 5,000 companies have signed up to the Disability Confident scheme to promote disability inclusion and government is encouraging more companies to sign up.
  • Appointing an Expert Working Group on Occupational Health to champion, shape and drive a programme of work to take an in-depth look at the sector.

Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke described this as “…an ambitious 10-year strategy to end this injustice once and for all. By bringing employers, the welfare system and health services together we’re taking significant steps to ensure everyone can reach their potential”.

GMWRAG was fascinated to note on page 50 of the document all the “progress” thought to have taken place since the green paper. Key amongst these are things GMWRAG members already know to simply not be working anywhere near what was intended such as the introduction of a digital DS1500 to increase process speed for terminally ill customers, and, the “health and work conversation”.

GMWRAG notes the conspicuous intent to “fix” MSEs within the NHS but with no comparable intent with regard to assessment providers for ESA. We note the complete failure to address the lack of coherence in provision of support for disabled people. We note the total failure to recognise significant structural issues within the benefit system which act as a fundamental barrier to employment including a reduction in the scope of in-work and disability benefits such as the removal of a payment for being in the work-related activity group.

We note the lack of any recognition that equally fundamental deficiencies in public and door to door transport might be a significant barrier to employment. The continuing insistence on describing support as “specialist” when it patently is not and, finally, we note the recognition that only 6% of fit notes talk about people being able to do any kind of work without any corresponding analysis of whether that is actually a reflection of the reality of being a disabled person in the UK.

In short GMWRAG cannot see any way in which any of the above proposals, interesting as they are in isolation, will make even the slightest dent in the disability employment gap.