GMWRAG has exhausted itself electing a new GM (Greater Manchester NOT genetically modified!) Mayor and has little enthusiasm for closely tracking the forthcoming General Election. However, we’re happy to point our members to a few resources which will help you do so if you wish. It is already very noticeable that this is not going to be an election in which welfare reform and poverty are at the top of anyone’s list.
The BBC have helpfully produced an election tracker, which you can find at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2017-39844115 or by clicking the magic words in this sentence. “Welfare” comes in at 11th on the number of things they’re tracking although you could argue that “Pensions” coming in at 5th has some significance! Lots of tabloids are tracking little more than who the pundits think will win but you could invest some of your diminishing faith in pollsters following the excess of statistics at Electoral Calculus.
Of more interest our friends at Rightsnet have identified at least three suggestions for manifestos. GMWRAG thinks it’s worthwhile digesting all three but may wonder out loud whatever happened to campaigning to change things rather than asking for tweaks to the status quo? Can Universal Credit ever be made to work, or make work pay (as opposed to merely function in the former case!)? No mention of the mess which is the Benefit Cap or even DHPs!
– Citizens Advice: Citizens Advice has 5 big asks for the next government
– CPAG: Election 2017 manifesto
– The Law Society: Law Society unveils election manifesto for Brexit Britain
A number of GMWRAG members have brought it to our attention that there has been a nosedive in the number of awards of Severe Disability Premium (SDP) since the introduction of Personal Independence Payment (PIP). This has apparently been confirmed via a Freedom of Information request and appears to be related to the removal of SDP from Universal Credit (UC) and a policy intent to not check for SDP entitlement UC takes hold.
It’s worth remembering that checking for entitlement to means-tested benefits in specific scenarios remains an obligation regardless of policy intentions and future changes. See, CE277/2014 for but one example.
The above would also explain why a number of members have reported having to repeatedly send in IS 10s or their equivalent as forms mysteriously drop into some kind of abyss. If GMWRAG members can cast this drop off in any different light please let us know but we thought we’d flag it up after several members highlighted numerous issues fully explained by a policy change e.g. SDP forms going missing; SDP forms taking an age to be processed unless constantly chased; SDP being refused incorrectly or refusing to issue forms in the first place.
Do you have any clients who will be affected by the recent legislative changes to Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit due to come into effect 6 April 2017?
The Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 introduced fundamental changes to Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit, limiting child tax credit and universal credit to the first two children in a household. These changes, commonly known as the 2 child rule, will come into force from the 6th of April 2017 together with certain exceptions and transitional arrangements set out in recently published regulations.
The Child Poverty Action Group is looking into the possible routes of legal challenge to the 2 child rule and would like your help in locating potential claimants who would be affected by this rule and who would be willing to be part of a CPAG legal challenge.
CPAG is looking in general for:
- Any family already claiming benefits with two children and looking to have more in the near future
But also the following particular types of households which may be unfairly affected by the rule (though this is not an exhaustive list of examples):
- Two lone parent household units already with two children each considering forming a single ‘blended family’ arrangement because the adults have become a couple;
- An individual or couple caring for one or two ‘kinship’ children but contemplating having children of their own;
- A family which, when the children were born, did not require state support but now has a need to because of an unexpected change in circumstances (e.g. loss of a job); and
- A parent who is religiously or philosophically opposed to birth control.
If you can help, please complete the attached test case referral form (save it to your computer first) and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Following on from the GMWRAG post on this at https://gmwrag.wordpress.com/2017/03/10/quick-consultation-on-the-new-general-data-protection-regulationgdpr we were pleased to see our friends at NAWRA have submitted their response and we already know several GMWRAG members contributed to this.
You can read their response in full at NAWRA-response-ICO-March2017. Please note that the consultation, one of the shortest in memory, has now closed.
GMWRAG members may be aware that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will apply in the UK from May 2018 and replaces the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). In light of the recent controversy about the use of explicit consent in relation to Universal Credit.
The Information Commissioner’s Office is consulting on draft consent guidance in relation to the new General Data Protection Regulation that will apply in the UK from May 2018, replacing the Data Protection Act 1998.
The GDPR sets a high standard for consent. It builds on the DPA standard of consent in a number of areas and it contains significantly more detail that codifies existing European guidance and good practice.
The draft guidance on consent explains the ICOs recommended approach to compliance and what counts as valid consent. It also provides practical help to decide when to rely on consent, and when to look at alternatives.
The ICO are now running a short consultation on the draft guidance to gather the views of stakeholders and the public. These views will inform the published version of the guidance.
The consultation opened on the 2nd of March 2017 and the response deadline is the 31st of March 2017. All GMWRAG members are encouraged to at least be aware of this significant change and to submit a response if you can. We fully appreciate that 29 days sets a new bar for requiring a speedy response to an consultation!
For the first time in many years the Budget did not significantly change the landscape of welfare reform. That isn’t to say that significant changes aren’t already on the horizon and April 2017 will see the end of payment for being in the work-related activity group put large numbers of people into significant debt and at high risk of homelessness.
If, by any chance, you missed the key budget announcements then the links below should soon put you right.
The live TV feed was at http://parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/8a000060-1bde-4491-bffe-4359e85832ea
Summaries and analysis can also be found at The Guardian and if that doesn’t float your boat then there’s also the BBC summaries.
Some GMWRAG member organisations may have received a letter from the Ministry of Justice inviting you to subscribe to a mailing list in order to receive updates on the Social Security & Child Support (SSCS) Tribunal Modernisation Project.
For those of you who don’t know what this is… last September the Lord Chancellor, Lord Chief Justice and Senior President of Tribunals published “Transforming Our Justice System” setting out a “… vision for transforming justice through the use of new technologies and innovative approaches to how cases are progressed and decided.
GMWRAG is not clear as to why using technology or alternative dispute resolution is considered as a use of either anything “new” or “innovative” but bear with us. “New” and “innovative” have different meanings in the Ministry of Justice compared to the general population. We’re prepared to suspend disbelief and embrace change as soon as we see them recycling those fax machines and introducing genetically modified judges.
In the meantime brace yourselves for the 14 year old technology of Skype; a further reduction in days available for hearings and video links resembling an episode of Phoenix Nights. “Cuts!” we hear you scream. “Cynics!” we respond (possibly).
The Social Security and Child Support Tribunal are the first of the tribunals to explore the above approaches and it is now proposed to email subscriber updates every 3 to 4 months. This may also involve user involvement.
GMWRAG members will all have had experience of the administration of appeals over the decades and it would not be unreasonable to suspect that not all members have received such a letter. Therefore, if you would like to subscribe to the updates please email SSCS_Tribunal_Proj@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk and ask to be added. We wouldn’t want you to miss out.
GMWRAG has always thought the evidence in favour of oral social security hearings was overwhelming, especially when compared to paper hearings. Putting aside the Guardian “discussion”, and a similar piece from our own GM Law Centre check out this paper from UKAJI. At the present time an awful lot of people are showing an interest in the governments proposals for online dispute resolution.
We suggest GMWRAG members start with the Rightsnet thread and then have a read of the above so you are up to speed with what is proposed and the debates around it. This could well shape what a WRO looks like for years to come and so it’s important we all know what’s at stake and all have our say.
GMWRAG is wincing reading back the above title but that is what Gov.UK said yesterday when they released a press release. You can find the document at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/greater-manchester-and-london-handed-new-disability-powers but in case you were wondering what it’s really about then it’s about getting “thousands more disabled people into work” and we think it’s talking solely about claimants in receipt of ESA.
There are numerous issues around this starting whether the devolution of such monies does anything other than create a postcode lottery. We could easily take an “I’m alright Jack” approach to this but at present we’re still in the middle of a consultation period for the Green Paper on Work, Health and Disability which this now seems to over-ride with no real clues as to how the money is to be spent beyond procuring and delivering “localised versions” of the Work and Health programme. No reference to barriers to work like a fragmented public transport system; affordable child care; the deteriorating service being delivered by Access To Work and so on.
This talks in terms of the new Work and Health Programme when scepticism has been expressed already about how likely that is to succeed with less money; work coaches on the same grades with more responsibilities and less Jobcentres to begin with. This same climate has seen a deterioration in the work done by Access To Work and cuts to funding of those organisations who do exactly the sort of intense and long-term work needed to get a very small number of disabled people back to work. Add in the weirdness of announcing cuts to Disability Employment Advisers and now an announcement of 500 more and it would be easy to conclude that what we have here is a long way from clear.
So, GMWRAG watches with interest… and not a little confusion.