The Money Advice Trust wants to hear from debt advisers about what it’s like on the frontline

GMWRAG is aware that many of our members work for organisations which offer debt advice as well as welfare rights advice.

A new research project has launched today looking at how the debt advice sector supports people in vulnerable situations. Conducted by University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre (PFRC) in partnership with the Money Advice Trust and the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute and grant funded by the Money Advice Service, the research involves a large scale survey of UK debt advisers’ experiences with vulnerability and advice.

Central to the research is the gathering of first hand experiences of front line debt advisers, who are often working with people with complex needs such as serious illness, or wider life events like substance addictions or gambling problems.

Any organisations that provide debt advice and are interested in participating in the survey can register at:
https://goo.gl/forms/RBDonaSUFxZmyUtk2

New research on debt advice and vulnerability launched

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Quick reminder – the Blue Badge consultation is ongoing and is not a done deal.

And a further quick reminder for GMWRAG members that the Blue Badge consultation in response to the loss of a legal case quite some time ago (and not because the government are nice as they seem to be proclaiming :)) is not a done deal and remains an open consultation.

Full details can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/blue-badge-disabled-parking-scheme-eligibility-review/blue-badge-scheme-consultation-on-eligibility and it’s worth GMWRAG members responding because whilst the proposal theoretically expands the scope of the scheme it also links it explicitly to two areas of already problematic wording used in the PIP mobility criteria.

The consultation closes on the 18th of March 2018.

Fit for the future: Transforming the court and tribunal estate.

This has been circulating the outer ring roads of the GMWRAG brain for a little while so it’s time to put the car into gear and… well,  we may have overstretched our analogy.

This HMCTS consultation sets out the proposed future strategy for HM Courts & Tribunals Service in its approach to court and tribunal estate reform.

The consultation document sets a number of proposals within the wider context of the modernisation work underway in HMCTS and discusses proposals for evaluating how the estate should change as a result. The consultation is aimed at court and tribunal users, legal professionals and bodies, the judiciary and magistracy and all other individuals with an interest in the court and tribunal estate in England and Wales.

That’ll be GMWRAG members then!

The consultation documents can be found at https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/transforming-court-tribunal-estate but for the lazy amongst you (us) we have included them below.

The consultation document itself.

Putting aside the main proposals, this is a useful document in terms of seeing how HMCTS sees itself in the immediate future re: modernisation; video links and virtual hearings; flexible operating hours (yes, you read that right)  and digital service delivery.

The Welsh version.

Because Wales is an independent and powerful state in Black Panther (amongst many other slightly more solid reasons) 🙂

The map of the HMCTS estate by region and country.

The latter is a useful document regardless of the consultation.

The consultation itself appears to be online only at https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/transforming-court-tribunal-estate/consultation/intro, which is not great but we’d urge GMWRAG members to complete it asap.

For those of you thinking there’s nothing here for you…

  • the consultation includes a proposed “benchmark” (not even a promise or guarantee) that “…  nearly all users should be able to attend a hearing on time and return within a day, by public transport if necessary?”. What then happens to those who fall short of the benchmark?
  • the consultation includes a change in the way in which travel time is calculated when venues are consolidated closed. GMWRAG strongly feels this lacks detail and the commitment to obtain local knowledge appears half-hearted with no accompanying commitment to talking to local tribunal users for example.

Children’s Society Research on local welfare assistance schemes.

The Children’s Society is conducting some research on local welfare assistance schemes.  They are looking for children and parents who have experience of local welfare assistance schemes in their area so that they can interview them for the qualitative part of the research.

Have you worked with a parent/carer with children, one of whom is aged 13-18, who has gone to the council for support because of a financial crisis in the last six months?

Please see the flyer for more information or contact Richard Crellin, Policy and Research Manager at The Children’s Society at richard.crellin@childrenssociety.org.uk

Work and Pensions Committee launches inquiry into effectiveness of PIP and ESA assessments.

The Work and Pensions Committee has launched an inquiry into the effectiveness of personal independence payment (PIP) and employment and support allowance (ESA) assessments. They are seeking recommendations for change on the assessment process for each benefit individually, and to hear about common lessons that can be learned from the two processes, the Committee invites submissions over three main areas:

Assessors and assessments –

  • whether contractor assessors possess sufficient expertise to carry out assessments for people with a wide range of health conditions;
    • whether the DWP’s quality control for contractors is sufficient and effective;
    • whether the options for reforming the work capability assessment mooted in the government’s Improving Lives green paper should be taken forward; and
    • what examples of best practice in assessing eligibility for benefits are available internationally, and whether they are transferable to ESA and/or PIP.
  • Mandatory reconsideration and appeal –
    • the reasons why claimants seek to overturn initial assessment outcomes for ESA and/or PIP;
    • the reasons why levels of disputed decisions are higher for PIP than for ESA;
    • whether the mandatory reconsideration process is working well for claimants of ESA and/or PIP;
    • the reasons for the rate of overturned decisions at appeal for PIP and/or ESA;
    • whether there are lessons that could be learned from the ESA mandatory reconsideration and appeal process for PIP and vice-versa; and
    • whether there are changes that could be made earlier in the process to ensure fewer claimants feel they need to appeal.
  • Claimant experiences –
    • whether prospective claimants currently understand the purpose of the assessment;
    • in what way could claimants be helped to better understand the assessment process;
    • whether there are some groups of claimants particularly likely to encounter problems with their assessments – and if so, how can this be addressed; and
    • whether the assessment processes for PIP and ESA should be more closely integrated, and other ways the processes might be streamlined for claimants.

The Committee is seeking written submissions by the 10th of November 2017 and also invites claimants who have had an assessment, or are waiting for an assessment, to submit a comment on its web forum.

For more information see Are PIP and ESA Assessments working well? from parliament.uk

Invitation to take part in research into bereavement and funeral poverty.

With thanks to our friends at NAWRA for passing this on.

You are invited to participate in a study relating to bereavement and funeral poverty. The aim of the research is to understand how the change to Bereavement Support Payment may affect claimants and to consider the adequacy of the support available overall to bereaved families. Your views would be valuable, whether or not you have much experience in this area or with the new benefit.

Participation involves an online questionnaire. It will take around 10 minutes. All questions will be completed anonymously; the researcher will not know who has completed the questionnaire. The researcher is Jennifer Cowen and she can be contacted at c032915c@student.staffs.ac.uk. If you have any further questions about anything to do with the questionnaire, or the research in general, please feel free to contact her.

If you would like to participate, click on the link below to the research questionnaire and further information on the study: Take the survey or the URL below into a browser: http://staffordshire.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_4GccGX3KdhbwHJP

The National Audit Office calls for evidence on the impact of Universal Credit.

The National Audit Office (NAO) has called for evidence on the impact universal credit is having on both claimants and local stakeholders.

Following its two previous reports Universal Credit: early progress (in September 2013) and Universal Credit: progress update, (November 2014) the NAO is commencing a third study examining whether the DWP is on course to make the full service available in all jobcentres by September 2018 and to transfer existing claimants by March 2022. Anyone remember when UC was going to all be sorted 2018 or did we hallucinate that?

Evidence can be emailed direct to the study team (the director of this work will be Joshua Reddaway and there are two audit managers – Caroline Harper and Andy Nichols), presumably because if they set up an office there would be insufficient space to queue!

The report is due in Spring 2018 and will assess whether universal credit is delivering its objectives and the impact on claimants and local stakeholders.

For more information see Rolling-out Universal Credit from the NAO website.

Evidence for the study can be emailed to the study team via enquiries@nao.gsi.gov.uk putting the study title in the subject line. The team will consider the evidence you provide; however, please note that due to the volume of information they receive they may not respond to you directly. If you need to raise a concern please use their contact form

DWP launches yet another consultation in which they will listen very carefully to what you have to say and then… well who knows!

Following on from the report of the Work and Pensions Committee which concluded that bereavement support was “opaque and outdated” the DWP have launched a consultation on reforms to the social fund funeral expenses payments scheme with the aim of making it clearer who is eligible for a payment and easier for people to claim.

Introducing the consultation, Minister for Family Support, Housing and Child Maintenance Caroline Dinenage said –

‘We understand what a distressing and difficult time it can be losing a loved one and we want to make the process of claiming a Funeral Payment as simple as possible..’

The proposals include –

  • allowing recipients of payments to receive additional contributions towards the cost of a funeral from charities, friends and relatives without deducting these from the value of the funeral payment award;
  • introducing an exception for people living in care who receive income-assessed financial support from their local authority towards all or part of their care fees (and therefore not receiving a qualifying benefit), and not assigning them the responsible person status;
  • extending the application period from 3 to 6 months;
  • a shorter application form for claims for children’s funerals;
  • amending regulations to clarify that funeral payments will pay for the necessary costs of a burial with or without exclusive rights of burial;
  • allowing applicants and funeral directors to be able to submit evidence electronically to support a claim for funeral payments; and
  • including medical examiner fees under a proposed unified system of scrutiny of all deaths, if adopted in the future, as a necessary cost as currently covered  for cremation medical fees.

The consultation period runs until the 21st of August 2017. You know what to do.

For more information see Reforms to the Social Fund’s Funeral Expenses Payments

NAWRA response to the “Quick consultation on the new General Data Protection Regulation(GDPR).”

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.