Agenda now available for the GMWRAG GM UC Video Meeting on the 22nd of July 2020.

Further to our recent post about the next GMWRAG GM UC Forum which will take place as an MS Teams video meeting on Wednesday the 22nd of July 2020 at 2:30pm until approximately 4pm.

GMWRAG members will hopefully need little reminder that the sole topic for this meeting is deductions from UC.

The agenda for the meeting is now available and will broadly run as follows:

Welcome and Meeting Protocol/Ground Rules – Mike Hughes, Salford Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Service.

Introduction to the deductions issue – Penny Applegate, Bolton Partnership Manager.

Universal Credit Deductions Policy – Craig Dutton, UC Policy Design.

a. How deductions policy works.
b. Inability to predict the actual amount of UC that will be paid.
c. Non Affordability.

Historic deductions – Katy Costello, Deductions Operations.

Question and answer session.

Next meeting timings and agenda to be agreed.

Please note that, as per the last post, anyone wanting to attend this meeting needs to let us know ideally no later than the 15th of July 2020.

There is no limit on the number of attendees but if we can’t send you a Teams meeting invite then unfortunately you won’t be able to attend. Please see the previous post linked to above in order to register for the meeting. 

We look forward to seeing and hearing you all on the 22nd.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NAWRA and Stoke-on-line.

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

Public law and welfare benefits during the COVID crisis

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

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

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

Meeting cancellation (sort of) – number 2.

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

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

The reasoning for this is as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe and well.

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

Background

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

About the consultation

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

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

Sir Terence Etherton, Master of the Rolls

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

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

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

How to get involved

There are three ways to participate in the review:

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

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

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

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

Meeting cancellation – number 1.

GMWRAG apologies for the delay in getting posts such as this out. We are aware that NWMHWRAG mailing list members will know this already but other GMWRAG members may not.

Unfortunately, this is the first of two cancellations we need to tell you about. We’re hopeful the second post will come out today but it’s entirely dependent upon factors outside our control at present.

As the restrictions due to Covid-19 are still in place, we need to cancel the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group meeting planned for the 29th of May 2020.

Our speaker, Susan Perry from DWP Disability Services, has agreed to rearrange for the 25th of September 2020.

We have a meeting scheduled for the 31st of July 2020. This will go ahead if restrictions have been lifted by then.

Europia update their web site (and us).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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