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.

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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:

Do you know anyone who has lost benefits due to surveillance by the fraud and error prevention service? GMWRAG thinks you probably do.

The Guardian reports that

“A 26-year-old man with multiple sclerosis has been told to pay back thousands of pounds after being deemed not disabled after being under surveillance by the Department for Work and Pensions, despite medical confirmation of his diagnosis.

The Fraud and Error Prevention Service, part of the DWP, secretly followed Michael Forsyth in Lanark and concluded he “deliberately misrepresented his needs” after looking through his Facebook account and recording him walking his dog. Forsyth was diagnosed with MS at the age of 20 and was in a wheelchair for his PIP assessment in 2015. “The nature of the illness means I can’t say what I’ll be able to do from day to day,” he says in The Sunday Post.

Forsyth has appealed the decision and has a letter confirming his diagnosis from his neurologist at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow which details symptoms such as: “worsening leg weakness, arm weakness, dysarthria (speech problems) and double vision”.

Share your experiences
If you have been under surveillance by the FEPS and your benefits have stopped the Grauniad would like to hear from you. What happened? Did you have to pay the money back? Have you appealed the decision?

You can get in touch by filling in the encrypted form at https://guardiannewsandmedia.formstack.com/forms/lost_benefits_due_to_surveillance – anonymously if you wish. They’ll feature some of your responses in theirreporting. Your responses will only be seen by the Guardian.”

GMWRAG cannot imagine that members have not at some point come across the joy of DWP fraud and error prevention and especially their fantastically high quality interviews under caution and video recording. Off you go.

Any sarcasm detected in the last paragraph is entirely in the eye of the beholder.

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.

Agenda for this weeks GMWRAG meeting in Bolton.

The agenda for the next GMWRAG meeting this Friday in Bolton is now finally available for download.

The minutes of the last meeting remain available for download. Please print and bring your own copy as GMWRAG hosts have long ceased to have funding to cover the expense of printing copies and we can’t guarantee how many will be available on the day.

We are still awaiting confirmation of a p.m. speaker on Support for Mortgage Interest so we have kept a slot open for them. If this does not materialise then attendees may rest assured that the intention is that the meeting would finish earlier than usual. Anyone who attempts to fill any subsequent dead space with talking will of course be given a severe talking to (for a very short period obviously) :).

Please note that we have been advised by Bolton At Home that parking on site is severely restricted. Therefore members are asked to arrive as early as you can as you may need to secure parking elsewhere in the locality.

DWP decide best way to tackle overwhelming psychological distress is to pretend nothing has happened.

DWP have issued a FAQ for stakeholders in light of the MH decision. GMWRAG is of the view this is less than helpful and perhaps even less helpful than that. Our view is that the law is now the descriptors without the words ‘for reasons other than psychological distress’ included on 1c, d and f – and that is what should be applied. DWP appear to be of the strange view that they can’t implement anything until they have issued new guidance and so in the meantime they will continue making decisions in line with the November 2017 guidance which reflects their alleged original policy intent. This is despite a court decision which, amongst many other detailed findings, noted that there was simply no evidence of this alleged “original policy intent” at all.

It would appear DWP  are therefore intent upon making further decisions which are clearly outside the legislation and are equally intent upon repeating the mistake they made on the IB to ESA conversion.

Advisers who find that the correct wording of the activity means someone doesn’t get a new award or the right amount, or is refused a revision or supersession will need, sadly, to use the entire argument which was used in MH to challenge such decision, pending the issuing of guidance which GMWRAG cannot see saying anything other than “as you were”. Of course if, as we can probably anticipate, it does try to attempt to navigate its way beyond anything other than a full reversion to the original wording then that’s a whole other argument to be had.

GMWRAG will of course publish the new guidance as soon as it’s “out there”. We anticipate it will very much be “out there” but perhaps not as DWP intended.

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

The minutes of the last meeting of the North West Mental Health Advisers Group (NWMHWRAG) are now available for download and will be permanently available from their pages within our site.

Additionally a copy of the revised Mission Statement of the group can be downloaded from here and will be found permanently within their pages.

Initial details of the next GMWRAG meeting – in Bolton.

A date for your diaries.

GMWRAG is pleased to announce that (for once) we are wholly ahead of the game and can confirm that the next GMWRAG meeting will take place on Friday the 20th of April 2018 in the Hindleys Room at Bolton At Home. The full address is Valley House, 98 Waters Meeting Road, The Valley, Bolton BL1 8SW. This will be a full day meeting and as per the Salford meeting we are hoping to secure two excellent speakers.

The minutes of the Salford meeting and associated documents and videos have been available since the end of January 2018 and can still be downloaded from the initial post or their more permanent home. An agenda for the Bolton meeting will be available as soon as we have finalised speakers and at that point we’ll post up your full options for travel and food as well.

More information as we have it.