Minutes of the latest North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group meeting.

The minutes of the latest meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group (NWMHWRAG) are now available for download.

Additional to this a number of useful documents have been circulated around the idea that renewals are effectively supersessions and therefore a decision maker and/or tribunal cannot make a decision without referencing what has changed since the original decision. In support of this we give you

CDLA 5196/2001

SF v SSWP (PIP) [2016] UKUT 481

and a model submission courtesy of Nick Smith of Manchester Advice Appeals team.

Although this will be relevant to all GMWRAG members we have uploaded the first two of the above to the “relevant case law” page, which resides within the NWMHWRAG section of this site so they can be permanently referenced without having to search through posts.

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Agenda and speakers for next weeks GMWRAG meeting in Oldham.

The agenda for next weeks GMWRAG meeting in Oldham is now available and can be downloaded by clicking on this link. Everything else you need can be found in our previous posts yesterday and back in July 2017.

Well, yeah, okay. You will need a coat, possibly a scarf. Almost certainly gloves and maybe even a hat and an umbrella. Apart from that, everything you need to know is in those posts 🙂

Er, okay, you might also want to know how to get there. We sort of covered that in the July post when we mischievously described transport to Oldham as “straightforward nowadays”. If you don’t believe us then please check out MyTfGM for journey planning.

We are pleased to confirm that we have two speakers for the day covering innovation and Universal Credit. If you want to know more please download the agenda from the link above.

The Right To Justice.

‘Right to justice’, the final report of the Bach Commission is out today.

People should have a right to justice they can afford, urges a new report on access to the justice system.

The Fabian Society was secretariat for the Bach Commission which has heard from more than 100 individuals and organisations over the past two years. The commission found that cuts to legal aid created a two-tier justice system where the poorest go without representation or advice.

In its final report, published today, the commission calls on the government and other political parties to ensure minimum standards on access to justice are upheld through a new Right to Justice Act.

The proposed Right to Justice Act would:

  • Codify our existing rights to justice and establish a new right for individuals to receive reasonable legal assistance without costs they cannot afford
  • Establish a set of principles that guide interpretation of this new right
  • Establish a new body called the Justice Commission to monitor and enforce this new right

The commission also sets out an immediate action plan for the government to: widen the scope of legal aid, with a focus on early legal help; reform the eligibility requirements for legal aid; replace the Legal Aid Agency with an independent body; and improve the public’s understanding of the law.

To read the appendices to the report and see the written evidence the commission has received, please click here.

Detailed commentary can also be found via the Grauniad, Independent , The Law Society Gazette and the Solicitors Journal.

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

GMWRAG at PLP Conference North on Benefit Sanctions and the rule of law.

GMWRAG members turned out en masse for the PLP Conference North at the BPP Law School in Manchester last week. There was particularly strong representation from the newly formed GM Strategic Casework Group and much work is now being done to assimilate what was learnt through a long day of networking, lectures and workshops.

We have attempted a brief taster below and in due course we hope to present some the key documents from the day which are not already in the public domain. Where we can we have provided links so if you want to know who someone is or what they said then please click away.

Happy reading.

Michael Adler Benefit sanctions and the rule of law – Great Britain is 33rd of 40 OECD countries in terms of severity of work incentives. We are worse than South Korea. The slide did say “Korea”. How sad that someone had to ask which one!

2012 was the first year the number of benefit sanctions exceeded the number of fines for criminal offences (Just let that one sink in!)

Judge Wright UT – How the first tier tribunal deals with sanctions following Reilly – the Government response to Jobseekers (Back To Work Schemes) Act 2013 breaching Article 6 is due in August 2017. Could impact many stayed Reilly cases.

Richard CrellinResearch on the impact of benefit sanctions – Research is being undermined by DWP repeatedly resetting the clock on FoI requests at 19 days by asking for clarifications. They refuse to provide data and then publish it as a response on the day any report with is released.

Alison Pickup – Public Law Workshop – looked at project approaches to systemic issues with organisations i.e. not just using the law. We were especially interested in the idea that challenging an apparent unfairness could involve more than litigation e.g. campaigning; publicity; partnership working and so on.

James Stark – Anti-social behaviour legislation, poverty and discriminationvivid description of the Tour De France being used as a test bed for clearing the street homeless and beggars across the UK. People being imprisoned for 6 months for begging for 50p. Longer than under the Vagrancy Act 1824 (1 month).

Zoe Leventhal – Article 6 in social welfare law – Zoe has history on Article 6 challenges. Currently testing the legality of a refusal by the SoS to extend the right to a late MR so appeal rights are lost. A 3 judge panel has sat on whether denial of appeal is a breach of article 6 and whether JR is a sufficient remedy. Decision due in August 2017.

Joseph Markus and Clare Fowler – Bringing an EA 10 claim in the County Court concerning housing, benefits and education. How to bypass the Civil Legal Aid telephone Gateway issues on discrimination cases.

Charlotte O’Brien – Brexit and benefits – There is significant potential for an “administrative cataclysm” yet this is not even on agenda. Need to understand that even the most innocuous changes to benefits now e.g. definitions of work, will have huge impact on who stays post Brexit.

Update on the roll-out of Universal Credit.

GMWRAG has been handed this handy little updated document detailing when various parts of the North West will finally experience the joy of full service Universal Credit. It looks as follows but you can download from the link above. If anyone hears of any changes to this please DM us via @GMWRAGTweets.

If anyone from Oldham would like to get in touch and maybe contribute an article about how things have been going since April then we’d be more than happy to publish.

Seems like a good moment to remind people of our hugely popular previous post on the high quality videos available about Universal Credit too.

  • April 2017
Oldham
  • July 2017
Trafford

Cheshire East – Crewe

Cheshire West & Chester – Chester

  • October 2107
Manchester – Alex Park, Didsbury, Rusholme
  • Nov 2017
Manchester – Newton Heath, Town Hall, Openshaw
  • Dec 2017
Cheshire West & Chester – Ellesmere Port, Neston, Northwich
  • Feb 2018
Rochdale
  • March 2018
Stockport

Tameside

Cheshire East – Congleton, Macclesfield

  • April 2018
Wigan
  • May 2018
Manchester – Cheetham Hill, Wythenshawe

Bury

  • June 2018
Salford
  • July 2018
Bolton

The minutes of the Stockport GMWRAG meeting are now available.

The minutes of the June 2017 GMWRAG meeting which took place in Stockport are now available for download from here and of course you can find them permanently on our Minutes page for which you will of course have the magic password. If you don’t then please either DM @GMWRAGtweets or email a GMWRAG member and they’ll be happy to oblige provided you are willing to delete, set fire to or eat any related communications.

The handouts from the session on hearing impairment and PIP can be found here and the case law pack from the session on sight impairment and DLA/PIP can be found here.

The next GMWRAG meeting is scheduled for Oldham in October 2017 and we’ll post up all the information you’ll need as soon as everything has been finalised.

Getting a home-visit for form filling from the DWP.

It’s very easy for welfare rights advisers to forget that, despite death by a thousand cuts, there are still organisations out there who will do home-visits and will still do form filling. Amongst them of course remains DWP. We have uploaded a list of contacts for DWP visiting services across the North West and Wales as well as the referral form they ask people to complete.

Please note that the referral form is for organisations only and, for that reason, we have chosen to password protect both the referral form and the associated document which gives advisers a nice list of email, phone and fax contacts across the North West of England and Wales. Most GMWRAG members will know our password routine but if you need us to spell it out then please DM @GMWRAGtweets on that Twitter thing or email the usual suspects within GMWRAG for details.

We are strangely reassured (or something) that in the age of driverless cars and the internet of things DWP still have fax machines.

Those of you who have had your interest piqued by the strategic casework approach we describe in our new section may want to consider that outsourcing form completion back to the organisation who issue most of them so you can focus on challenging erroneous decisions via complaints, letters before action and judicial review has many advantages.

  • Download a referral form for a DWP home-visit from here.
  • Download a list of DWP contacts from here.

GMWRAG is keen to emphasise that, when completing a referral for a home-visit, there is an unprecedented opportunity to detail whether there are any “risk factors” and whether there are any “accessibility requirements”.

Whilst DWP are undoubtedly only thinking of risk and access for their visiting officers this space can be used to spell out the risk of visitors for clients e.g. people with mental health issues, learning difficulties and sensory impairments, and, the accessibility needs of the claimant e.g. a large print form and so on.

The Stockport GMWRAG meeting is here – Friday the 16th of June 2017. Speakers, public transport, presenting officers and biscuit details all below.

On the 10th of May 2017 GMWRAG quietly announced that the next meeting (indeed the first of 2017) would take place in Stockport. You can find that post here but we’re now in a position to provide you with full details and there are a lot of them. Please note that a number of key details have changed from that original post, not least the venue. Soooo…

The next GMWRAG meeting is a full day meeting and takes place in room 5 of Stockport Town Hall (NOT Fred Perry House as we originally suggested) on Friday the 16th of June 2017. Doors will open for refreshments, networking and those without any sense of direction at 9:30am for a 10:00am start.

The minutes of the last meeting can be downloaded from here and the full agenda can now be downloaded from here. Please print them off and bring them with you. GMWRAG hosts are no longer funded to provide copies on the day.

The meeting will have an update on the newly launched GM Strategic Casework Group. If you haven’t had a look at our pages then please do so. There will also be an opportunity to share experiences of the new tranche of Presenting Officers at First Tier Tribunals and both the morning and afternoon sessions will have speakers as detailed below.

GMWRAG was surprised to learn that in our near 4 decade existence we appear to have never had speakers talking about sensory impairment and benefits. Our friends at NAWRA have had workshop presentations from charities like RNIB (and even then maybe only the one) but our agendas and minutes suggest we have not. Hopefully the speakers at this meeting will whet the appetite for further work in this area.

Neither session will involve death by PowerPoint and there will be much in the way of handouts; quizzes; throwing things, er, discussion, interaction and some case law!

Stockport Town Hall, or the “spiritual home of GMWRAG” as it was recently described, is very easily accessed by rail and is a massive 4 minutes walk from Stockport railway station. GMWRAG recommends the train as absolutely the fastest way to get to (and from) Stockport from/to Manchester city centre. Journeys are between 7 and 14 minutes from Manchester Piccadilly station. Please note though that tickets on this route may only be valid for some trains e.g. Northern Trains tickets may not be valid on Virgin Trains and so on.

There are frequent buses and you can get full multi-modal travel information on this via the My TfGM journey planner but all will take considerably longer than the train. If you weren’t already aware, there is also an app available for your smartphone. Welfare rights advisers all have smart phones, don’t you!

If you’re driving in, there are several car parks nearby but you will pay a lot for a full day and the road system can be very confusing for anyone not familiar with the area. Don’t say we didn’t warn you 🙂

Oh, yeah, and the biscuits are on order.