Salford GMWRAG meeting finally announced.

Hello happy GMWRAG followers. We trust you had an enjoyable Summer somewhere away from the B word; climate change; the silently creeping surveillance society and of course Harrogate and managed migration. No? Us neither.

Well, thinking about it we suppose there could be several B words right now.

Anyway, after much sitting on our hands we have found a room (in a city – one for the late 1980s music fans there) and the next GMWRAG meetings are sort of good to go. The next meetings will be hosted in Salford by Salford Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Service on Friday the 4th of October 2019 in Committee room 3 of the Civic Centre, Chorley Road, Swinton M27 5DA.

The morning meeting will be the GMWRAG GM UC Forum whilst the afternoon meeting will be yer actual bog standard cliquey GMWRAG meeting, possibly with added speaker but definitely with an opportunity to catch up on much GMWRAG business in the 12 months since we’ve hosted Neil Couling; Everyday Equalities and Brexit and Benefits.

Agendas for both meetings will be published as soon as they’re finalised. Minutes for previous meetings are already available on the Forum part of the site although there have been no formal minutes in 2019 so far because of the nature of the events we’ve hosted.

Travel to Swinton is easy nowadays, unless you own a car, in which case, no it isn’t. Parking is very limited but Swinton railway station is 10 minutes walk from the Civic Centre and well(ish) served by trains from Wigan, Southport, Salford and Manchester. It is not however a fully accessible station. There are only stairs to/from the 2 platforms.

Alternatively 36,37, 38 and various other buses stop right outside the Civic Centre or you could get a V1, V2 or 34/X34 along the East Lancs. Road to the Worsley Road stop from where it’s also only a 13 minute walk. Cyclists are also reasonably well served with storage facilities at a number of sites (to varying standards).

Swinton now sorta has “food opportunities” too. Well, one of the largest Costa Coffees outside of Manchester; an Asda café and even a Morrisons one for good measure. Some nice indie caffs are appearing and we’ll be happy to point you there on the day in the expectation that some of you won’t come back.

Anyway, more to follow as we have it and we’ll see you there.

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Blatant plagiarism in the name of a good cause.

GMWRAG noted the following posted on Rightsnet. We think this is too important to miss so we’re reprinting it in full below.

CPAG is partway through releasing a series of reports entitled Computer says “No” detailing problems arising in the automated UC system.  These hard-hitting reports wouldn’t be possible without your case studies, so thank you! It’d be great to receive some up-to-date examples which may contribute to the third and final report in the series.

1. Many of you have already seen our first Computer says “No” report detailing issues with UC statements [available here: http://www.cpag.org.uk/sites/default/files/Computer says ‘no!’ Stage one – information provision_2.pdf]

2. Our second report is due to be released next week, and will set out the problems encountered by claimants in challenging UC decisions (i.e. using the MR process). So do keep an eye out for it.

3. The third report will focus on how the DWP implements decisions (other than those concerning initial calculation of entitlement).  We’re interested to hear about recent cases of:
a) DWP delay in implementing Tribunal decision in UC
b) DWP delay or mistake in paying backdated UC entitlement
c) UC statements overwritten with corrected entitlement, not reflecting actual payments made
d) UC claim start date amended and assessment periods changed from start of claim
e) Possession case adjournments/ suspended orders requiring rent arrears payments lower than standard 10-20% deductions made in UC
f) Debt Relief Orders writing off UC Advances, or other debts, being ignored
g) Failure to apply legal judgments effectively e.g. Faulty SDP gateway, High Court Johnson assessment period ruling

The above are all issues that you’ve told us about before, but recent examples would help us ascertain whether they remain unresolved and if so, add to the strength of our report.

Many thanks for any and all contributions!

Best way to submit cases is our online EWS form: https://childpovertyactiongroup.wufoo.com/forms/m1vc0zeg1sr9zgh/
or email ews@cpag.org.uk

Minutes of the GMWRAG GM UC Forum finally available.

GMWRAG has taken our time getting minutes out from the first two very successful meetings of the GMWRAG GM UC Forum. This has largely been because of a need to ensure various parties are happy the minutes accurately reflect their participation and this, to be blunt, has been like herding cats. However, herding cats is not actually impossible (follow that link folks) and so here we finally are.

The minutes for both the January 2019 meeting in Oldham and the May 2019 meeting are now available for download from the GMUCF section of our site and they are of course password protected.

Regular GMWRAG users will be able to take a punt at our password but if not you can always DM us on Twitter or email to the usual address. If you don’t know the usual address then you’re possibly not a GMWRAG member or not paying attention.

The next GMWRAG meeting and GMWRAG GM UC Forum meeting was scheduled for Salford in July. That clearly isn’t going to happen so we’re now aiming for late August or early September. More news on this as we have it.

CPAG looking for test cases.

CPAG is looking for test cases. To be fair, CPAG is always looking for test cases. However…

Do you have a client who would be willing to be part of CPAG’s strategic litigation?

CPAG is looking for clients in the following circumstances:

1.    The date of claim for universal credit claimants who use the Help to Claim service operated by Citizens Advice.
CPAG is looking for a universal credit claimant who has used the Citizens Advice Help to Claim service co-located in a Job Centre and their date of claim is later than the date they requested the Help to Claim service.

2.    Benefit cap
CPAG is looking for a lone parent with a child under 5 who has been subject to the benefit cap in the past few months, hasn’t had the benefit of DHPs throughout and possibly has even had to move home because of the cap.

To refer a client living in England or Wales please complete CPAG’s referral form.

No direct line? Talk to the DWP.

Researchers at the Department for Work and Pensions would like to speak to advisers in organisations who work with benefit claimants but don’t have any sort of formal relationship with the department.

The DWP is particularly interested in finding out how organisations with no direct line to the department would raise any queries they have for the DWP – for example, would they go online, or call the claimant helpline?

At the moment, they’re concerned that their research is largely dominated by external partners who have an established relationship with the DWP.

The interviews themselves will take place via telephone and last about 30/45 minutes. A researcher from the DWP will call you at a time and date that is most convenient for you. They’re interested in both national and local perspectives on this issue so please do get in contact even if you’re unsure whether you suit the bill – you probably do!

GMWRAG is aware DWP don’t exactly have a great reputation when it comes to keeping the promise of a call back but on this occasion we think it’s worth persevering.

If you’re interested in taking part in the research please email Hannah McLennan, the research officer working on this project.

NAWRA survey re: natural migration to UC in order to support a response to the Work and Pensions Committee Enquiry on same.

The Work and Pensions Committee has launched an inquiry into natural migration onto universal credit.

Many of you will have seen some of your clients naturally migrate to Universal Credit and suffer a sometimes severe drop in income. This inquiry looks at how and when people are naturally migrating and what needs to change.

NAWRA are carrying out this survey in order to put in a response. It’s only a short survey – please do take the time to give them your views and, at the end, any case studies which particularly demonstrate the hardship people are going through.

Please submit responses by Monday the 11th February 2019 to give them time to put together their response by the 18th of February 2019.

You can access the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/CT7XHH7

Initial details of the first meeting of the GMWRAG Greater Manchester Universal Credit Forum.

Somewhat pre-empting the issuing of the minutes of the last meeting GMWRAG is pleased to be able to confirm that the first GMWRAG led Greater Manchester Universal Credit Forum (we’re open to negotiations on the name) has been scheduled to take place  between 12:30pm and 5pm on Friday the 25th of January 2019 in the Crompton Suite at Oldham Council, Civic Centre, West Street, Oldham OL1 1NL.

For SatNav use OL1 1NL as the post code. The Metrolink stop is King Street (2-3 mins walk) away.

The intention is that a a minimum of 3 DWP partnership managers will be at each meeting along with a similar number of work coach team leaders and (hopefully) the Preston Service Centre manager (but longer term staff on the front line at the SC).

The agenda for the first meeting will broadly be around

  • introductions and sorting how the group should administer itself; who it should report to etc.
  • limited capability for work and complex needs.
  • deductions from UC.
  • any other business.

As agreed at the meeting, this post is going out her in order to generate GM interest beyond those who attended the October GMWRAG meeting and a number of people who attended that meeting will also be invited through various routes.

Our target audience here is advisers whose welfare rights work is in the GM area and we’re looking for people with a long term interest in participating in the forum to drive consistency of approach across the Greater Manchester area. One off attendees will always be welcome but the focus is initially on establishing a core group who will be able to attend quarterly meetings.

Initially if you could email gmwrag at hotmail dot co dot uk and let us know of your interest we’ll liaise with Oldham.

Please note that it was agreed that after January 2019 (when we already have a full day GMWRAG meeting scheduled for the week before the first UC forum) whoever hosts GMWRAG will be hosting a half day UC forum meeting and a half day GMWRAG meeting.

If you’re not sure when you’re hosting GMWRAG then full details can be found on our meetings page. How this works with Oldham being scheduled to host GMWRAG in June 2019 we have yet to figure out but rest assured we’re working on it.

Your all in one GMWRAG post on GMWRAG in Trafford.

We’ve made our claims online. We’re in the middle of our assessment period and we’ll (perhaps) get the pay off in 2 weeks time only to watch it all subsequently fall apart 🙂 Yes, the Trafford GMWRAG approaches and it has correctly been pointed out that not all of the information about the meeting is contained in one place. So, here’s the one post where everything is collated (until the next time we need to add something).

The meeting is a full day meeting and takes place at the offices of Trafford Housing Trust, Sale Point, 126-150 Washway Road, Sale M33 6AG on Friday the 19th of October 2018. Doors will open at 9:30am for a 10am start and we aim to finish for 4ish.

The venue is (we are told) a very straight forward 14 minute walk from the Sale Metrolink stop (M33 2DG in case you were wondering) and is also on a main bus route. Drivers? You’ll figure it out 🙂. Parking? Use a a sat nav.

The minutes of the last meeting remain available here and the final agenda can be found over here. Please note that whilst the name of the latter includes the word “Draft” it is most definitely the final version of the agenda. A big thank you to all those people who threw stuff at us really quickly and in great detail by email when we asked for your top 5 issues to help shape the agenda. We’re (reasonably) confident that the final agenda reflects in general terms almost all of the issues raised but we’re also painfully aware that you can’t please all of the people all the time.

On that note we’re sure that attendees or potential attendees are aware that our key speaker is Neil Couling CBE, Director General of the Universal Credit Programme. and that the day is dedicated to looking at common UC issues in GM and putting together a plan to manage those going forward. This means we have rather more housekeeping rules than normal.

  • Anyone turning up spontaneously as per most GMWRAG meetings may find we cannot accommodate them. We appreciate this is unusual but the room holds a maximum of 50 people and we are reasonably confident we will fill it. It’s a way to travel only to find we don’t have room so please Contact GMWRAG.
  • This is a GM meeting. GMWRAG has always welcomed members from as far afield as Cumbria and North Wales but this one is a GM meeting about specific GM issues and solutions. Whilst we’re sure many members might want to turn up out of curiosity to see; listen to and debate with a national figure and three local partnership managers we have had to make the hard decision that our priority has to be to give space to active GM workers who are not only interested in devising processes to look at solutions but who will also be around to work on those in the immediate future. We are happy(ish) to apologise if this appears stern but we have a small waiting list for non-GM advice staff and if we do think there’s space then we will contact anyone on the list
  • Equally, please do not turn up just for our guest speaker. See the previous bullet point. This is a working day with very specific aims for the GM area and whilst we welcome all participants we need people to be there for the full day else it becomes a little pointless. If you wish to attend please contact GMWRAG via the usual routes.
  • The logistics of this meeting have taken considerable effort from a small group of people to whom GMWRAG would like to extend (pathetically) grateful thanks right now. However, our hosts organisational skills will be fully occupied on the day and so once again we really urge attendees to download and print both the agenda and minutes and bring them with you on the day. It will really aid the smooth running of the meeting.
  • For those who have not attended previously we provide tea, coffee, water and biscuits. No lunch is provided. Expect to go for a walk or by all means bring your own.

We’ll give you all maybe one more prod before the meeting but we look forward to seeing you on the day.

Fifty shades of, er…

Back in the mists of time (well April) GMWRAG posted about the remarkable “Fifty blogs for fifty years” from the Social Policy Association. Since then a further 10 blogs have been posted and this seemed to be an appropriate moment to update on some of the thought provoking and relevant highlights. The links are below.

No 27: Social security reforms have channelled welfare towards the rich: what research and policy agenda does this set? (by Daniel Edmisten).

No 28: The people’s stake – could a UK citizens’ wealth fund tackle the inequality crisis? (by Stewart Lansley).

No 33: Trade unions and social protection – why the strength of collective organisation matters for social security (by Elke Heins).

No 34: Shining a light: reporting on equalities and protected characteristics (by Sarah Vickerstaff).

GMWRAG will be testing you all on these in due course.