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.

Leigh Day call for evidence re disabled students and universal credit.

This just in from Leigh Day.

Tessa Gregory and Lucy Cadd from the law firm Leigh Day. are bringing a judicial review challenge to the DWP’s policy which prevents disabled students from making a claim to UC. They are seeking further evidence to support the judicial review (in the form of case studies).

Students are disqualified from making a claim to UC. However, Regulation 14(b) Universal Credit Regulations 2013 provides exceptions to the requirement not to be receiving education. In the case of their client, the relevant exception is that she is in receipt of a qualifying benefit (attendance allowance, disability living allowance or personal independence payment), in her case being PIP. The exception stipulates that she must also have been determined to have limited capability for work (LCW). However, UC will not offer students who do not yet have a LCW determination, a WCA.

Therefore on making her claim for UC, the client was told that a work capability assessment would not be provided for her in order for her to be determined as LCW and her claim for UC was closed.

The Secretary of State’s policy ‘Students: eligibility, conditionality and student income – v 16.0 (2019)’ states that the exception in Reg14(b) only applies to disabled individuals who have already been determined as having LCW and who are seeking to become students. The exemption therefore does not apply to disabled students who attempt to claim UC whilst already undertaking a course of study.

They would be very interested to hear of others who are in a similar position to their client. If there are people you have represented who have been in the same or similar situation they would be extremely grateful if you could provide a short summary of their situation to us (gaining their prior authority to do so). They are seeking supportive case studies for the judicial review.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you require any further information. Our contact details are Tessa Gregory – tgregory@leighday.co.uk and Lucy Cadd – lcadd@leighday.co.uk.

Fraudulent website warning. Probably the first of many.

Apologies if you have read this elsewhere but DWP have issued this warning this week. We, sadly, have little doubt this will be the first of many.

There is a new Fraudulent website that is going round on Facebook saying

“For your free £258 award from the Government to assist you during the Coronavirus outbreak, just enter your bank details”.

The pages look authentic as a real Government website, then it may encourage people to input their personal information/bank details.

Please remind residents not to share their bank account details on any ‘possible’ Government offers on Social Media as that is not how Government Departments deliver their business. DWP Fraud teams & Police are aware of these scam websites and in the process of investigating and closing them down.

Key Messages:

  • DWP, along with many other government departments, are sometimes targeted with fraudulent activity. Please be vigilant and report any suspicious activity.
  • Do not share your personal information with anyone else, as this may be used for fraudulent activity.
  • Protecting your personal information can help reduce your risk of identity theft.
  • If you are contacted by someone claiming to be from the DWP and doubt their legitimacy – please do not share your personal information. Report any suspicious contact immediately.
  • Criminal gangs are targeting people to obtain their personal information. If in doubt, please do not share your personal information. Report any suspicious contact immediately.
  • If someone approaches you claiming to be from DWP, always ask for ID.
  • Report any suspicious contact immediately on www.actionfraud.police.uk or phone 0300 123 2040

It’s been a long time comin’ but I know a change gonna come!

GMWRAG is only mildly ecstatic to bring to your attention to the launch of an inquiry by the Work and Pensions Committee into the five week wait for the first payment of Universal Credit. Putting aside our only slight incredulity that it’s taken them this long in the face of such overwhelming evidence of there being a fundamental problem based on a fallacy about the frequency with which people get paid and the way in which people budget… GMWRAG welcomes the inquiry and urges all GMWRAG members to make a contribution. This really is a “put up or shut up” moment. Indeed, it could be argued that most of the work has been done already.

“Five weeks too long” by the Trussell Trust.

“We need to end the five week wait” by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

“Five week wait must go” by Citizens Advice.

We could go on, and we will (this is the but we always thieve from Rightsnet).

Many claimant support organisations have concluded that the five-week wait must be reduced or eliminated entirely so the Committee summarises some of the suggested options for change, including making advances non-repayable; offering non-repayable advances to some claimants, such as those with a vulnerability; allowing more flexibility to backdate claims; extending run-on payments to cover all legacy benefits; substantially reducing the repayment rates for advances; and paying universal credit two-weekly.

With the aim of helping the government ‘better understand’ the upsides and downsides of these options, and to explore other possible solutions, the Committee seeks views on the following questions –

  • to what extent have the mitigations the government has introduced so far (such as advance payments) helped to reduce the negative impact of the five-week wait?
  • what problems do claimants still experience during the five-week wait?
  • what is the best way of offsetting the impact of the five-week wait?
  • is it possible to estimate how much this would cost the Department?
  • is it possible to estimate any costs or savings to third parties (for example, support organisations)?
  • are different mitigating options needed for different groups of claimants?
  • are there barriers or potential unintended consequences to removing the five-week wait – either for claimants or the Department? How can they be overcome?

NB – responses must reach the Committee by Friday the 17th of April 2020.

Commenting on the inquiry, Committee Chair Stephen Timms said –

‘It’s now widely recognised that the lengthy wait for a first payment of universal credit is causing real difficulties for people—so it’s hugely welcome that the Minister is open to looking at how to fix it. The Committee wants to look carefully at all the possible solutions, and work out which are the most practical, affordable, and likely to make a meaningful difference to people’s lives.’

For more details see New Inquiry: Universal Credit: the wait for a first payment from parliament.uk.

If anyone would like to share their responses with GMWRAG we will be more than happy to publish them both as a repository of suggested good practice and to inspire those of you so overwhelmed with anger and cases you don’t know quite where to start.

GMWRAG swallows humble pie. Minutes of the GMWRAG GM UC Forum are now available.

Aye, that will no doubt teach us (nothing). No sooner had we pressed the “Magick into the binary ether” button on our last post telling you that you definitely can’t have the notes/minutes (whatevs we think they should be called this week) of the GMWRAG GM UC Forum yet than… you can!

Some peoples children have obviously become so annoying that reading our draft notes suddenly became a very attractive feeling. Well, indeed.

Anyway, you can now peruse said notes within our GMWRAG GM UC Forum pages (no, even we can’t be bothered typing that out in full!).

Please note that these notes are, as ever, password protected and if you don’t know the password then… you’re probably not meant to be reading them.

This sounds like the plot of a potential EastEnders episode but sadly it isn’t.

NAWRA has been contacted by a BBC journalist looking at options for pieces relating to young people

  • being asked to leave their parent’s home
  • (or experiencing conflict or becoming homeless)

because of parents losing benefits, particularly where the young person has disengaged from the social security system. This illustrates problems with the cliff edge around the loss of familial benefits such as Child Benefit and Child Tax Credits/Universal Credit for children and then a potential double whammy of the non-dependant deduction being applied to HB or UC housing costs.

The journalist is looking for young people (ideally aged 18 and under) and parents in this position. He may also want to speak with experts and is looking for people who would be happy to discuss the issues faced by young people and their low income parents that you and your team encounter on a day to day basis.

If you would like to get involved please email

kelly

at

nawra

dot

org

dot

uk

and she will pass your details on.

First dumbass to point out that the email is formatted oddly will win no prize. This is a means of avoiding spam bots etc. picking up email addresses and deluging them with spam.

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.

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.