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.

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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.

 

 

A big announcement for the next GMWRAG meeting.

Some two months after we first announced the next GMWRAG meeting would be in Trafford on Friday the 19th of October 2018 we are pleased to be able to put a little flesh on the bones of the agenda and we’re confident that we have a day which will pique the interest of even the most diehard Principal Officers stayaways .

Our original plan was to have our traditional 2 speakers and a full day. Only the latter of these ideas remains in play. At the request of several GMWRAG members the whole day will understandably be dedicated to Universal Credit Full Service. However, instead of 2 speakers we will be playing host all day to Neil Couling CBE, Director General of the Universal Credit Programme and working with him and DWP to put together an agenda agreeable to all.

Mr. Couling will be bringing with him 3 partnership managers, although GMWRAG had already started the process of inviting every GM partnership manager before he graciously accepted our invitation, so whether we end up with the former or the latter is currently up in the air.

The focus of the meeting will be on identifying common UCFS issues across the GM area and looking to identify consistent cross GM solutions in order to move away from having different problem solving processes for each of the 10 GM areas.

The intent is to leave the meeting with a clear plan for a cross GM UCFS forum to meet on a regular basis to build on the work we plan to get through in Trafford over a longer period.

In deference to Mr. Couling we are likely to have specific agenda items about what is going well with UCFS and also a discussion on the evidence base for the suggestion that UC campaigning is causing anxiety amongst claimants which will make managed migration difficult to move people over safely to UC from 2020 onwards. There may be further requests for specific agenda items from the DWP side which we will also try to accommodate.

GMWRAG members can now help make this a successful day by contacting GMWRAG and letting us know your top 5 UCFS issues or concerns. Where common issues are identified across GM we’ll put these as specific agenda items and will try to give them 30 to 60 minutes each. These need to be strictly defined as anything broad is likely to go nowhere fast.

GMWRAG already has some ideas around this from members posts in forums and social media e.g. issues around terminal illness; unspecified/unjustified deductions; corporate appointeeships and many more but we want members to lead in defining your concerns not ours. We will be contacting some GMWRAG members in existing UCFS areas in GM for their specific thoughts.

We may ask 1 person per item to set the scene on the day by spending 5 minutes outlining the issue in depth (and perhaps giving a quick case study) before we set about co-operatively agreeing solutions which work for the majority.

This is likely to be the most focused and stimulating GMWRAG meeting (since the last one); a PowerPoint free zone (unless absolutely unavoidable) and we anticipate numbers may be high. Bearing this in mind, we’ll be posting separately in due course to ask GMWRAG members to indicate whether they will be attending so we can get a quick idea of numbers.

All of this does of course mean that a final agenda may be produced only at a very late stage so please keep an eye on this site and Twitter for further information. The minutes of the Bolton meeting remain available for download now.

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.

ESA Income Related backdating Appeals; Section 27 – your cases needed.

DWP is applying to strike out appeals against their decisions that backdating of the Income Related element of ESA should be limited to October 2014 in IB to ESA conversion cases.

HM Courts & Tribunals Service hope to deal with these applications en masse.

City of Wolverhampton Council Welfare Rights Service has been told that their case is now the lead case. They have been asked to collate as many examples of DWP applications to strike-out similar cases as possible and forward the details to HMCTS.

If you have a case the DWP is attempting to strike out please forward the appeal reference number to dan.manville@wolverhampton.gov.uk. NAWRA expect case management directions in due course.

These cases should not be struck out at present, as depending on what is decided in an ongoing case R(DS) v SSWP in the Upper Tribunal it may be that there is merit in these appeals. We need to alert the First-tier Tribunal to as many relevant cases as possible and seek to persuade them that the appropriate use of its powers under the Tribunal Procedure Rules is to stay similar cases pending the outcome of R(DS) v SSWP.