GMWRAG out of lockdown. Online GMWRAG GM UC Forum meeting announcement.

GMWRAG hopes all our members; their family; friends and co-workers remain safe and well. 

GMWRAG has quietly watched as NAWRA and PLP and all these new kids on the block steal our thunder (well, our Friday meeting times) and run online meetings via Zoom. Well, it’s over now kiddies!

GMWRAG is back and bigger and badder than ever. Or something like that! That roughly translates as “please come to our meeting too”.

Attendees at the last GMWRAG meeting will be aware we had a tentative proposal that the sole agenda item for the next GMWRAG GM UC Forum should be “Deductions From UC”. This has taken some time to pull together but we’re pleased to say this session is now a reality and we have agreed it will take place on

Wednesday the 22nd of July 2020 between 2:30pm and 4pm.  The meeting will be hosted by Microsoft Teams as a video meeting and admission is of course free.

We know those of you already used to getting drunk with family and friends on Zoom may be disappointed by this but both DWP and several local authorities do not currently allow access to Zoom so Teams (which is replacing Skype for Business) is the solution which securely allows the largest number of attendees from both sides.

We can confirm that in addition to our usual array (is that the word?) of JCP Partnership Managers, DWP have secured the attendance of reps. from both Debt Management and Strategy (Universal Credit and Employment Policy) which should facilitate an in depth discussions of current and past issues with UC deductions. This leaves a number of outstanding issues:

How do I join the GMWRAG GM UC Forum online meeting? In order to attend the meeting you will need to be a GMWRAG member. You know who you are!

You will then need to email us to indicate your intention to attend. We can be contacted at GMWRAG at Hotmail Dot Co Dot UK

NB: Please email us with the email address you intend to use to attend the meeting as we will be emailing out an Outlook meeting request.

Do I need Microsoft Teams or a Microsoft Teams account? You do not. You will need an internet browser compatible with Teams (Edge, Chrome; Safari; that sort of thing) and a Gmail or Hotmail address or similar.

When you accept our meeting request (and you will won’t you!) it will hopefully put the meeting in your calendar. On the day, open the calendar item and click the “Join Teams Meeting” link. That will take you into Teams where the chair will leave you in a “virtual lobby” until we spot you and admit you to the actual meeting asap.

If the meeting request doesn’t go into your calendar then, after you’ve finished berating your IT support, just retain the email in your inbox and you should be able to join on the day from there. 

This is however all a little smoother if you have the Teams app and your own login. It’s available for desktop or mobile from https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/microsoft-365/microsoft-teams/download-app

Is there a limit on the number of places? Places are limited by overall bandwidth and speed of response. We would not expect to host substantially more attendees than a usual GM UC Forum but equally we need attendees to indicate their attendance really quickly as we don’t want to spam inboxes sending out updated meeting requests every few days. Bearing this in mind, we’d ask all who wish to attend to indicate this by email no later than Wednesday the 15th of July 2020. If all goes smoothly you should receive no more than one initial invite and maybe one update after that.

Can I ask questions about deductions in advance? We think it will help give the session a sharper focus if questions are submitted in advance. We appreciate we’re on a short time scale here but we will give DWP every opportunity to come to the session knowing the areas in which we have an ongoing interest or concern. 

When you email us re: attendance please include any questions you have in the email. Where issues or questions overlap we reserve the right to butcher your question and give it a completely different meaning amalgamate questions as best we can to reflect the general area at issue. 

This of course won’t prevent questions on the day. We shall attempt to balance the two as best we can. 

Is there anything else I need to know? Yes, online meetings can be plagued with all manner of technical and practical issues. You can help the meeting go smoothly if you could kindly:

  • use appropriate real or virtual backgrounds if using video.
  • recognise not all users may wish or be able to use video for cultural or other reasons.
  • mute your microphone when not speaking. 
  • raise your “virtual hand” when you wish to speak. This will be acknowledged by the chair and you’ll be invited to speak as the moment arises. 

Owt else? Yes, please familiarise yourself with Teams as best you can if you’re not already familiar. Whilst the meeting will be on video there will also be a chat channel available for all attendees and there is a facility to share screens; presentations etc. if needed. 

We look forward to seeing and hearing you all on the day. 

We will post again in advance of the meeting to remind people to register and sort out any issues which arise in the meantime. 

Finally, if anyone would like to chat post meeting we’re sure a number of members will be around for you to do so. In the absence of a GMWRAG meeting at present we are intending that there will be a short AOB session at the end and we’ll be looking to facilitate a GMWRAG social event in lieu of a meeting as soon as possible after this meeting. 

Public law and welfare benefits during the COVID crisis

Our friends at PLP are putting on the above “webinar” (GMWRAG thinks one should always pronounce such weird terms with a west country accent or maybe a Dudley accent – ahem!) next week titled “Public law and welfare benefits during the COVID crisis”. It will take place on Thursday the 11th of June 2020 between 11:00am and 13:00pm. We can only really quote from their own site. The crisis has seen a vast increase in those claiming Universal Credit, vulnerable people subject to sudden changes in circumstances and rapid action by the Government to change benefits rules. This session will help equip benefits advisers to use public law remedies during the crisis. It will include:

  • Sanctions during the lockdown
  • Universal Credit and issues such as challenging delays
  • Public law remedies and access to the courts during the crisis
  • Government support during the crisis including the benefit cap and two child limit
  • NRPF update and
  • Pre settled status benefits entitlements

There will also be a chance for participants to share issues and ask questions of presenters and other participants. Speakers: Matt Ahluwalia, Public Law Project Carla Clarke, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) Adam Hundt, Deighton Pierce Glynn Tom Royston, Garden Court Chambers There are a limited number of free places for volunteer / unpaid advisers / those with no budget at this time. But please pay if you can. Entrance costs a mere £12. GMWRAG can attest to having paid 10x that for events of much less interest (although to be fair they were usually gigs!). Booking can be done via the web form at the bottom of https://publiclawproject.org.uk/events/public-law-and-welfare-benefits-during-the-covid-crisis/

Book now for the 27th of May *ONLINE* Money Advice Group Meeting!

Given the nature of this crisis, the MAG planning group has considered what to do about future meetings of the group. The health and safety of group members, and of those who host MAG meetings, is of paramount importance, and this is why they have decided to move to an online format for the foreseeable future.

They have also decided to bring the date of the meeting forward, and it is likely that meetings will be more frequent given that it is now, arguably, easier and convenient for members to take part, and also because of the urgency of the situation advisers and clients face.

We are therefore pleased to provide details of the next Greater Manchester Money Advice Group, which will take place on Wednesday the 27th of May 2020.

The meeting will be facilitated by Payplan, who have offered use of their video conferencing system ‘Fuze’. They will email participants joining instructions in due course, but please note, you do not have to use the video facility to take part if you do not wish to: you can spectate and use audio/chat facilities to communicate if you prefer. There is a limit of 1,000 participants using this system, so they are not bound by the usual capacity constraints!

The theme of the meeting is, of course, ‘Covid-19 and Debt Advice’.

In the morning, we will be joined by Alistair Chisholm (Payplan), with a ‘sector’ update – what’s going on with creditors, clients and households?

Next up will be Bob Winnington (MALG): ‘Managing the present and preparing for the future’ on the work MALG has carried out with partners in the credit and advice industry during the current crisis

Our last speaker will be Joseph Surtees (Cabinet Office), with an update on the government response to Covid-19.

Recognising that long video conferences are not easy to attend, after the speakers, there will be a suitably long break for 2 hours, before reconvening for the afternoon session.

The afternoon session will be an opportunity to discuss the morning speakers, plus a chance to exchange information and discuss Covid-19 and the debt crisis.

You can join/leave the video conference at any point, but MAG hope you will appreciate the opportunity to network and share your experiences of the situation we find ourselves in and what the future holds for our clients and ourselves

Your early contributions for the info exchange/social policy session are invited if you either cannot attend and want feedback and/or wish the issues to be raised on your behalf. Please also send any observations you wish the meeting to discuss about matters arising from the most recent Shelter update, the Citizens Advice update and anything in the IMA’s Quarterly Account.

The MAG are grateful to Payplan for offering the use of their video conference system for this meeting. They feel that this was the best offer open to the group, which minimises cost, has no realistic constraints on the size of the meeting, and is safe and secure.

You can book a place for this meeting using this link https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/greater-manchester-money-advice-group-covid-19-debt-advice-tickets-103709778740 or you can let Richard Holland know directly. The agenda will be updated at this link, as necessary.

It goes without saying that lunch will not be provided at this meeting!

Racism & the Covid 19 Crisis – Gtr Manchester – Zoom meeting

Apologies for the late notice but seeing as you don’t have to travel to take part…

There will be a “Racism & The Covid-19 Crisis” Zoom event hosted by Stand Up To Racism Manchester and Stand Up To Racism this evening, Monday the 27th of April 2020, between 18:00 and 19:30pm. 

https://www.facebook.com/events/s/greater-manchester-racism-the-/1179404669075402/

Anna Rothery, Liverpool Lord MayorRabnawaz Akbar, Manchester Cllr – Mansoor Hassan, Barack Food Aid – Claire Moseley, Car4Calais, Anandi Ramamurthy, UCU, plus contributions to discuss ‘Racism & the Covid-19 Crisis’

Nahella Ashraf will be hosting this Greater Manchester Stand Up To Racism Zoom Call. Join the Zoom Meeting.

‘We are 13% of the population. But of those who have died we make up 100% of the doctors and 65% of all health workers’.

Statement from Diane Abbott, President Stand Up To Racism

Recent figures show African, Asian and Caribbean people make up one third of Covid-19 patients in intensive care, two thirds of NHS staff who have died, all the doctors who have died after contracting Covid-19 and double the average of households who have lost jobs and/or income. This comes as reports are emerging that African, Caribbean and Asian nursing staff are feeling targeted to work on Covid-19 wards over and above their white counterparts.

As we mark Workers’ Memorial Day, this meeting will focus on how anti-racists respond to this, including supporting the crucial demands for PPE and testing for front line workers, as well as raising specific concerns over the impact on BAME and migrant communities.

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83111556383? pwd=V3JpZEFzOFZnM2U1a3JFbkRvNUo3dz09

Meeting ID: 831 1155 6383
Password: 897915

“Fighting Together For Free Access To Justice” event at Greater Manchester Law Centre..

GMWRAG is not one for fighting but on this occasion we’ll make an exception.

On Saturday the 21st of March 2020 Greater Manchester Law Centre are hosting an event titled “Fighting Together For Free Access To Justice”. The more eagle-eyed amongst you may notice that this has in fact been their strap-line for some time. Anyway…

The event will discuss

  • Combating Universal Credit.
  • Supporting and enforcing workers’ rights for those in the Gig Economy and on zero hours contracts.
  • Promoting and demanding the right to decent, affordable housing that provides secure homes for everyone.

All three bouts appear to be reffed by some bloke called Jeremy Corbyn MP. We’ve provided a link in case you need more information on who he is.

As with all good fights spaces are limited and things will (ahem) “kick off” at 12:45pm for a 1pm start with the last man standing to be declared around 2:45pm so you can wander off to the football and kick off all over again.

Please RSVP to developmentworker@gmlaw.org.uk confirming your attendance.

For more information, please call 0161 769 2245.

NAWRA in Wales.

GMWRAG used to be really good at notifying you all about NAWRA meetings. Indeed we used to make our web site do clever things like count down to the day of the meeting but then… well then we just got too busy. So here we are with 3 days left to go to the next NAWRA meeting and we can probably no longer refer to them as “our friends in NAWRA” as we keep messing this up. Anyway…

All NAWRA members are invited to attend their quarterly conference.

Date: Friday the 6th of March 2020.
Time: 10.00am – 16.00pm (registration from 9.30)
Location: Swansea Civic Centre, Oystermouth Road, Swansea, SA1 3SN

Guest speakers will be Fran Bennett of Oxford University on recent research about universal credit and couples followed by Lisa Reese, a tribunal judge, on the role of representatives.

There will be participatory workshops on mixed age couples in UC, conditionality in UC and public law remedies, support for disabled people in UC, and assessing mental health for PIP.

Download the agenda

NAWRA meetings are only open to members.  There’s no need to book a place.  Please let them know if you have any accessibility needs.

GMWRAG has fond memories of their first visit to NAWRA being a trip to Swansea approximately 30 years ago in the back of a some kind of van with people from Flintshire Welfare Rights. Nowadays there would be a hashtag attached to that and some kind of legal action! Nowadays we think the train may be an option.

Europe comes to Bury.

Europe. Remember “them”? Europia does and in unsettling times they’re busy running sessions on the European Settlement Scheme. The latest of these sessions will be at Citizens Advice Bury and Bolton. This is an open session, which we think means that no appointments are required, and it will take place on Wednesday the 12th of February 2020 between 10:00am – 12:00pm. The Bureau address is 155-163 The Rock, Bury BL9 0ND. GMWRAG was highly amused when we were asked to publicise this session to see the address suffixed with “UK”. It did occur to us that if you were going to run such sessions outside of the UK…

Benefit Sanctions: What’s Next? A PLP event in York.

We’re well aware of GMWRAG members disappointment that we’re not sending you to Siberia Oldham in January but we’re pleased to publicise the next best thing.

Matt Ahluwalia from the Public Law Project, whom some of you may remember as a mere stripling at a GMWRAG meeting back in January 2018 (see below), has asked us to do some last minute publicity for PLPs event in York titled “Benefit Sanctions: What’s next?”.

This takes place on Monday the 27th of January 2020 between 10am and 5pm at the National Railway Museum in York. The full address is Leeman Road, York YO26 4XJ. GMWRAG is well aware this is an excellent (but damn cold) venue. However, as it’s at a train museum we’d actively encourage people to go by train just so you can travel over the newly re-activated Ordsall Chord and then talk about it.

GMWRAG is well aware that a number of our members have booked already but we’d like to encourage more as this is an extremely important topic and it’s very easy to take your eye off the ball having been preoccupied with the B word and a general election.

Full details for booking can be found at PLPs web site.

If you have already booked a place (and equally so if you’re about to) please note the travel information on the PLP web site if you’re travelling from outside the GM area.

“Much is known about the effects and impact of benefit sanctions. Shortcomings in standards, both across the application of sanctions and processes for appealing them, are well documented and it is recognised that the injustices of this system are visited upon some of the most vulnerable in society. This event is designed to bring together civil society, advisers, researchers and lawyers to help formulate a common strategy to help those affected, and consider what’s next for public law in this space.”

Couldn’t have put it better ourselves.

It’s Christmas. Don’t argue. It’s beyond October so therefore it’s definitely Christmas. GMWRAG is being invited to things. This may not be a party!

Disappointingly, Greater Manchester Law Centre is not inviting us to a Christmas party. They’re inviting GMWRAG members to

“Turned away: ‘Gateway’ or gatekeeping in homelessness services” on Monday the 18th of November 2019 between 10:00am and 1:30 pm.

They are hosting an event with Greater Manchester Housing Action and Garden Court Chambers and would like to invite you to join us.

Shu Shin Luh and Tessa Buchanan of Garden Court Chambers will be speaking about their case, ‘D’ v Essex County Council, challenging the local authority’s unlawful practice of turning homeless children away from care. (https://www.gardencourtchambers.co.uk/news/essex-county-council-admits-unlawful-practice-in-turning-away-homeless-children-from-care)

They will be discussing and inviting questions on the specific barriers faced by young people and homeless people in in Greater Manchester and the North West.

More information can be found on their Eventbrite page by clicking here .

Shu Shin Luh, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers (Year of Call: 2006)

Shu Shin is a leading public law practitioners whose practice focuses on human rights and equality law. She has substantive knowledge and expertise in advising on matters in all areas of social welfare law, including housing, mental health and mental capacity, health care and benefits. She aims to act for her clients in a comprehensive way, advising where possible on the full range of legal issues impacting on different aspects of their lives. She also acts for organisations as claimants and interveners on policy matters of public importance. She is particularly recognised for her legal work in the areas of children’s rights, victims of trafficking and migrants. Shu Shin won the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year award in 2012 for her contribution to the advancement of children’s rights. She regularly advises NGOs and government organisations on legal policy development and draft legislation in the areas of children’s rights, trafficking, immigration and violence against women and has acted as a legal advisor to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights.

Over the course of 2018 / 2019, Shu Shin led Tessa Buchanan of Garden Court in a series of strategic challenges to the unlawful practice of Essex County Council of diverting homeless teenage children away from accommodation and support under section 20 Children Act 1989, which consequence was to deprive these children from receiving the benefit of leaving care support in their transition to adulthood. The litigation culminated in a settlement in D v Essex, in which Essex County Council admitted that this practice was unlawful. Shu Shin has also successfully challenged other local authority practices including gatekeeping to disabled children’s services (AT and KT v LB of Haringey) and subsistence levels for migrant families supported under s. 17 Children Act 1989 (PO and Ors v Newham LBC). She has also acted in high-profile challenges in the context of welfare benefits and homelessness on behalf of Shelter as an intervener in Samuels v Birmingham CC [2019] UKSC 28 and DA and Ors v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2019] UKSC 21.

Tessa Buchanan, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers (Year of Call: 2012)

Tessa Buchanan is a busy and widely respected barrister with an impressive track record representing clients across a broad range of social welfare cases, with particular expertise in the fields of community care, homelessness, housing and Gypsy and Traveller Law. Her practice is primarily publicly funded and she is often instructed in cases involving challenges to failures to provide support or accommodation under the Children Act 1989; cases involving children who are leaving or who have left care; and challenges to age assessments of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. Tessa is regularly instructed in appeals and applications for judicial review and represents clients in a wide range of hearings in the County Court and High Court.

This year, with Shu Shin Luh of Garden Court, she represented a 16 year old homeless child, D, in D v Essex, instructed by Kelly Everett of Coram Children’s Legal Centre, in which Essex County Council admitted unlawful practice in turning away homeless children from care in breach of section 20 of the Children Act 1989. She has also appeared in several cases in the Court of Appeal, including the leading case of Panayiotou v London Borough of Waltham Forest [2017] EWCA Civ 1624.

Tessa is the vice-chair of the Housing Law Practitioners Association, a co-author of the fifth edition of Housing Allocation and Homelessness: Law and Practice (Jordans, August 2018), and a contributing author to several other forthcoming works.

They look forward to seeing you there. Greater Manchester Law Centre, 669 Stockport Road, Longsight, Manchester, M12 4QE. 0161 769 2244