Benefit sanctions and the rule of law.

Nicely linking in with the recent go live on our Greater Manchester Strategic Casework Group pages, and the update we’ll be providing at the Stockport GMWRAG meeting next Friday about our plans to push public law remedies, we are pleased to note that the following course is taking place in Manchester. Whilst this event is specifically aimed at tackling benefit sanctions the ideas discussed will have applicability across the board on social security.

Events: Public Law and Judicial Review North: Benefit Sanctions and the Rule of Law

Location: Manchester

Address: BPP LAW SCHOOL, ST JAMES’S BUILDING OXFORD STREET MANCHESTER M1 6FQ

Start date: July 20 2017

A conference on the impact and potential responses to sanctioning and other public law issues for advisers, advocates, lawyers,campaigning organisations, NGO’s and legal services in public bodies

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PDF PROGRAMME 9.30 ARRIVAL AND REGISTRATION 10.00 INTRODUCTION Alison Pickup, Legal Director, Public Law Project 10.05 BENEFIT SANCTIONS AND THE RULE OF LAW Michael Adler, Emeritus Professor of Socio-Legal Studies, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh 10.35 HOW THE FIRST TIER TRIBUNAL (FTT) DEALS WITH SANCTIONS FOLLOWING ‘REILLY’ Stewart Wright, Judge of the Upper Tribunal 11.05 BREAK 11.20 RESEARCH ON THE IMPACT OF BENEFIT SANCTIONS Richard Crellin, Policy Officer, The Children’s Society 11.40 TOP PUBLIC LAW CASES OF THE YEAR Matt Stanbury, Garden Court North Chambers & Alastair Wallace, Irwin Mitchell 12.20: MORNING BREAKOUT SESSIONS CHOOSE ONE OF THREE BELOW

  1. Public law remedies and sanctioning Sanctions can have a very serious and long-lasting effect on claimants’ lives, but challenging them is frequently difficult and time consuming. Come to this session and learn how to: – write a complaint letter which gets results; – speed up appeals; – spot and fund test case litigation; – use judicial review in urgent cases; – win damages for discriminatory treatment Tom Royston, Garden Court North & Katy Watts, Public Law Project 2. Public law workshop Open discussion about how to challenge recurrent themes and systemic problems faced by clients and service users dealing with public bodies. Alison Pickup, Public Law Project 3. Interim relief in review cases Practice and proceedure in urgent judicial review cases. Ian Brownhill QC, No 5 Chambers

13.15 Lunch

AFTERNOON SESSION Chair: Pete Weatherby QC, Garden Court North chambers

14.10 Anti-social behaviour legislation, poverty and discrimination The use of injunctions and other ‘remedies’ against vulnerable people on the streets James Stark, Garden Court North Chambers

14.40 Article 6 in Social Welfare Law Nathalie Lieven QC, Landmark Chambers

15.10 Break

15.25 Afternoon breakouts: 15.25 – 16.25

CHOOSE ONE OF THREE BELOW

  1. Bringing an Equality Act claim in the County Court concerning housing, benefits or education Practice, procedure and common legal aid problems arising in county court discrimination claims, including those brought by way of counterclaim. Joseph Markus, Garden Court North Chambers & Clare Fowler, Howells LLP
  2. Developing sustainable advice services This is a workshop aimed at NfP’s in the advice sector, and will cover common issues in development and governance for NFP advice services. Mark Schwenk, barrister Kenworthy Chambers and Management Committee Member, Greater Manchester Law Centre & Matthew Howgate of Matthew Howgate Consulting & Chris Minnoch, Operations Director, Legal Aid Practitioners Group (LAPG)
  3. Litigating the cuts – an update Oliver Carter, Irwin Mitchell & David Wolfe QC, Matrix Chambers

16.25 Brexit and Benefits Dr Charlotte O’Brien, York Law School

16.55 Closing Address: Access to justice and the Rule of Law Pete Weatherby QC, Garden Court North Chambers

17.15 Finish Standard fee: £192 (£160+VAT) per delegate – private practice and public bodies. Discounted fee: £90 (£75 + VAT) per delegate – Charities, voluntary sector, academics, students, trainee solicitors, pupils and barristers within 2 years of admission. Advisers: £72 (£60 + VAT) per delegate including caseworkers, advisers in CAB’s, Age UK, student advisers and lay advocates working in the voluntary sector. 5% off any online payments 50% off third delegate when 3 book from the same organisation at the same time. Fees include refreshments and lunch. This conference is presented with the supprt of Garden Court North Chambers, BPP Law School and Irwin Mitchell Solicitors.

Quick reminder about the next NAWRA meeting.

GMWRAG would like to remind our members that the next NAWRA meeting takes place on Friday the 9th of June 2017 in God’s own country (and the best part of it to boot) in Wrexham. The meeting opens for registration at 9:30am and runs from 10am to 4pm. It takes place at the Catrin Finch Centre, Glyndwr University, Mold Road, Wrexham LL11 2AW. The meeting is kindly hosted by Welfare Rights Advice Cymru.

A full agenda can be found at http://www.nawra.org.uk/wordpress/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/NAWRA-meeting-in-Wrexham-9-June-2017-agenda.pdf and there will be a pre-meet from 6:30pm onwards on Thursday the 8th of June 2017 at The Elihu Yale, 44–46 Regent Street, Wrexham LL11 1RR.

It’s a Wetherspoons pub – usual fayre of good beer, not too noisy and reasonable food. Members of Welfare Rights Advisers Cymru, Wrexham Council Welfare Rights team and NAWRA committee members will be ready to welcome thirsty travellers from 6.30pm onwards on the evening of Thursday 8 June.

Full travel details are contained within the agenda although GMWRAG will be expressing our profound disapproval that the list of alternatives includes Sainsburys and not the legendary Turf Hotel, which was the only pub ever built inside a football ground. Further words will be exchanged that the accompanying blurb makes no mention of the mighty Wrexham AFC and, worse still, mentions Chester as an attraction of going to Wrexham.

Guest speakers include

  • Paul Neave, Head of Advice Services – Welsh Government. “The Information and Advice Action Plan for Wales – a model for the UK?”
  • Dr Gideon Calder, Swansea University – “The Spirit Level: Why Inequality is Everyone’s Issue.”

Workshops will include

Workshop A: PIP caselaw update

Ruth Hession, Welfare Rights Adviser / Ymgynghorydd Hawliau Lles

City and County of Swansea / Dinas A Sir Abertawe

Workshop level: Intermediate and Practical/Theoretical/Strategic

This workshop will provide an overview of the recent developments in PIP caselaw, selecting some of the most significant decisions for discussion. We will also discuss the impact of the recent amendments to the PIP regulations.

Workshop B: Universal Credit full service? What service?

Tom Messere – Big Book of Benefits

Workshop level: Intermediate/Practical

The slow initial pace of “transition” to UC – after a long period of piloting since 2015 – gave hope that the DWP were prioritising a pragmatic “test and learn” approach over any rush to unachievable timelines (as UC before) with the risk of total meltdown (as in PIP’s past). Teething problems were to be expected, but mainly from scaling up of numbers from pilot levels. However it’s the sheer scale of unpreparedness on basic processes and issues for a new much wider range of claimants that makes UC so unfit for purpose at present.

Building on a recent NAWRA survey of advisers, this workshop is an opportunity to share issues, concerns, experiences and – as ever – resourceful cunning workarounds, as the

DWP coalition of chaos and confusion moves ever closer to your area. Strong and stable it most certainly ain’t?

What will UC Full Service mean in theory when it arrives to a JC+ near me? What are likely problems in practice? What can we do about it? How can we build on these workshops?

Workshop C: Utility Best Deals

Jayne Bellis, Pennysmart Community Interest Company

Workshop level: Introductory and Practical

ith the recent welfare cuts and energy price increases, never has the need been greater for low income households to reduce bills as well as maximise income. There are help schemes available for low-income families that struggle to pay energy and

water bills. This is an upbeat session on paying less and guaranteeing ‘better-off’ outcomes for all who attend.

Learning outcomes:

  • Be able to assist clients to switch gas or electricity tariff/supplier
  • Know what help is available for vulnerable & low income consumers
  • Know what to do if clients have gas, electricity or water debts
  • Be able to signpost clients to access free help and advice

Workshop D: Down to Earth: How to help your clients plan an affordable meaningful funeral.

Fiona Singleton, Down to Earth, Quaker Social Action

Workshop level: Introductory/Practical

What you’ll get out of the session:-

  •  A clear understanding of the range of funeral options and the cost implications of these
  •  An understanding of ways to help your clients to save money when planning a funeral
  •  The ability to discuss ways of raising money to help pay for a funeral
  •  A clear understanding of the eligibility criteria for bereavement benefits and payments
  •  The ability to access a range of resources to support clients in funeral planning

Workshop E: Can there be equal life chances? (afternoon session only)

Dr Gideon Calder, Swansea University

Workshop level: Introductory and Theoretical/Strategic

oliticians of all kinds will say that every child should have an equal chance in life, and that promoting this should be a priority. Yet this has never been the case in the UK. In many respects, it is less true now than it was a few decades ago. The children of disadvantaged families are very likely to end up disadvantaged themselves. This workshop will explore both why life chances remain so unequal in the 21st century, and how this might be tackled.

Quiz for a cause

It’s a little known fact, but in the unwritten history of quizzing in the North West, the GMWRAG quiz team looms like a quizzing colossus. The history of North Wales Football League teams? Check. The novels of Patrick JG Hill? Check. Anarcho-punk bands of the early ’80s? Yes please.

Perhaps you will have the chance to see these and more quizzing skills in action, at a fundraising event for Greater Manchester Law Centre and the Cheetham Hill Advice Centre.

It’s on Thursday the 27th of April 2017 from 6.30 pm at the Pie and Ale Beer Hall on Lever Street, in the heart of the Northern Quarter.

Tickets will be available on Eventbrite soon priced at £5 for those on a low income and £15 for everyone else – or you can just come along on the night and pay at the door. Your ticket price includes entry to the quiz (bring your own team or join a team on the night), some mezze-style snacks and some great entertainment including a raffle (tickets available on the night).

As an added bonus, it’s Happy Hour until 8pm, whatever that means.

Now, what were the two capital cities named after American presidents?

NAWRA annual report now available ahead of this Fridays NAWRA meeting.

GMWRAG has previously advised members of the next NAWRA meeting which takes place in Durham this Friday the 3rd of March 2017. Oh yes we did 😦 You can find the details here.

Ahead of the meeting you can now peruse (perhaps on a train) the 2016 annual report authored by Alan Markey. This is available for download from https://gmwrag.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/annual-report-2016.pdf otherwise known as here!

Enjoy the meeting.

Local showing of “I, Daniel Blake”.

GMWRAG members will doubtless be familiar with the excellent and tireless work of Charlotte Hughes. Those of you who aren’t should check out her blog “The poor side of life”.

On Friday the 20th of January 2017 Charlotte has organised a one off showing of “I, Daniel Blake”. If GMWRAG has members who don’t know of Charlotte and don’t know of the film then we will find some way of rescinding your membership in due course 🙂

Suffice to say this is a free to view screening of the award winning Ken Loach film. With exceptional writing by Paul Laverty, and equally impressive acting by Dave Johns and Hayley Squires it shows the harsh reality of having to live whilst caught up in the cruel and complicated benefit system. That bloke has come a long way since GMWRAG first spotted him at the Buzz Club in Chorlton.

You will cry, so bring a tissue, and you will never forget watching this film.

We will also be showing the film that we made with The Guardian to go alongside this magnificent film. You might recognise some faces. This is also a powerful film.

Donation on the door if you can afford it. All donations going to fund food parcels that are handed out each week.

The performance will be from 7:30pm to approximately 10:30pm and will take place at Broadoak Community Centre, Broadoak Road, Ashton-under-Lyne OL6 8RS.

Whilst the performance is free you will need to register in order to attend and you can do this via https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/i-daniel-blake-film-screening-tickets-30812516065?aff=efbevent.

Read the reviews at IMDb but if you’re not yet convinced then by all means watch the trailer below. Excellent Rightsnet discussion can also be found here.

And in keeping with the theme of lateness… there’s a NAWRA meeting tomorrow.

The next NAWRA meeting takes place on Friday the 2nd of December 2016 at Staffordshire University in Stoke on Trent.

Agenda

Film screening

There will be a special, free screening of The Divide at 7.15pm on Thursday the 1st of December 2016 (yes, that’s tonight). The screening is in room R001 in the Science Centre on Leek Road:

The Divide tells the story of 7 individuals striving for a better life in the modern day US and UK – where the top 0.1% owns as much wealth as the bottom 90%. By plotting these tales together, the film uncovers how virtually every aspect of our lives is controlled by one factor: the size of the gap between rich and poor.

If you would like to attend the screening please email Richard Machin before 6pm on the 30th of November 2016 so that he can reserve you a space. We know this is too late but equally we’re sure it’s worth a go even at this late stage.

You must be a member of NAWRA to attend the meeting. If you are not already a member, find out more about joining.

Radical Readings

Radical Readings in  progressGMWRAG has generally been good over the past year publicising theatrical and cinematic events related to rights based advice work. We know many of you took the opportunity to attend events like Powerlines and Wish List. Indeed GMWRAG followers who have been paying attention will be aware that Cardboard Citizen’s “Cathy” is imminent. Welfare reform can at least take credit for some powerful art if nothing else especially positive.

Unfortunately, GMWRAG managed to attend one such event and forgot to tell members about it. We’re going to tell you about it now and hope that you’ll anticipate and book a place on the next one in 2017. The event in question was the second ever “Radical Readings” and it took place at the University of Salford as a fundraiser for the Working Class Movement Library in Salford on Sunday the 27th of November 2016.

Christopher Eccleston, Sheila Hancock, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Mike Joyce and Maxine Peake, who are all strong supporters of the Library, participated in an afternoon of prose, poetry and drama telling stories of radicalism and revolution.

Following on from 2014’s fantastically successful fundraiser for the Library  the audience were treated to old favourites, Ewan MacColl, Robert Roberts, Shelagh Delaney, Harold Brighouse and many more, as well as readings on such diverse subjects as Peterloo, the Spanish Civil War, Engels’s view of the Salford slums, and memories of Broad Street and Rat Week…

Maxine Peake, who is also a Trustee of the Library, said; ‘It is always a pleasure and an honour to take part in the Radical Reading and support the wonderful and invaluable resource that is the Working Class Movement Library. A building we should all be proud of’.

There is a comprehensive report of the event on the Salford Star web site. It’s hoped that the next event will include music as well as readings, prose and poetry.

If you would like to know more about the WCML please check out their web site or email them at trustees@wcml.org.uk. Indeed, if you’re really interested then this Saturday, the 3rd of December 2016, they are running a free event called Looking Back at the Grunwick Strike 1976-1978. Click on the lick for more information.

GMWRAG promises to try to stay more abreast of such things in 2017.  Why are we posting such stuff? How is it relevant to welfare rights advisers? Take you pick.

“Any fool can be happy. It takes a man with real heart to make beauty out of the stuff that makes us weep.” – Clive Barker, Days of Magic, Nights of War.

“Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.” – Pablo Picasso.

A new workshop: “Putting the security back into social security”.

This is one of eight workshops being held in different parts of the country, supported by the UK Social Policy Association.

The workshop is free but places are limited so registration is essential and can be done by following this EventBrite link. Turning up without a ticket is not an option. If you don’t have an EventBrite account it’s easy enough to create one and download the app to your phone or tablet. This will save you carrying paper round on the day and give you an electronic ticket. If that fries your brain then alternatively, print off the attachment to your EventBrite confirmation planet and pretend it didn’t contain one of those trite warning about thinking before you printed it off!

The workshop: takes place on Monday the 5th of  December 2016 between 1.30pm and 4.30pm at the University of Salford, MediaCityUK, Salford Quays M50 2HE.

Details: What practical, concrete steps can be taken to put the security back into social security – in the short to medium term (and if this includes additional costs, how can it be funded)? is the question this workshop will tackle. It is for anyone interested in answers to the workshop question: front-line advisers, anti-poverty campaigners, practitioners, people with expertise by experience, policy-makers and academics.
 
Background: The issue of social security is fundamental to social policy. The recasting of social security as problematic, and now toxic, ‘welfare’ – which fails to prevent hunger, never mind ensure security – is well documented. A recent report “Secure and Free: 5+ steps to make the desirable feasible.” found that on issues such as housing and early childhood education and care, there are many ideas available within civil society and much consensus. However, on the core issue of social security in relation to income, the same is not the case.
  
The aim of this workshop is to:

·         identify immediately available answers to the workshop question;
·         create a community of interest around this issue; and
·         plan next steps.

The workshop will be based on participatory approaches including small group work, consensus building activities and so on. It will be introduced by Michael Orton, author of Secure & Free, with co-hosts Lisa Scullion (University of Salford) and Neil McInroy (Centre for Local Economic Strategies).

This is an exciting opportunity to generate, and build consensus around, practical and positive ideas. As noted above, the workshop is free but places are limited and registration is essential by following this link.

If you can’t find the information on EventBrite (although you should be able to) please consider contacting michael.orton@warwick.ac.uk, directly. Michael is author of “Secure and Free: 5+ steps to make the desirable feasible.”

For more information about the Social Policy Association, its work and how to become a member, visit www.social-policy.org.uk.

All capital ‘W’ letters from the word “Workshop” have been removed this post because GMWRAG found it really annoying. This has involved great diligence from GMWRAG and we apologise if anyone thinks we should put them all back, but… NO! 🙂