NAWRA coming to the North West of England.

It has been a couple of months since GMWRAG posted anything in respect of our friends at NAWRA. Details of future NAWRA meetings have caught our eye though because early in March 2019 NAWRA will be coming to your area (the North West of England) and to Salford in particular. We will be playing an active role in publicising said meeting but in the meantime details of the next two NAWRA meetings are below.

The next meeting will take place from 10am-4pm (registration from 9.30am) on Friday the 7th of September 2018 at Renfield St Stephen’s Centre, 260 Bath St, Glasgow G2 4JP (hosted by Glasgow City Council).

Following that meeting the next two meetings will be

Durham on Friday the 7th of December 2018 which will be held at Town Hall, Market Place, Durham DH1 3NJ (hosted by Durham County Council) and then Salford on Friday the 1st of March 2019.

Further details to follow as we have them.

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Some sad news for GMWRAG members.

GMWRAG is very sad indeed to report that Steve Ogden, formerly of Tameside Welfare Rights Service, passed away on the 18th of May 2018.

Starting his working life as an electrician, Steve had to change his occupation following a serious motor bike accident in which his left arm was paralysed. He became a welfare rights officer and advocate in employment tribunals, managing for some years the independent Welfare Rights Unit in Hyde, Tameside. He later moved to a welfare rights officer role at Tameside Council, where he was a member of the Unite union.

As well as a working life dedicated to supporting others, he did voluntary work with the innovative Manchester homelessness charity, Lifeshare, and later in a service supporting victims of child abuse.

Steve has served as Treasurer, Membership Secretary and Vice-Chair of Left Unity in Stockport. He also took roles at national level as a member of the Party’s Disputes Committee and its Trade Union Commission.

Steve developing ideas for a Solidarity drop-in in Stockport. From his work as a welfare rights officer specialising in mental health, Steve had identified a need for support for claimants of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) with the forms that have to be completed.

In the two and a half years since, Solidarity Drop-in (every Monday in Disability Stockport on High Street) has gone from strength to strength and has helped nearly 500 people navigate the PIP/ESA assessment treadmill. An enormous amount of the credit for this success goes to Steve.

We send our sincerest and deepest sympathy and condolences to his family and to all of his many friends and comrades.

Steve helped set up the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group nearly 20 years ago and has been one of the main organisers ever since.  He continued to attend, and bring new people with him, even after he took early retirement.

Steve was a committed campaigner for social justice – both in his work and outside of it.  He volunteered with Tameside, Oldham and Glossop MIND.  He joined the campaign against cuts to mental health services in Stockport which was successful. He helped to set up Stockport United Against Austerity which campaigns against welfare reform and all cuts to public services. As a lifelong Manchester United fan, Steve was very pleased with the title of that group.
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Outside of work he loved to play badminton and squash. He loved hiking and he was an avid Manchester United fan. As a result of his accident he could not drink due to medication, but whenever he met someone new and the conversation turned to alcohol he would state (with a mischievous half smile) “I don’t drink since I found god” and would start to sing “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam”. It would take about 2 minutes to realise he was joking.

Steve will be greatly missed. Colleagues wishing to pay their respects should be aware that his funeral takes place on Tuesday the 5th of June 2018 at 12.45pm at Cyprus Chapel, Stockport Crematorium Buxton Road SK2 6LS. Burial takes place at 13.45 followed by a wake at 14.15 at the Waterside Hotel and Leisure Club, Wilmslow Road Didsbury M20 5WZ.

GMWRAG would like to thank Helen Rogers of Stockport Advice and Stephen Adams-Corbett of Tameside Welfare Rights Service for their kind permission to use their words to pay tribute to Steve. We are bitterly disappointed to be unable to use one of the many great photos of Steve which people have gathered over the years.

The Equality and Diversity Forum launch “Practical Equality Rights in Welfare Benefits” handbook.

Equality and Diversity Forum have now launched their ground-breaking online handbook, Practical Equality Rights in Welfare Benefits Advice, to help everyone providing advice or information on welfare benefits to use equality rights to solve everyday discrimination problems. The handbook is part of the Everyday Equality project, funded by the EHRC.

What is the Practical Equality Rights in Welfare Benefits Advice handbook?

For welfare benefits advisers and information providers working in community groups and advice organisations, the handbook has tips and tools about identifying discrimination. For advisers we have case studies, checklist and tools to help you use the Equality Act to solve your client’s everyday problems in a practical way.

For advice managers, the handbook has a new guide about managing and improving the delivery of discrimination advice.

The handbook also includes a new guide to demonstrating the equality impact of welfare benefits advice, using the Equality and Human Rights Commission Measurement Framework, an A-Z of Equality Rights, a directory of equality resources, FAQs, four downloadable posters, and a downloadable ‘quick guide’.

What’s next?

They are developing a short set of materials to help advice agencies to use the new online handbook and to raise awareness with their advisers. If you are interested in piloting or using these materials please let us know: jo.chimes@edf.org.uk

They are hoping to run a small event later in the year, in Manchester. If you are interested in taking part or attending, please let them know: jo.chimes@edf.org.uk

They would be pleased to hear from you with questions, suggestions and feedback on the handbook. Please contact them at info@edf.org.uk.

View our online handbook or download our quick guide (pdf).

To stay in touch with their work, and for updates to the handbook:

GMWRAG starts a running thing. Hearts sink everywhere.

Following a post on here yesterday, GMWRAG member Rob Jenkins reports a small but effective surge in interest in sponsoring his attempt to raise money for The Wellspring as previously reported here. 

This means he’s actually reached his target (although that doesn’t mean potential sponsors can now look away) but the pressure is now on as he reports that

“Great news on my last run out before the big day. I was going up a bit of a hill, and I OVERTOOK someone. He was a bit younger than me, as well, and looked surprised. Then another runner with a heavy backpack ran past at about twice my speed – but he might not be in the race, so no need to worry just yet.”

Excitement on this can be countered by the statement that

“My race pack arrived today, and turns out I’ve been placed to start at the back, with the duffers and no-hopers who aren’t necessarily expected to finish at all. To add insult, my race number has a “Where’s Wally” theme. At least it will stand out on the telly, as I surge through the crowd to take top spot. Either that, or I’ll be relying on a big ‘chip time’ adjustment.”

Further bad news for Rob is that sales of British eggs are apparently on the up and dramatically so. We are most definitely labelling this the “GMWRAG effect”.

As an alternative to this frivolity, GMWRAG can now offer a further sponsorship opportunity to members desperate to invest in something resembling actual running. Actually, we’re not sure on that last bit but bear with us.

Yasmin Green of Salford Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Service “roped” Kate Anstee and Sean Finnigan of the same service into running the Great Manchester 10k run on Sunday the 20th of May 2018 in order to raise money for our friends at Greater Manchester Law Centre. We’ve no idea what terrible secret she knows about the other two which persuaded them into this folly but we’re working on it.

GMWRAG has also yet to figure out why Rob was dumb enough to volunteer to run further when a mere 10k was available but we won’t tell him if you won’t!

Whereas Rob has offered comedy in return for cash (and a possible refund if he wins) Yasmin, Kate and Sean are offering “… dedication and inspiration in the middle of Manchester, where some of you might like to meet us in a bar afterwards”. Three strangers in a bar or Where’s Wally? It’s a tough call! 🙂

You can sponsor Kate on her Just Giving page where she’ll tell you more about GMLC.

Alternatively you can sponsor Sean via HIS Just Giving page and maybe add a bit extra so he can get that shirt clean. We’re thinking that where Kate referred to inspiration Sean is offering only perspiration. Irresistible we’re sure you’ll agree. On the other hand, Sean has tried to con sponsors by suggesting he will be running “… a bit in freezing weather”. We know that this isn’t true and we think you should rack up the pressure by sponsoring him and making him run and finish in 20 plus degree heat as a punishment.

Yasmin on the other hand has at least been brutally honest.

“I hate running, I am rubbish at it and will be miserable all the way round to the pub at the end. I am willing to put myself through the embarrassment of being passed by panto horses and people being pushed on hospital beds because I want to help GMLC raise funds.”

This seems eminently reasonable to GMWRAG.

It could of course be worse. She might even be passed by Kate and Sean! You can sponsor Yasmin at Just Giving. We’re hopeful GMWRAG can retweet and maybe even post here some exciting sweaty pictures from @ansteekate; @objenkinsrob and @7yas on the day but if not we’ll be asking Sean for evidence that he’s washed the shirt before running!

GMWRAG notes that no-one from GMLC appears to be running or even walking. We’ll be having words 🙂

Do the right thing!

GMWRAG member Rob Jenkins recently made the terrible error of judgement of including GMWRAG in a round robin email advising that he was about to run a likely very warm half marathon this coming weekend in aid of local resource centre “The Wellspring” – a charity for the homeless; near homeless and disadvantaged.

Rob advises that he can be sponsored via Just Giving

“Any contributions would be amazing – or just turn up and throw something at me as I go past. But not eggs. I don’t like eggs.”

When GMWRAG pointed out that this was an open invitation to GMWRAG to post his email as it stood he, perhaps recklessly, responded that

“That sounds like an invitation to the whole of the Welfare Rights community to throw eggs at me, but why the hell not. It’s a bit ‘It’s a Knockout’ but I’ve got form there too, dressed up as Batman in a field in suburban Newcastle under Lyme.”

When GMWRAG responded that all this was going into a post, matters were compounded with the words

“My then colleague Geoff was Robin, and I seem to remember having wet sponges thrown at us.”

Rob, it appears, doesn’t know when to stop. An approach that may indeed serve him well this coming weekend.

Now GMWRAG members, plenty of options to ponder there. We’re inclined to go with suggesting a donation but it’s a close run thing. As you can see, Rob is anxiously keenly awaiting your responses.

As an added incentive we note that Rob has posted on the aforesaid page that

“As a special offer, I’ve decided that if I win the race I will agree to reimburse all my kind sponsors the full amount of their donations.   It’s a little unlikely, but they do say it’s a good course for a personal best.

That said, I’m over 50 now, and the bunions don’t get any less painful.”

By gmwragauthor Posted in Event

Dennis Skinner in Manchester for Salford.

Dennis Skinner is appearing at a fundraiser in Manchester to show support for the Eccles based Salford Unemployed and Community Resource Centre (SUCRC)

Following the successful Ken Loach evening at the Moston Miners Centre recently which raised over £6,000, Dennis Skinner appears within the same format – a showing of his film, The Beast of Bolsover, followed by a live Q and A session. There are other speakers and live acts, including comedian Smug Roberts, The Northern Rambler, From Carbon and Argh KidPaula Barker NW Unison and
Salford MP Rebecca Long Bailey are also supporting the event and speaking.

“It’s so good to have the support of so many good and famous people who come from the working class” says Alec McFadden, SUCRC Manager.

The Centre represents and helps people who have problems with benefits, sanctions, work issues, homelessness and more…

“… we fight on, defending the interests of our vulnerable clients” McFadden adds

Dennis Skinner and Friends
Friday 20th April from 6:30pm
Moston Miners Community Arts Centre

35 Teddington Road, Manchester M40 0DJ

Tickets £20 – to book – click here

For further details also see the Facebook event page – click here

Two events in the next 48 hours.

Tonight – the 19th of April 2018
Sanctions, Support, & Service Leavers: First wave findings event
University of Salford, Media City, 5pm-8.30pm.

The campaigning Dr Lisa Scullion is lead member of this research project.

sign in for tonight’s event via eventbrite

Website for more info:
http://www.welfareconditionality.ac.uk

Tomorrow – the 20th of April 2018 at 18:00pm
Legal Aid and the Future of Free Access to Justice:

An event by the Greater Manchester Law Centre with Lord Bach, Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon MP, and Young Legal Aid Lawyers Vice-Chair Siobhán Taylor-Ward, and Joe Mensah-Dankwah.

Tickets can be obtained via Eventbrite but please note that there is a charge for this event, which takes place at the University of Law, just off Piccadilly Gardens: 2 New York St, Manchester M1 4HJ.

Everyone welcome: lawyers, campaigners, students, and everyone else interested in access to justice.

Everyday Equality Conference… and…

GMWRAG invites you to Equality and Diversity Forum’s Everyday Equality conference on the 10th of May 2018 in London. They will be launching our groundbreaking online handbook: Practical Equality Rights in Welfare Benefits Advice, a tool to help information and advice providers use equality and human rights to solve everyday discrimination problems in the welfare benefits system.

The conference will be chaired by Julie Bishop, Director of Law Centres Network and EDF trustee, and other speakers are experts in benefits or discrimination (or both).  (We are awaiting a few confirmations before finalising the agenda, but these definitely including PLPMIND and Steve Hynes from LAG.)

The conference will be held 10.30am-4pm, at NCVO, 8 All Saints St, London. I have attached our draft agenda for the event.

It is appreciated that this event is in London but GMWRAG would be more than happy to arrange to chat and or do a presentation in Manchester, about the project and the handbook and several of our members are already lobbying for a northern version of this event. Don’t let this put you off signing up for a trip to London as we have nothing confirmed as yet.

The draft agenda can be downloaded from here.

The event is part of the Everyday Equality project funded by the EHRC.

The Equality Exhibition in Stockport.

This is an informative and inspiring exhibition organised by the UK Equality Council and hosted by Centric Community Projects is taking place at St James House on Wellington Road in Stockport.

There is a focus on how disability has been reflected in popular culture across the years, how disabilities can be mental as well as physical, and how science has advanced throughout the years to improve the lives of many affected by disabilities. There is also a great amount of content on race relations in the 21st century, and on how depictions of race in the media have changed over the past few decades. This exhibition also celebrates influential women such as political leaders, scientists and amazing women who have changed our world. There is also a great amount of content on race relations in the 21st century, and on how depictions of race in the media have changed over the past few decades.

The exhibition is free but tickets can be booked via Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-equality-exhibition-tickets-42321134653. It opens on Monday the 29th of January 2018 and runs until Friday the 9th of February 2018, Monday to Friday between 12:00pm and 5:00pm.