Tidying up October. The housekeeping email and a short notice invite from PLP.

GMWRAG would like to thank all those involved in the organisation of the recent meeting in Trafford which can officially be designated the best attended in our history. On that basis we’d also like to thank those who attended and participated for the whole day. The minutes of the meeting have already been received and, as anyone who attended could imagine, there is a lot of detail to take in. GMWRAG is conscious that we may have missed some questions to Neil Couling and some answers so before publication of the final minutes we’re asking members to send in any notes you took on the day. So this doesn’t run on for too long please email us at GMWRAG at Hotmail dot co dot UK no later than Friday the 9th of November 2018.

Preparations for the January 2019 meeting in Tameside/central Manchester are at an advanced stage and we’ll publicise those as soon as we can. Rumours that Esther McVey will be in attendance can (largely) be discounted. We’re saving her for Stockport 🙂

In the meantime, could any GMWRAG members who attended the recent Manchester Tribunal User Group meeting please email any notes taken as regards who attended from HMCTS and details of any questions and answers.

This leads us on neatly to a short notice but really important invitation from the Public Law Project.

Previous GMWRAG speaker (and the first person to be streamed live from a GMWRAG meeting) Matthew Ahluwalia would like to invite a GMWRAG member to a presentation, debate and discussion on online courts and tribunals and HMCTS’ digitalisation programme. PLP is organising the event.

PLP will provide some reading material in advance and make a presentation to start the discussion. They will then invite questions, comments and concerns inviting those present to share their views, and discuss their own work that may involve or be affected by the digitalisation programme.

If there are particular issues about online courts and the reform programme you would like discussed, please let them know and we will try to allocate some time on the agenda.

Time, date and location: 2.30pm to 4.30pm, Friday 9th November, at Herbert Smith Freehills, Exchange House, Primrose Street, London EC2A 2EG.

This event will be free of charge. Please note however that there is the offer of just the one place for one GMWRAG member.

Please could you RSVP by 2nd November so that we can confirm numbers with the venue. In order to keep this manageable we suggest you email GMWRAG or DM us via @GMWRAGTweets and we’ll pass on the details of the first contact we have to Matt.

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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.

Forget Rhianna. You need a Parasol.

GMWRAG clearly doesn’t post enough about some bits of Manchester. We just had to add Harpurhey to our spell checker!

Parasol (@ProjectParasol on social meejah) is working closely with European nationals and finding better ways to engage with them effectively on various topics.  More details of their latest project to promote dialogue and friendship between European nationals and their neighbours in Harpurhey are highlighted below.  Please get in touch if GMWRAG members would like more information about their activities or are interested in learning whether they can start something up in their area or assist them with their clients.

Our event is not specifically about advice provision but Harpurhey Neighbourhood Project is a community centre where advice services are provided under the remit of the North Manchester Partnership.

You are also invited to a local stakeholder event which Parasol is co-hosting at Harpurhey Neighbourhood Project on Tuesday the 16th of October 2018 from 12.30pm to 15.30pm. Harpurhey Together is promoting dialogue and co-operation between local residents in one of the poorest wards in the UK – in this case, between long-standing North Mancunians and relative newcomers from Central and Eastern Europe.  This event is a follow-up to our previous community research which identified some of the serious challenges facing European nationals in Greater Manchester – including labour exploitation, modern slavery and human trafficking.  Please let them know if you would like more details about the research findings.

In their latest initiative in Harpurhey, we are encouraging people to listen to the voices of local residents as well as migrants who have recently moved into the neighbourhood – both sets of voices tend to be either ignored or given a low priority in multi-agency working.  It would be great if they can extend this initial pilot into a more permanent conversation and partnership set-up.  They welcome interest from anyone who can help us to consolidate or develop this initiative and possibly pilot similar conversations and projects involving local residents or neighbours from diverse backgrounds in other areas of Greater Manchester.

Harpurhey Together is supported by Near Neighbours and is being held at Harpurhey Neighbourhood Project, Carisbrook St, Harpurhey, Manchester, M9 5UX in co-operation with the Open Culture Project.  To book a place, please reply to me or e-mail Graeme at HNP at harpurhey@aol.com or contact him on 07460 988 31.

GMWRAG is fairly confident there’s a number missing from that phone number but WROs work with maths all day. You’ll figure it out.

GMWRAG attending the Nystagmus Network Open Day once again.

GMWRAG has once again been invited to attend the Nystagmus Network Open Day on Saturday the 29th of September 2018 in Birmingham at the Macdonald Burlington Hotel and we’ll be running 2 workshops and a drop in session. The 1st workshop will be for parents of children with Nystagmus and will focus on claiming DLA. The 2nd, unsurprisingly, will focus on claiming PIP for adults. In-between we will be trying to grab some lunch and running a drop in session for people who couldn’t make the workshops.

As a consequence of our attendance a slightly amended version of our booklet on DLA, PIP and Nystagmus is now available. However, the main reason we’re publicising our attendance at said event is to remind people that GMWRAG members are available to attend events; give talks and maybe even provide (chargeable) training across the North West and occasionally further afield if practical and there are no alternatives closer to home.

Final preparation for the GMWRAG meeting in Trafford. Final agenda now available.

Everything is now in place for the next GMWRAG meeting in Trafford on Friday the 19th of October 2018. As usual this is a full day. Most of the details you need to attend can be found in our previous post.

The minutes of the last meeting remain available in the usual place and, as ever, we would prefer that you print these off in advance and bring them with you to the meeting to minimise the work of the meeting hosts. The agenda for the day is also now available and can be downloaded from here. As with the minutes, please bring your own copy if you can.

As per previous posts, this is going to be a busy meeting with a very tight agenda in a limited space. Anyone who turns up on the day assuming they can roll up spontaneously as per most GMWRAG meetings may find that we cannot accommodate them. We appreciate this is unusual but the room holds a maximum of 50 people and we are confident we already have 45 plus people attending including our 4 guests.

Equally, please do not turn up just for our guest speaker. 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 unmanageable. If you wish to attend please contact GMWRAG via the usual routes.

Rumours that we’ve ordered a take out from the food hall at the Trafford Centre at lunch time are wholly unfounded, although if anyone wants to offer…

GMWRAG attempts to bend time and space. 2019 here we come with another big announcement.

GMWRAG is busy compiling a list of the many UC issues you have kindly sent us in order to put together a draft agenda for our October meeting in Trafford to agree with the office of our special guest, Neil Couling, the Director General of the Universal Credit Programme.

In the meantime, we are pleased to announce initial details of the January 2019 GWMRAG meeting and we hope GMWRAG members will be as excited by this as we are.

GMWRAG, Tameside WRS, NWMHWRAG and GMSCG presents

“Everyday Equality: challenging discrimination in the welfare benefits system” featuring Jo Chimes and a whole lot more.

The meeting is hosted by Tameside. It is a full day event and will take place at the LGBT Foundation, 5 Richmond Street, Manchester, M1 3HF on Friday the 18th of January 2019 We’ll be open for refreshments, networking and juicy gossip for 9:30am with a planned running time of 10am to 4pm.

This will be the northern version of the excellent event run for those grim southerners by Jo in May 2018. You can read more about that here and we recommend all potential attendees download a copy of the absolutely invaluable “Practical Equality Rights in Welfare Benefits Advice” in advance of attending.

As we’re limited to 50 attendees we’ll be using a GMWRAG Eventbrite account and asking people to book through that for the first time. There is no cost attached to this. It’s just a practical way of managing numbers. As NWMHWRAG members attempted to book Jo first we’re going to attempt to put out some early bird tickets exclusively for them but no promises on that. We’re still figuring it out. Registration is not yet available. We will post when it goes live.

An agenda for the day plus details of any additional speakers will be posted as soon as finalised but you can realistically expect this to be post the Trafford meeting in October as that is currently fully occupying the GMWRAG hive mind.

CPAG Welfare Rights Conference 2018 and some ideas for our October 2018 meeting in Trafford.

Welfare Rights Conference 2018

Universally discredited – How can we make the failing universal credit work for families?

In Manchester on Thursday the 13th of September 2018.

Book now

Despite a growing avalanche of evidence that universal credit (UC) is causing hardship and pushing thousands of children and their families further into poverty, the roll out of UC continues.

The National Audit Office found that one in every five claimants do not receive their full payment on time and the DWP’s own research highlights that just over half of claimants are able to register their claim online without assistance.

With ‘managed’ migration due to start in July 2019, the administrative and systemic problems with UC will only be magnified.

This conference will give delegates the opportunity to discuss the latest developments and hear from political leaders, policy makers and experts in the field on how best to support and advise UC claimants in such a hostile and challenging environment.

For more details on the planned workshops and programme, together with instructions on how to book your place, please see below.

Workshops

Delegates will have the opportunity to attend two workshops from the four listed below.

Claiming UC: now and under managed migration – “the one in five” failure rate 

Martin Williams, Welfare Rights Worker at CPAG

DWP Figures show 20% of people who attempt to claim UC are refused due to failing to attend or book an interview or for other administrative reasons. With the proposed regulations on “Managed Migration” requiring claimants of legacy benefits to submit claims for UC when notified to do so, rather than a process of automatically transferring them to the new benefit, this is particularly worrying.

In this workshop we will look at:

  • The UC claims process and how DWP handling of this issue arguably differs from what is in the regulations.
  • Challenging decisions “closing” claims.
  • The proposed managed migration rules on claiming and foreseeable problems claimants are likely to encounter when instructed to claim UC.
  • Possibilities for strategic litigation in this area.
Right to reside and habitual residence tests for UC
Rebecca Walker, Author and Trainer at CPAG
Many EEA nationals are being refused universal credit on the basis that they are not accepted as being habitually resident or having a qualifying right to reside – even when they were previously receiving legacy benefits.
This workshop will consider some of the current issues including:
  • The way the residence tests operate for UC
  • Issues for claimants previously receiving legacy benefits
  • Particular groups experiencing difficulties such as EEA nationals not considered to be working enough and those seeking to claim on the basis of a derivative right to reside
Tactics for dealing with UC sanctions
Dan Norris, Welfare Rights Worker at CPAG
Sanctions are a significant problem for the increasing number of universal credit claimants. Focussing on work related requirement sanctions, this workshop will give advisers the skills to support clients who have been sanctioned or are in danger of being sanctioned.
  • How the UC sanctions regime has increased pressure on claimants
  • How to agree work related requirements to reduce the threat of sanctions
  • Which temporary suspension of work related requirements can help your client
  • Reducing the duration of sanctions
  • Challenging sanctions
UC and disability
Simon Osborne, Welfare Rights Worker at CPAG, and Steph Pike, Acting Head of Advice and Rights at CPAG
This workshop looks at some of the main rules, problems and solutions regarding UC for people with disabilities. It aims to cover recent developments and also to allow participants to share experience and views.
Topics covered include:
  • The WCA and transfers from ESA to UC
  • UC and severe disability  – the latest
  • Problems and solutions in practice (work, study and others)
Programme
09.15 – 10.00 Arrival, registration, coffee and exhibition stand viewing
10:00 – 11.15 Host welcome and keynote speakers (tbc)
11.15 – 11.30 Refreshment break and viewing of exhibition stands
11.30 – 12.45 Workshops – morning session
12.45 – 13.30 Lunch and viewing of exhibition stands
13.30 – 14.45 Workshops – afternoon session
14.45 – 15.00 Refreshment break and viewing of exhibition stands
15.00 – 16.00 Panel discussion and Q&A
As a precursor to all of the above, attendees may wish to read CPAGs summary of the 8 main UC issues identified by their Early Warning System. Some, but not all, of these issues may be relevant to bring into the room for our October 2018 meeting in Trafford. Either way they’ll provide some focus to initial thoughts.
Confirmed Speakers

Manchester

Kate Green MP, Labour MP for Stretford and Urmston
Graham Witham , Director of Greater Manchester Poverty Action
Dr Lisa Scullion, Reader in Social Policy, University of Salford

Venue
Our Manchester venue is the University of Manchester Innovation Centre, Core Technology Facility, 46 Grafton Street, Manchester, M13 9NT
Our London venue is Herbert Smith Freehills, Exchange House, Primrose Street, London, EC2A 2EG
Exhibition Space

There will be an exhibition space hosting exhibitors showcasing their work, products and services. If you are interested in exhibiting, please email Sebastien at sclark@cpag.org.uk.

Booking a place

Delegate tickets, which include a choice of four expert workshops, teas, coffees, buffet lunch and conference materials, start from £150.00 for voluntary organisations and £195 for statutory and lawyers.

To book your place(s) please complete the online booking form here.

Please note that bookings cannot be processed until you have selected your workshops, and workshops will be filled on a first-come, first-serve basis.

A human rights approach to welfare conditionality.

Greater Manchester Strategic Casework Group members Sian Jordan and Jo Chimes recently went to the Welfare Conditionality conference in York  and presented a paper. The PowerPoint presentation and the paper itself have kindly been made available to GMWRAG and we think they are well worth sharing, particularly in the context of the approach being advocated by GMSCG itself. The conference website also has the slides and paper along with lots of other really great presentations which are well worth a read.

In the meantime have a read of

A rights based approach to conditionality – the presentation.

A human rights based approach to conditionality – the paper.

and lets not forget the fantastic Welfare Conditionality site itself.

Those of you with an ongoing interest can follow the work @EqualityACRH on Twitter as well as Jo herself @chimesjo. Both the above documents will be permanently available as part of the GMSCG pages where we have just this minute added a News page for exactly what Father Ted would call “this sort of thing”.

“… supportive eye rolling”.

GMWRAG is having an enjoyable “long post” period and our recent UC post was given considerable traction by social media so we’re not going to apologise for the length of this one.

Once again we offer thanks to our friends at Righstnet but before reading this it’s worth understanding what a UN Special Rapporteur actually is else the significance of the person and the action may not register.

The title Special Rapporteur is given to individuals working on behalf of the UN within the scope of “special procedure” mechanisms who have a specific country or thematic mandate from the United Nations Human Rights Council. The term “rapporteur” is a French-derived word for an investigator who reports to a deliberative body.

The mandate from the UN has been to “examine, monitor, advise, and publicly report” on human rights problems through “activities undertaken by special procedures, including responding to individual complaints, psychological operations and manipulation via the controlled media and academia, conducting studies, providing advice on technical cooperation at the country level, and engaging in general promotional activities.”

Yes, you read that right. “… human rights problems… individual complaints, psychological operations and manipulations”. Worth bearing that in mind the day after the Public Accounts Committee heard the following surreal statements regarding Universal Credit.

“Q96 – Luke Graham MP: why do you think that food bank footfall is increasing in areas where we have full-service Universal Credit?

Peter Schofield: I don’t know. It is a really good question …”

“Q132 – Peter Schofield: …. just because you can’t measure something, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

Gareth Snell MP: Like hardship?”

“Q146 – Shabana Mahmood MP: Mr Schofield and Mr Couling, just thinking about the demeanour with which you are giving evidence today, has it ever occurred to you that a little humility and a willingness to listen might go a long way towards rebuilding some trust in this process?

Chair: Mr Schofield.

Peter Schofield: No, look, well, I—

Chair: No. Thank you. That was very cat out of the bag.”

“Q160 – Chair: Perhaps you can help us out by saying which of the stakeholders and organisations are only raising issues because they don’t approve of the policy. Which of the organisations that we heard from earlier, or that you have heard from, are doing this because they don’t agree with Government policy and actually want to undermine it? Do you want to name them? It would help us to know which ones are doing that.

Peter Schofield: No, I don’t particularly want to name them here …”

“Q225 – Chair: What worries you about that? We have covered some of that today, but what genuinely worries you about what could go wrong there? A lot could go wrong. Every individual is different.

Neil Couling: I worry about the perception of Universal Credit. I am on record saying I am worried about how some of the debate is carrying on and what that is doing to claimants, making them quite fearful. There are a large number of people who will gain from this move over to Universal Credit, getting higher entitlements, but all of the media noise about it is making people quite fearful and I am worried about that…”

“Neil Couling: Yes, and I think we have good policy here, but that may be because I am the one who gave this advice.

Chair: I record for the record the eye-rolling of the permanent secretary.

Peter Schofield: It was a supportive eye-rolling. You will see that on the video afterwards.”

Anyways…

The United Nations Special Rapporteur, Professor Philip Alston (and you can read more about him here), is seeking evidence relating to poverty and human rights ahead of his UK visit in November 2018. Particular areas of interest include austerity and the implementation of Universal Credit.

Professor Alston’s visit – which will take place between the 6th and 16th of November 2018 – will focus on the interlinkages between poverty and the realisation of human rights in the UK.

Calling for written submissions by Friday the 14th of September 2018, Professor Alston highlights a number of themes to focus on, including austerity and universal credit, and he asks –

  • have austerity measures implemented by the government taken adequate account of the impact on vulnerable groups and reflected efforts to minimize negative effects for those groups and individuals?
  • what have the effects of austerity been on poverty (and inequality) levels in the UK in the last decade?
  • have the human rights of individuals experiencing poverty been affected by austerity measures?
  • how have local governments been affected by austerity measures in the last decades by, for example, administration of the welfare system?
  • what alternatives to austerity might have been considered by governments in the last decade that might have had a more positive impact on poverty (and inequality) levels in the United Kingdom?
  • what has the impact of universal credit been on poverty and the lives of the poor in the UK until now, particularly considering specific groups, including for example children, persons with disabilities, women and other groups which may be more vulnerable on the basis of their identity and circumstances?
  • what has been the impact of universal credit being a ‘digital-only benefit’ on the ability of potential claimants to apply for this benefit?
  • what has the impact been of various forms of ‘welfare conditionality’ in the context of universal credit in terms of incentivising work?
  • to what extent has the introduction of universal credit reduced the incidence of fraud and error in the welfare system?

For more information see Visit by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from 6 to 16 November 2018 from the UN website. You could also perhaps tweet him @Alston_UNSR.