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…

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A tug on the heartstrings.

It has come to GMWRAGs attention that the next meeting of the Manchester Tribunal User Group has finally been scheduled for Friday the 26th of October 2018 at 10am. This will be held at Manchester Crown Court Building, Ground Floor, Crown Square off Bridge Street, Manchester M3 3FL. The formal invitation, in case you haven’t received one, can be viewed here. Please note that the 2nd page of the invitation is the means by which you can raise questions in advance.

Such is the infrequency and poor communication around these occasions nowadays that GMWRAG had to have a quick debate about whether it should be catagorised as a meeting or an event! Some of us recall when there were supposed to be 4 TUGs a year and have protested for at least a decade at the reduction to 1 inevitably meaningless meeting per annum. Now it would appear we are down to 1 every 18 months, although that rather assumes that the next 1 will be 18 months away and there appear to be no guarantees on that.

For those of you who need reminding, here is a copy of the minutes of the last meeting and here is a copy of the GMWRAG notes on same. The former took a massive 2 months to produce by which time most of the issues raised had been forgotten. The former took less than 1 day! Granted the former is faster than the speed many statements of reasons and record of proceedings requests are dealt with but it does rather sum up our dilemma with HMCTS Local. On the one hand we would always want to be involved in meaningful liaison. On the other hand it’s inevitable that something which no longer has any recent history of meaningful liaison is now nothing more than a localised broadcast. The less the frequency the more that is true.

This also has to be seen in the context of recent but separate communications from HMCTS belatedly asking WR advisers and their clients to get involved in real world testing of

  • online service design review sessions at your location with clients and /or welfare rights officers, reps, advisors and case workers;
  • Attending workshops to feedback on service design.
  • Identifying appellants who have used the new online ‘Appeal a benefit decision’ service and are willing to provide feedback on it.

What could better sum up the usefulness of our local TUG than the statement in the notes that

“The judiciary already have a forum re: practical issues around digitisation held in the Crown Court. We could feed back into that but TS appeared to welcome the idea of more regular meetings with parties interested in this in order that TS could then feedback issues and suggestions nationally.”

The minutes record that this suggestion would be forwarded “… to the relevant people”. 18 months later and nothing has happened at all in consequence.

Actually, there is 1 thing which could better sum up the current position with HMCTS. The 1st tribunal in 18 months has been listed for a week which is the half term holiday for most schools in the North West of England! GMWRAG would ordinarily be minded to protest but fears that we may never see a TUG in Manchester again were we to do so.

Details of the next meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group.

The next meeting will on Friday the 28th of September 2018 at 9.30am for a 10am start.

We have changed venue. This meeting will be in the Community Room at Central Manchester Fire Station, Cassidy Close off Thompson Street, Manchester M4 5FP.

It’s a short walk from Piccadilly and there is a car park on Thompson Street.

The Community Room has its own entrance. Please don’t enter the Fire Station by any other entrance.

From Cassidy Close you take the first turning on the left. Walk towards the building and then turn left again. You should now be at the back of the building. Walk towards a set of double doors under an overhang. The entrance to the Community Room is on the right just before you reach the double doors.

We don’t have a speaker for this meeting, so it will be an information exchange.

We are looking for a speaker on Universal Credit for a future meeting, so if anyone knows someone who could talk to us about hints and tips on claiming under Full Service, please contact Helen Rogers.

We had been looking for a speaker on the Equality Act and Jo Chimes of the Equality and Diversity Forum has kindly agreed to speak to us. She has worked alongside the Equality and Human Rights Commission on this issue.  As a number of other groups in the area have also approached Jo to speak at their meetings, we are holding this meeting in conjunction with GMWRAG and the Greater Manchester Strategic Casework Group.  This means the meeting will be a day long event and will be on Friday the 18th of January 2019. More details are already available at https://gmwrag.wordpress.com/2018/09/14/gmwrag-attempts-to-bend-time-and-space-2019-here-we-come-with-another-big-announcement although it’s unlikely all NWMHWRAG members can be accommodated as the room holds 50 people and both GMWRAG and GMSCG members will want to attend.

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.

A quick reminder about the next NAWRA meeting in Glasgow.

GMWRAG has mentioned this before but as we’re now much closer to September it’s timely to remind members that the next NAWRA 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).

The guest speaker will be the newly appointed Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People, Shirley-Anne Somerville.

Also speaking is Dr Sharon Wright of Glasgow University, co-author of ‘A hand up or a slap down? Criminalising benefit claimants in Britain via strategies of surveillance, sanctions and deterrence’

Last but not least there is GMSCG leading light Jo Chimes, Project Lead/Legal Adviser at the Equality and Diversity Forum talking “In the small places close to home – making equality rights practical and relevant in welfare benefits advice”.

A. Deductions from universal credit – Daphne Hall (Rightsnet) with thanks to Will Hadwen

Workshop level: Intermediate/Practical

Many universal credit claimants struggle because of the high level of deductions. This workshop will look at:

  •  the current rules for the different deductions;
  •  maximum rates;
  •  how or if we can negotiate with the DWP to reduce them;
  •  and what to do when this isn’t successful.

We’ll also discuss Esther McVey’s commitment to look at this problem.

B. Practical equality rights in welfare benefits advice – Jo Chimes (Equality and Diversity Forum) Workshop level: Introductory/Practical

The Equality and Diversity Forum launched an online handbook, Practical Equality Rights in Welfare Benefits Advice, in May 2018. This workshop will show how the handbook can help everyone working in welfare benefits advice to make practical use of the Equality Act 2010 to solve everyday discrimination problems and fill the ‘discrimination advice gap’.

C. Reg 35 limbo – Scott McInally and Kathryn Gaines (Durham County Council Welfare Rights Service)

Workshop level: Advanced/Practical

Are tribunals lowering the bar for work-related activities making it all but impossible to satisfy regulation 35? Durham Welfare Rights share their experience of Reg 35 appeals and invite you to share yours.

D. Pitfalls and processes with universal credit – Zoey Corker (Sanctuary Housing)

Workshop level: Introductory/Strategic

As it finally rolls out to most of Scotland, Zoey Corker provides us with an insight into processes and pitfalls for claiming universal credit, including Scottish protections.

The full agenda can be found here.

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.

Next meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group.

We’re really going to have to find a more original way of saying this but the next meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group will be on Thursday the 26th of July 2018 at 9.30am for a 10am start.

The venue is Room 226 at Manchester Metropolitan University.

The address is:

Geoffrey Manton Building, Manchester Metropolitan University, 4 Rosamond Street West, Manchester M15 6LL.

There is an entrance on Oxford Road, directly opposite the Aquatics centre, or a wheelchair accessible entrance just off Rosamund St. West. The best place for car parking is the NCP at the Aquatics centre.   There is a café on site where you can buy tea/coffee etc.

IHelen Rogers is going to do a talk on claiming the mobility the mobility component of PIP for claimants with mental health conditions.

Volunteers for chairing and taking the minutes are required.

Initial details of the next GMWRAG meeting now available.

GMWRAG is pleased to confirm that the next GMWRAG meeting will be taking place in October 2018 and will be hosted by Trafford Welfare Rights Service.

The meeting will be a full day meeting with the intention of having two speakers and will take place at the offices of Trafford Housing Trust, Sale Point, 126-150 Washway Road, Sale M33 6AG on Friday the 19th of October 2018. The venue is 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 🙂

A quick reminder also that the minutes from the last meeting have long since been available and can be downloaded from our Minutes page. The agenda for the Trafford meeting will be published here as soon as it’s finalised and if anyone has either a great suggestion for a speaker or any other agenda items please contact GMWRAG in the usual ways.

GMWRAG in Manchester has been cancelled.

We are sorry to announce that, owing to circumstances beyond our control, the next GMWRAG meeting, which was due to take place in Manchester later this month, has been cancelled. Unless anyone fancies stepping into the breach for a late July meeting then the current intention is to allow our meeting rota to run as intended. This would mean that the next GMWRAG meeting remains as planned i.e. Trafford in October 2018. Manchester has now been moved down the rota so that the next meeting there will be in April 2020.

Our meetings page has been amended to reflect these changes.