Greater Manchester Law Centre AGM announced.

GMLOC word cloudAt last year’s GMLC AGM the focus was on the next stage of developing a campaign to fight for access to justice for communities across Greater Manchester. They celebrated the progress that the Law Centre had made and looked forward to expanding our work.

The general election provided opportunities to expand access to justice and to reverse the cuts to legal aid and GMLC highlighted that they had secured funding to develop their advice offer and looked to expand these across Greater Manchester in partnership with others.

The COVID19 crisis broke and everything changed.

They have plans (and funding!!) to expand their services. Come and hear what they are doing and how you can help their work over the coming months.

You are invited to the Annual General Meeting, which will take place via Zoom given the current restrictions on Tuesday 24th November 2019, from 6.00 pm.

The Zoom link for the event is here – https://us02web.zoom.us/j/9563546884

Formally they will receive the Annual Report and Financial Statement and we will be electing “Directors” to become members of the Management Committee. Only members can vote.

Supporters are welcome to attend. Anyone wishing to become a full “member” of the law centre is invited to fill in the form on the website.

North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group Meeting to be rescheduled.

The next meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group was scheduled to take place this Friday, the 25th of September 2020.

A speaker from Disability Services at Chorlton Service Centre has agreed to speak to about PIP but there have been technology issues.

GMWRAG cannot resist the obvious joke about reasonable adjustments at this point!

The rescheduled meeting will continue to be an online meeting. Details once we have them.

GMWRAG has whispered. Who will heed the whisper?

So, the poll results are in and GMWRAG members have responded with a resounding whisper in low numbers but, nevertheless, “some numbers”. Indeed, more people voted than have attended some GMWRAG meetings on occasion (!) so we’ll go with it and declare ourselves quarantined or quorate or quixotic or quite easily pleased or whatever the term is.

And the verdict is:

  • you want virtual meetings but you’d also entertain a virtual social.
  • Zoom is very much the tool of choice.
  • most of you would prefer to stick with the traditional “GMWRAG Friday” despite the efforts of others to screw that up. NAWRA, we’re looking at you (sternly).

So, by our reckoning we have missed meetings in Bolton, Manchester and Trafford with Oldham to come in September 2020.

We fully appreciate that circumstances may reduce the number of services capable of running a virtual meeting but GMWRAG hosts should know where they are on the meetings list – here’s a reminder – and the process has long been that hosts organise their own meeting and provide a chair and minute taker.

So, the big question now is who will step up and set us going once again? GMWRAG members, we’re looking at you.

GMWRAG GM UC Forum – a quick reminder for tomorrow.

GMWRAG has “tested the tech” (Microsoft Teams for those of you not paying attention) and we’re happy that we’re all “good to go” for tomorrow afternoon’s resumption of the GMWRAG GM UC Forum at 2:30pm online. 

The agenda for the meeting has previously been published and you’ll be aware we have 2 presentations on UC/deductions and plenty of opportunity for questions. We’ll have plenty of people in attendance but places are still available if you’re a GM welfare rights adviser. Simply email GMWRAG and we’ll send you a meeting request. See also here for the initial announcement of the meeting.

By the time you read this we will have sent out, as previously promised, one final updated meeting request. That doesn’t stop us adding more names if you would like to attend. A link to join the meeting should be within that Meeting Request.

Whilst the meeting kicks off at 2:30pm and we will spend some time going through some basic video meeting etiquette GMWRAG hopes to open things up around 2:15/2:20pm to give everyone a chance to get in on time and sort out (most) technical issues.

Please note that at the end of the meeting we will need to define an agenda and time-scale for the next meeting and we are hopeful there will be one quick final item as the estimable Mr. Dan Manville of GM Law Centre pops in talk about another GMWRAG sub-group – the GMWRAG GM Strategic Casework Group.

Agenda now available for the GMWRAG GM UC Video Meeting on the 22nd of July 2020.

Further to our recent post about the next GMWRAG GM UC Forum which will take place as an MS Teams video meeting on Wednesday the 22nd of July 2020 at 2:30pm until approximately 4pm.

GMWRAG members will hopefully need little reminder that the sole topic for this meeting is deductions from UC.

The agenda for the meeting is now available and will broadly run as follows:

Welcome and Meeting Protocol/Ground Rules – Mike Hughes, Salford Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Service.

Introduction to the deductions issue – Penny Applegate, Bolton Partnership Manager.

Universal Credit Deductions Policy – Craig Dutton, UC Policy Design.

a. How deductions policy works.
b. Inability to predict the actual amount of UC that will be paid.
c. Non Affordability.

Historic deductions – Katy Costello, Deductions Operations.

Question and answer session.

Next meeting timings and agenda to be agreed.

Please note that, as per the last post, anyone wanting to attend this meeting needs to let us know ideally no later than the 15th of July 2020.

There is no limit on the number of attendees but if we can’t send you a Teams meeting invite then unfortunately you won’t be able to attend. Please see the previous post linked to above in order to register for the meeting. 

We look forward to seeing and hearing you all on the 22nd.

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. 

NAWRA and Stoke-on-line.

Pandemics do strange things to people. Never did GMWRAG think we’d mention Stoke and yoga in any post let alone together but there you go. The NAWRA conference in Stoke on Trent will no longer take place at Staffordshire University due to the COVID-19 situation. However, they are pleased to announce a special online event. On Thursday the 11th of June 2020 and Friday the 12th of June 2020 NAWRA will present ‘Stoke-on-Line’ – a virtual version of their planned conference with guest speakers, workshops, information exchange, pub quiz and yoga. GMWRAG does agree online is probably the best place to put Stoke but, if you’re still interested… read the agenda for both days and book a place on each session. The events will take place on Zoom. Email Kelly at NAWRA if you need help to use Zoom and she can send some instructions. This event is open to NAWRA members only. Kelly Smith Secretary and Treasurer www.nawra.org.uk

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!

Shall we be nice to NAWRA? Yes, lets’s be nice to NAWRA.

Following on from our recent post cancelling the May GMWRAG meeting the details of how to book on the NAWRA online event have now been brought to our attention by 5 lovely people in about 5 minutes so we thought the decent thing to do would be to tell you that before all places have been grabbed.

In order to register for a place you simply use this link. 

You must be a NAWRA member in order to book a place.

GMWRAG will of course be Zoom bombing in protest at the clash of dates 🙂