Stockport GMWRAG meeting this Friday – a quick reminder.

In light of the sudden burst of activity on GMWRAG in the past 24 hours it has been pointed out that some people will lose sight of the fact that there is a GMWRAG meeting this Friday so, here you are, a quick reminder.

Everything you need can be found at https://gmwrag.wordpress.com/2017/06/09/the-stockport-gmwrag-meeting-is-here-speakers-public-transport-presenting-officers-and-biscuit-details-all-below and by “everything” we mean the venue details (apparently hoods are no longer required); transport details; the agenda and the minutes of the last meeting, which took place in the dim and distant place known as 2016. There are 2 speakers as previously detailed and there are, of course, biscuits.

We’ll see you there.

The Stockport GMWRAG meeting is here – Friday the 16th of June 2017. Speakers, public transport, presenting officers and biscuit details all below.

On the 10th of May 2017 GMWRAG quietly announced that the next meeting (indeed the first of 2017) would take place in Stockport. You can find that post here but we’re now in a position to provide you with full details and there are a lot of them. Please note that a number of key details have changed from that original post, not least the venue. Soooo…

The next GMWRAG meeting is a full day meeting and takes place in room 5 of Stockport Town Hall (NOT Fred Perry House as we originally suggested) on Friday the 16th of June 2017. Doors will open for refreshments, networking and those without any sense of direction at 9:30am for a 10:00am start.

The minutes of the last meeting can be downloaded from here and the full agenda can now be downloaded from here. Please print them off and bring them with you. GMWRAG hosts are no longer funded to provide copies on the day.

The meeting will have an update on the newly launched GM Strategic Casework Group. If you haven’t had a look at our pages then please do so. There will also be an opportunity to share experiences of the new tranche of Presenting Officers at First Tier Tribunals and both the morning and afternoon sessions will have speakers as detailed below.

GMWRAG was surprised to learn that in our near 4 decade existence we appear to have never had speakers talking about sensory impairment and benefits. Our friends at NAWRA have had workshop presentations from charities like RNIB (and even then maybe only the one) but our agendas and minutes suggest we have not. Hopefully the speakers at this meeting will whet the appetite for further work in this area.

Neither session will involve death by PowerPoint and there will be much in the way of handouts; quizzes; throwing things, er, discussion, interaction and some case law!

Stockport Town Hall, or the “spiritual home of GMWRAG” as it was recently described, is very easily accessed by rail and is a massive 4 minutes walk from Stockport railway station. GMWRAG recommends the train as absolutely the fastest way to get to (and from) Stockport from/to Manchester city centre. Journeys are between 7 and 14 minutes from Manchester Piccadilly station. Please note though that tickets on this route may only be valid for some trains e.g. Northern Trains tickets may not be valid on Virgin Trains and so on.

There are frequent buses and you can get full multi-modal travel information on this via the My TfGM journey planner but all will take considerably longer than the train. If you weren’t already aware, there is also an app available for your smartphone. Welfare rights advisers all have smart phones, don’t you!

If you’re driving in, there are several car parks nearby but you will pay a lot for a full day and the road system can be very confusing for anyone not familiar with the area. Don’t say we didn’t warn you 🙂

Oh, yeah, and the biscuits are on order.

Minutes of the last North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group plus speaker notes now available.

The minutes of the May 2017 meeting of the NWMHWRAG meeting are now available within their pages within this site. Along with these, speaker Dan Manville has kindly provided a copy of his notes and some guidance and these are available on their “Presentations to the group” page.

If you’re a member of the group then you’ll already know that the minutes are password protected and you’ll know the password. If you have a legitimate need for access to the minutes then please DM @GMWRAGTweets.

The date of the next meeting is already up on their pages. Full details of any future speakers will of course be posted as soon as we know them.

Urgent update for anyone thinking of attending tomorrows meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group in Manchester.

The next meeting of the NWMHWRAG takes place tomorrow in Manchester. Full details were contained in our previous post. A number of you may be coming along tomorrow to hear Dan Manville, Mental Health Welfare Rights Officer from Wolverhampton Council talking about Right to Reside cases.

Those of you who read the previous post about this meeting should be aware that entry to the venue requires you to notify of your attendance in advance as per the previous post. Group members on the mailing list have been reminded of the need to do this. However, those wishing to attend who are not on the email mailing list, need to also be aware of the need to do this.

So, there you go.

GMWRAG would like to also point out in light of recent events Manchester Victoria station remains closed to enable forensic analysis and there are a number of transport diversions in place. Please check relevant web sites for updates but, at the time of writing, the situation is as follows:

  • Metrolink:  Victoria station remains closed. The Bury line will stop at Queens Road. The Rochdale via Oldham line will finish at Monsall. There will be no Metrolink services calling or operating through Market Street, Shudehill or Manchester Victoria.
  • Buses: All bus services are operating but there are diversions in place to some services. There are replacment bus services operating from Central Park and Queens Road to Piccadilly Gardens (stand R), Piccadilly Station (Fairfield Street) and Shudehil (stand B).
  • Roads: As roads may be busier than usual, drivers have been advised to consider taking public transport where possible. Trinity Way has reopened to traffic in both directions, but many roads remain closed and highways are extremely busy. Deansgate is currently closed.

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.

Oh yeah, er…

GMWRAG members may well be wondering what happened to the March 2017 GMWRAG meeting? Much as we’d love to blame that “B****t” word the truth is that GMWRAG had a little bit of a hibernation due to a significant upswing in non-work activities eating into the time we would normally use to do GMWRAG things. Please rest assured that we haven’t forgotten and are working as we type this to ensure a GMWRAG meeting takes place asap as there is much to catch up on.

We’ll be trying to keep to the sequence laid out in the Our meetings section as best we can but watch this space (or probably one above it to be technically accurate) for further updates.

Any suggestions for speakers will be gratefully received on Twitter @GMWRAGTweets.

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

The next meeting of the NWMHWRAG will be on Friday the 26th of May at 9.30am for a 10am start.

It will be in Committee Room 6 in Manchester Town Hall extension.

Please note the change of venue!

Our speaker will be Dan Manville, Mental Health Welfare Rights Officer from Wolverhampton Council.

He will be talking about Right to Reside cases.

Important! – please let Helen Rogers know on 0161 217 6003 if you are planning to attend the meeting by 5pm on the 10th of May 2017 as we need to submit email addresses of all attendees so that you can access the meeting. Instructions will be emailed nearer the time with as to how to get into the building.

You’re on your own when it comes to getting out 🙂

This post also includes the notes on Upper Tier decisions from Robin Serjeant, our speaker at the last meeting in February 2017.

The next meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group attendees has a new venue.

This is a message for anyone planning on attending the NWMHWRAG meeting on Friday the 26th of May 2017. The venue of the meeting has changed and will now be held in Committee Room 6 of the Manchester Town Hall Extension.

Attendees should note that you will need to arrange to have an email invite in advance from the meeting organiser so that you can enter the extension and collect a pass which will allow you to move through the building. These passes are based on having your email address in the MCC system. Alternatively, you will need to pick up a pass from the reception at the far end of the extension hall on the day and this will require you to know the name of the meeting and the room it’s in.

Minutes of the last meeting remain available via our last post. As of today we have still not had the opportunity to add them to the NWMHWRAG pages.

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.