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. 

Public law and welfare benefits during the COVID crisis

Our friends at PLP are putting on the above “webinar” (GMWRAG thinks one should always pronounce such weird terms with a west country accent or maybe a Dudley accent – ahem!) next week titled “Public law and welfare benefits during the COVID crisis”. It will take place on Thursday the 11th of June 2020 between 11:00am and 13:00pm. We can only really quote from their own site. The crisis has seen a vast increase in those claiming Universal Credit, vulnerable people subject to sudden changes in circumstances and rapid action by the Government to change benefits rules. This session will help equip benefits advisers to use public law remedies during the crisis. It will include:

  • Sanctions during the lockdown
  • Universal Credit and issues such as challenging delays
  • Public law remedies and access to the courts during the crisis
  • Government support during the crisis including the benefit cap and two child limit
  • NRPF update and
  • Pre settled status benefits entitlements

There will also be a chance for participants to share issues and ask questions of presenters and other participants. Speakers: Matt Ahluwalia, Public Law Project Carla Clarke, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) Adam Hundt, Deighton Pierce Glynn Tom Royston, Garden Court Chambers There are a limited number of free places for volunteer / unpaid advisers / those with no budget at this time. But please pay if you can. Entrance costs a mere £12. GMWRAG can attest to having paid 10x that for events of much less interest (although to be fair they were usually gigs!). Booking can be done via the web form at the bottom of https://publiclawproject.org.uk/events/public-law-and-welfare-benefits-during-the-covid-crisis/

An update from our friends at Leigh Day.

GMWRAG was doubtless amongst many who received a recent update from Leigh Day. This is a timely reminder of how strategic casework might never be more relevant. However, as the email began with “Alright…” some editing was in order 🙂

They think we are going to have a lot of work on unpicking the government response to Coronavirus, in particular in relation to the administration of benefits. A lot of people are going to become reliant on benefits for the first time and potentially for an extended period of time.

They have one JR already in relation to the requirement for ‘self-employed’ workers to claim UC rather than get SSP or benefit from furlough payments (https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/mar/22/rishi-sunak-under-pressure-to-bail-out-self-employed)

They are looking at the failure to raise legacy benefits in line with what has been done with UC. If GMWRAG members know of any rare person who is entitled SDP and self employed and also on legacy benefits they would be perfect for this but anyone impacted could potentially claim.

They would also be interested to know if any JCP’s are sanctioning people for failing to comply with conditionality at this time.

Welfare benefits advisers are going to be the first people to see the impact of any issues the changes made are having on the benefits system. If you spot anything you think is particularly grim and/or widespread and worth a challenge and want to talk it through please do let them know.

Ipswich, Bolton, Dead Parrots and the resurrection of the “northerly” GMWRAG Strategic Casework Group.

Many GMWRAG members looked forward enthusiastically to meetings of our Strategic Casework Group. Indeed, the last entry on the SCG pages (until today)looked forward to the GMWRAG meeting on 16th June 2017! Sadly, thanks to life getting in the way of the steering group, the wheels fell off. However this parrot is not quite dead:

Greater Manchester Law Centre are hoping to breathe life into the Norwegian Blue once more and propose a meeting to plot a way forward on Tuesday the 28th of April 2020 at, 9.30am, at the Law Centre, above the Jain Community Centre, 669 Stockport Rd, Levenshulme, Manchester M12 4QE.

Anyone interested would be wise to email danmanville@gmlaw.org.uk so Dan can keep an eye on the numbers; it’s not a huge room!

We’re hoping to create a more northerly focus to the group going forward so please don’t be put off by the Greater Manchester badging…

See you there.

Benefit Sanctions: What’s Next? A PLP event in York.

We’re well aware of GMWRAG members disappointment that we’re not sending you to Siberia Oldham in January but we’re pleased to publicise the next best thing.

Matt Ahluwalia from the Public Law Project, whom some of you may remember as a mere stripling at a GMWRAG meeting back in January 2018 (see below), has asked us to do some last minute publicity for PLPs event in York titled “Benefit Sanctions: What’s next?”.

This takes place on Monday the 27th of January 2020 between 10am and 5pm at the National Railway Museum in York. The full address is Leeman Road, York YO26 4XJ. GMWRAG is well aware this is an excellent (but damn cold) venue. However, as it’s at a train museum we’d actively encourage people to go by train just so you can travel over the newly re-activated Ordsall Chord and then talk about it.

GMWRAG is well aware that a number of our members have booked already but we’d like to encourage more as this is an extremely important topic and it’s very easy to take your eye off the ball having been preoccupied with the B word and a general election.

Full details for booking can be found at PLPs web site.

If you have already booked a place (and equally so if you’re about to) please note the travel information on the PLP web site if you’re travelling from outside the GM area.

“Much is known about the effects and impact of benefit sanctions. Shortcomings in standards, both across the application of sanctions and processes for appealing them, are well documented and it is recognised that the injustices of this system are visited upon some of the most vulnerable in society. This event is designed to bring together civil society, advisers, researchers and lawyers to help formulate a common strategy to help those affected, and consider what’s next for public law in this space.”

Couldn’t have put it better ourselves.

CPAG looking for test cases.

CPAG is looking for test cases. To be fair, CPAG is always looking for test cases. However…

Do you have a client who would be willing to be part of CPAG’s strategic litigation?

CPAG is looking for clients in the following circumstances:

1.    The date of claim for universal credit claimants who use the Help to Claim service operated by Citizens Advice.
CPAG is looking for a universal credit claimant who has used the Citizens Advice Help to Claim service co-located in a Job Centre and their date of claim is later than the date they requested the Help to Claim service.

2.    Benefit cap
CPAG is looking for a lone parent with a child under 5 who has been subject to the benefit cap in the past few months, hasn’t had the benefit of DHPs throughout and possibly has even had to move home because of the cap.

To refer a client living in England or Wales please complete CPAG’s referral form.

GMSCG updates.

Busy day for GMWRAG. GMSCG members may be wondering when we’re meeting next and how the group fits into the many other things going at present. We’re hopeful we’ll have news on this soon. In the meantime our friends at Rightsnet have brought to our attention what they rightly describe as a “great report” from PLP that “… that uses their experience in working on the ‘RF’ personal independence payment challenge to highlight key lessons about litigation as a means of addressing discrimination and disadvantage”.

As per Rightsnet we’re going to quote from it verbatim

“The research carried out by Dr Lisa Vanhala and Dr Jacqui Kinghan of UCL identifies strategic lessons for third sector organisations that use public law to challenge unfair systems and highlights the ‘pivotal role’ PLP played in coordinating with a wide network of individuals and organisations.

‘Using the law to address unfair systems’ is based on interviews with some of those most involved in the legal challenge, including PLP Deputy Legal Director Sara Lomri, and gives first-hand insights into how NGOs, funders and litigators won the judicial review brought by PLP’s client, RF.

Co-published by The Baring Foundation and Lankelly Chase, the report also looks at the post-litigation ‘legacy’ phase and raises important questions such as how the Government can be held to account to implement such rulings, and who has responsibility for communicating subsequent policy changes to those affected.”

but we’re going to insert proper links 🙂 and strongly suggest that all GMSCG and GMWRAG members download a copy now in preparation for our next meeting.

You can download a copy right now from https://publiclawproject.org.uk/uncategorized/using-the-law-to-address-unfair-systems/

Leigh Day and their Universal Credit Group Claim.

Leigh Day have now set up a web page plus FAQ & online referral form to make the whole process of signing up to their claim(s) a little more convenient. This can be found at: https://www.leighday.co.uk/Employment-discrimination/Current-cases/Universal-Credit-group-action. They have produced separate referral forms tailored for advisers and for individuals.

For their TP & AR linked claims they now have enough claimants to launch the action. They have identified potential lead claimants and will shortly be sending out client care letters to those who have been referred to them or made their own enquiries.

They are also hoping to generate some media interest in the coming weeks. They could do with much higher numbers to make this litigation really effective and that is why they have set up the website. There are 13,000 people out there who have lost out as a result of the wrongheaded implementation of natural migration.

A lot of service users might not have access to the internet so you can still refer people to them by just emailing a name and telephone number. Ryan Bradshaw (a long-standing friend of GMWRAG and GMSCG) and Niall Byrne are available by phone for any enquiries that you might have.

Feel free to circulate this amongst your contacts and colleagues.

Presentations from Everyday Equality are now available for download.

Alan Turing banner at LGBT Foundation in ManchesterGMWRAG is very pleased to say that all of our speakers at the recent Everyday Equality Act have now provided us with their presentations from the event for download. We also have a bonus presentation from Ryan Bradshaw of Leigh Day which was not available on the day.

Please note:

  • there are no minutes available for the January 2019 meeting. There were 14 speakers and the presentations below represent all the content available from the event bar images posted by @GMWRAGTweets and other attendees.
  • a number of presentations have been subsequently updated or revised by speakers. The versions on this site represent the most up to date versions.
  • all presentations are detailed below in this post but will be permanently available on our “Presentations and notes from GMWRAG meetings” page.
  • The minutes which would ordinarily be on our “Minutes” page link to the above page.
  • Some of the presentations have similar titles. Please be assured that all presentations are distinct. No content is repeated.

Jo Chimes, whose magnificent work was pretty much solely responsible for making the whole day happen, has also kindly added her own summary of the take away messages from the event and we’ve added that as well..