Minutes of the first GMWRAG Greater Manchester Universal Credit Forum ALMOST available. Another new GMWRAG web site section created in anticipation.

The minutes of the 1st ever GMWRAG GM UC Forum, which took place in sunny Oldham (we’re writing this as it’s snowing in March) way back in January 2019 are now almost available for download. Apologies for the delay in getting these out to you but we’ve had technical issues getting them to the DWP for comment.

In light of the delays these issues have caused we’ve decided to go down the “publish and be damned” route and just get them out there (sort of). At present though you won’t be able to access them until DWP have confirmed there are no issues with them from their perspective.

Once they do go live (yeah, we will say) could those of you who were present at the meeting please take a look and note any suggested/required amendments? Bring them with you to the next meeting and we’ll deal with them under a hopefully brief, focused “minutes of the last meeting” item at the outset.

In order to view the minutes you will need to find them in (yet another) new GMWRAG section where they are located and password protected. We’ll leave it to you to figure out what it’s called. If you can’t (clue: it starts with “NEW”) then we despair. We just do.

As regards passwords, GMWRAG members know the score. If you don’t then just contact us and we’ll let you know (the score that is. Possibly the password too.) once it’s all live.

GMWRAG has recently discovered what happens when we momentarily and accidentally leave minutes unprotected. Apparently, we end up in Private Eye! You can read more about that here but GMWRAG wishes to issue a resolute “no comment”.

In the meantime, you’ll obviously want to know that we’re working towards a slightly amended date and timings for the next UC Forum/GMWRAG meeting.

We were scheduled for Stockport in Spring (sorry, we just liked the alliteration – we meant April) but we’re now looking at a mid May date. The draft minutes also suggested that the UC Forum would run 1pm to 4pm but we’ve had to amend that immediately in order to accommodate our speakers at the GMWRAG meeting on the same day.

So, at present the intent is that the UC forum will be a.m. and will be followed by a packed p.m. meeting with 2 speakers looking at various aspects of Brexit and Benefits. We’ll give you something more concrete on this as soon as it’s been finalised but we’re hoping for the 17th of May 2019. If the weather persists we shall of course rebadge it as “Brrrrexit and Benefits”.

Please note that we can’t guarantee that the future order of these meetings will be the same. We suspect it will change depending on the availability of speakers for the GMWRAG meeting. We are busy finding out whose hands to slap for suggesting the UC Forum would always be p.m.

Finally, we have had several queries asking about the accessibility/access group which was suggested at the 1st meeting. There is clearly much enthusiasm for this and much anxiety about perceived delays. DWP are doing a lot of work behind the scenes to make this happen (most notably to make it as accessible as it can be) so please bear with us. As soon as we’re able to announce anything, we will.

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Greater Manchester Welfare Reform Dashboard. A chance for you to comment upon and shape the data.

Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) collate data on a quarterly basis with a view to monitoring the rollout of Universal Credit and other welfare reforms. The main intent of collating this data is to inform the priorities of the GM UC and Welfare Reform Group and its focus on skills and employment opportunities.

However, as the intro. also notes it is also a “resource available to partners in GM”. GMWRAG takes the view that this data is extremely useful in informing on the work we’re all doing and the data tables alone are worth the price of admission. So, we’re pleased to bring the last quarterly report to your attention for the first time.

You can download a pdf copy of the report from here and we’re confident you’ll find much that is useful within about your own a. Of equal importance though is the fact that GMCA would like your feedback. They are looking to add additional datasets to the Dashboard all the time and, whilst they have some ideas on that, they would welcome the views of GMWRAG members on

  • the data as it stands;
  • whether any GMWRAG members could contribute further data or datasets and,
  • any suggestions on further information which could be added.

If you’d like to feedback, and GMWRAG urges you to all consider doing so, then please contact Hannah.scriven@greatermanchester-ca.gov.uk

GM Food Poverty Alliance launches Action Plan and issues latest newsletter.

Today is the launch of the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance Action Plan. GMWRAG would have liked to have told you about the event itself well in advance but it was only brought to our attention on the 27th of February 2019 and unfortunately the opportunity to post did not arise until today.

We have at least now managed to get our act together and post up the new Greater Manchester Poverty Action newsletter, which you can download by clicking on the word “newsletter” (we’re quite good at this stuff).

Also in the newsletter is information about a forthcoming joint IGAU and GMPA Conference “From Poverty to Prosperity” in April 2019 and an update on their Poverty Strategies map. The newsletter is also available on their website.

GMWRAG was a little concerned to note that we’d not really clocked the work of the IGAU. We’ve added a link to their work to the many other links on our site.

CPAG looking for more test cases.

CPAG is considering a challenge to the lower standard allowance within universal credit which is provided to parents aged under 25 as compared with those aged 25 and over.

Under the legacy benefit system, although there was a lower personal allowance for under 25 year olds, that did not apply to any claimant who was a parent (except lone parents aged under 18).

If you have a client who is

  • a universal credit claimant is a parent aged under 25 and
  • is living in England or Wales and
  • is subject to the lower standard allowance (whether single or in a couple and whether working or not) and
  • wants to challenge the lower rate of benefit they are receiving, please complete CPAG’s test case referral form.

NAWRA would like to hear from you if you have had issues with Universal Credit and non-dependant deductions.

Last week, CPAG met with senior civil servants at the Department for Work and Pensions to discuss the concerns about universal credit which you have been raising on the Early Warning System. The officials were surprised to hear that claimants are still facing problems with housing costs contribution for non-dependents. Most importantly, they have undertaken to look at how they could fix these problems if we can send them some real life examples. This where we need your help: we need your case studies of clients affected by errors in paying the housing costs contribution.

On the Early Warning System  and at their Universal Credit Housing Costs seminar   in March you told us about the DWP telling clients that only the claimant can be exempted from housing costs contribution. They’ve also heard the opposite: that only the non-dependent’s circumstances are taken into account in determining whether an exemption applies. They have heard about housing costs contributions applied in respect of the wrong non-dependent or the wrong number of non-dependents and housing costs contribution applied in relation to children, partners and short-term visitors.

Advisers have told CPAG about exempted claimants suddenly finding housing costs contribution applied to their award without any explanation.

Other advisers have said that their clients are struggling because the amount of housing cost contribution has risen now they have migrated to UC and claimants who were exempted under legacy benefits are now subject to the deduction.

This is a genuine opportunity for advisers to tell senior civil servants how administrative errors and UC rules are affecting clients and to persuade the ministers to take action.

If your clients have been affected by errors in the administration of housing costs contribution, either now or in the past, please let CPAG know. They’d like to hear about clients who have lost out under the new housing costs rules when they migrated to UC. Equally, if you don’t have a specific client in mind, they’d be pleased to hear your general impressions: has your service seen a rise in enquiries about housing costs contributions or have you had to raise the issue at liaison meetings with the DWP?

You can contact CPAG on their easy-to-use case reporting form , by emailing ews@cpag.org.uk or by calling Dan Norris on 020 7812 5226. Tell CPAG what you think they need to know. They’re not looking for personal details: They need issues not names.

Join CPAG in taking this opportunity to improve the administration of housing costs contribution for UC claimants. Please do forward this request to your friends and colleagues.

The Equality and Diversity Forum launch “Practical Equality Rights in Welfare Benefits” handbook.

Equality and Diversity Forum have now launched their ground-breaking online handbook, Practical Equality Rights in Welfare Benefits Advice, to help everyone providing advice or information on welfare benefits to use equality rights to solve everyday discrimination problems. The handbook is part of the Everyday Equality project, funded by the EHRC.

What is the Practical Equality Rights in Welfare Benefits Advice handbook?

For welfare benefits advisers and information providers working in community groups and advice organisations, the handbook has tips and tools about identifying discrimination. For advisers we have case studies, checklist and tools to help you use the Equality Act to solve your client’s everyday problems in a practical way.

For advice managers, the handbook has a new guide about managing and improving the delivery of discrimination advice.

The handbook also includes a new guide to demonstrating the equality impact of welfare benefits advice, using the Equality and Human Rights Commission Measurement Framework, an A-Z of Equality Rights, a directory of equality resources, FAQs, four downloadable posters, and a downloadable ‘quick guide’.

What’s next?

They are developing a short set of materials to help advice agencies to use the new online handbook and to raise awareness with their advisers. If you are interested in piloting or using these materials please let us know: jo.chimes@edf.org.uk

They are hoping to run a small event later in the year, in Manchester. If you are interested in taking part or attending, please let them know: jo.chimes@edf.org.uk

They would be pleased to hear from you with questions, suggestions and feedback on the handbook. Please contact them at info@edf.org.uk.

View our online handbook or download our quick guide (pdf).

To stay in touch with their work, and for updates to the handbook:

Make Childcare Work – Save The Children are campaigning to make Universal Credit work better for families and need your help.

With thanks to our friends at Rightsnet for, as ever, drawing this to our attention.

Save the Children are currently running a campaign called Make Childcare Work which is all about fixing problems with how childcare support through Universal Credit works to make the system work better for families.

To help inform the campaign, they’re looking to speak to families who have experienced difficulties with the childcare element of Universal Credit e.g. who are concerned about what’s on offer, struggling with upfront costs or worried about how they’re going to be able to afford them.

If GMWRAG members can point them in the direction of families who are struggling with these issues and who would be happy to speak with Save the Children about their experiences that would very much support the campaign.

If you know of any families, or are happy to put a call out to advisers asking them if they work with any, then they’ve a short form that families receiving childcare support through Universal Credit can fill in at
https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/PYMZG3M) or they can email ukcampaign@savethechildren.org.uk and they will arrange for a member of their team to speak with them.

In the meantime you can read their response to the Treasury Committee Report on Childcare here.

NB: GMWRAG reserves the right to change every instance of “advisor” to “adviser” in every post until you all get your act together 🙂

Foodinate! Do whatinate?

GMWRAG would like to draw members attention to Foodinate. No, us neither, until now. Soooo…. in case you haven’t heard of this yet. Order any item on the menu in a Foodinate that has been marked with a sticker… and enjoy your meal. For every sticker item sold the restaurant funds a nourishing meal for a local person in need. Thusfar that’s 23,335 meals and counting at the time of writing. Foodinate aims to match each restaurant with a food-giving charity in the same area, so the meals funded by each restaurant can be served to people in need in the same community.

Foodinate restaurants in  Manchester currently include:

Proove Pizza, 160 Burton Road, West Didsbury M20 1LH.

Both branches of Crazy Pedro’s (and if you don’t know where THEY are then clearly you’re not a Mancunian).

The Lead Station, 99 Beech Road, Chorlton M21 9EQ

Tariff & Dale, 2 Tariff Street, Manchester M1 2FN

George’s Dining Room and Bar, 17 to 21 Barton Road, Worsley M28 2PD.

Evuna (we’re not sure which one from the web site).

Don Giovanni, 1 – 2 Peter House, Oxford Street, Manchester, M1 5AN.

1761, 2 Booth Street, Manchester M2 4AT.

GMWRAG cannot guarantee that this list is up to date so check out the Foodinate web site itself and treat someone other than yourself.

Next meeting of the GM Living Wage Campaign

GM Living Wage Campaign hope you can join them on May the 22nd 2018 from 2pm – 3.30pm, at the Manchester Universities’ Catholic Chaplaincy, Avila House, 335-337 Oxford Road, M13 9PG. They are going to begin planning some action they hope will enable the Cooperative Group to agree to become an accredited Living Wage employer. The decision to target the Cooperative Group was decided at the last Campaign Meeting in March 2018.

Following this meeting, agreed actions will take place on May the 29th 2018 from 2pm onwards. They hope you can join them on both days. Alternatively, if you cannot attend on one or both days, but would like to get involved in other, future action, then please do get in touch via the contact details below.

Please join on May the 22nd and/or 29th. In the meantime should you have any questions, queries, comments or suggestions for the GM Living Wage Campaign, please get in touch via an email to Lynn or call 07948 549 485.