Greater Manchester Law Centre have produced a Covid-19 Survival Guide.

Greater Manchester Law Centre has developed a survival kit to support residents and front-line organisations assisting people through the current public health crisis. You can download a pdf copy here.

• The GMLC Survival Kit includes comprehensive information to help people protect things such as their homes and jobs, explaining people’s rights and clear ways to enforce them. They will be regularly updating this guide through their website.

To ensure you are up to date with changes as and when they occur you can access the live version here – https://www.gmlaw.org.uk/covid-19-survival-guide/.

Please feel free to share and circulate.
• They are running a telephone advice service for people wanting advice on housing, employment and benefits issues.

This service is open Monday – Friday, 10am – 3pm.

Please call 0161 769 2244, or alternatively you can send your enquiry via email: housing@gmlaw.org.uk or benefits@gmlaw.org.uk.

If you require any further information please contact at jasontetley@gmlaw.org.uk

Leigh Day call for evidence re disabled students and universal credit.

This just in from Leigh Day.

Tessa Gregory and Lucy Cadd from the law firm Leigh Day. are bringing a judicial review challenge to the DWP’s policy which prevents disabled students from making a claim to UC. They are seeking further evidence to support the judicial review (in the form of case studies).

Students are disqualified from making a claim to UC. However, Regulation 14(b) Universal Credit Regulations 2013 provides exceptions to the requirement not to be receiving education. In the case of their client, the relevant exception is that she is in receipt of a qualifying benefit (attendance allowance, disability living allowance or personal independence payment), in her case being PIP. The exception stipulates that she must also have been determined to have limited capability for work (LCW). However, UC will not offer students who do not yet have a LCW determination, a WCA.

Therefore on making her claim for UC, the client was told that a work capability assessment would not be provided for her in order for her to be determined as LCW and her claim for UC was closed.

The Secretary of State’s policy ‘Students: eligibility, conditionality and student income – v 16.0 (2019)’ states that the exception in Reg14(b) only applies to disabled individuals who have already been determined as having LCW and who are seeking to become students. The exemption therefore does not apply to disabled students who attempt to claim UC whilst already undertaking a course of study.

They would be very interested to hear of others who are in a similar position to their client. If there are people you have represented who have been in the same or similar situation they would be extremely grateful if you could provide a short summary of their situation to us (gaining their prior authority to do so). They are seeking supportive case studies for the judicial review.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you require any further information. Our contact details are Tessa Gregory – tgregory@leighday.co.uk and Lucy Cadd – lcadd@leighday.co.uk.

Bedroom Talk.

In amongst the veritable storm of information GMWRAG members have no doubt found themselves on the end of in the past week or more it has been noted that very little has explicitly mentioned the potential impact Covid-19 has on Bedroom Tax. Self-isolation certainly raises the issue of exemption albeit how long for is a question yet to be answered. Presumably a minimum of 14 days would be inarguable if the consequence of self-isolation was separate bedrooms and longer if the virus were to then spread to household members in turn.

It does raise the thorny issue of whether separate bedrooms might be irrelevant if the virus were to spread within a household but there’s surely something to be looked at here?

We note the issue has been raised on Rightsnet with minimal comment. However, we’d be interested in raising what’s in danger of becoming a forgotten issue in the current maelstrom and we’d be especially interested in whether GMWRAG members are busy testing this out.

Usual deal. Contact GMWRAG by emailing us at

GMWRAG

at

Hotmail

Dot

Co

Dot

UK

And yes, doing it with that formatting really does help reduce our spam emails. We look forward to hearing from you.

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.

CPAG looking for payment on account test cases.

Apologies if you’ve already had an email from CPAG on this but these things need the highest possible profile (and besides our posts are better because they include actual links :)).

CPAG is looking for cases where a claimant was awarded a payment on account at the start of their claim, which is now being recovered at more than 15% of their standard allowance.

The DWP have said that they do not believe that reg 11(2) of the Social Security (Overpayments and Recovery) Regulations 2013, which sets the maximum rate of deduction at 15%, applies to payments on account of benefit.

CPAG is looking for a suitable case to challenge this, as they are aware that a number of claimants are affected by high deductions. Please submit a referral form or email: testcases@cpag.org.uk

This sounds like the plot of a potential EastEnders episode but sadly it isn’t.

NAWRA has been contacted by a BBC journalist looking at options for pieces relating to young people

  • being asked to leave their parent’s home
  • (or experiencing conflict or becoming homeless)

because of parents losing benefits, particularly where the young person has disengaged from the social security system. This illustrates problems with the cliff edge around the loss of familial benefits such as Child Benefit and Child Tax Credits/Universal Credit for children and then a potential double whammy of the non-dependant deduction being applied to HB or UC housing costs.

The journalist is looking for young people (ideally aged 18 and under) and parents in this position. He may also want to speak with experts and is looking for people who would be happy to discuss the issues faced by young people and their low income parents that you and your team encounter on a day to day basis.

If you would like to get involved please email

kelly

at

nawra

dot

org

dot

uk

and she will pass your details on.

First dumbass to point out that the email is formatted oddly will win no prize. This is a means of avoiding spam bots etc. picking up email addresses and deluging them with spam.

Details of the next NAWRA meeting in Leeds.

The next NAWRA conference will take place from 9.30am-3pm (registration from 9am – note the earlier than usual start) on Friday 6 December 2019 at Leeds Civic Hall, Calverley Street, Leeds LS1 1UR.

Our guest speaker Sue Royston from Harrogate Citizens Advice will deliver the Phil Hanns memorial lecture on managed migration to UC. Simon Duffy of the Centre for Welfare Reform will be speaking about basic income and Sarah Clarke from the Public Law Project will run a session on conditionality in UC and public law remedies.

There will be participatory workshops on non-EU citizens and benefits, professional standards, and council tax support for UC claimants.

In the evening it’s NAWRA’s Christmas party – all are welcome!

Read the full agenda.

NAWRA conferences are open to members only. Find out about joining.

Agenda for this Friday’s GMWRAG meeting in Salford.

The agenda for this week’s GMWRAG meeting in Salford can now be downloaded from here.

The meeting will be hosted in Salford by their Salford Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Service on Friday the 4th of October 2019 in Committee room 3 of the Civic Centre, Chorley Road, Swinton M27 5DA. Doors open at 1:30pm for a 2pm start and we hope that this will enable those of you here for the day because of the a..m. GMWRAG GM UC meeting to at least be able to get a decent lunch. Details of the agenda for the UC meeting will also be coming out this afternoon barring a disaster.

Our speaker as per the post earlier today will be member Norman Beverley. Nowadays Norman is Head of Advice Service at Europia and he’ll be coming along to give us a comprehensive update on the European Settlement Scheme. 

Travel to Swinton is easy. Parking is not. We cannot overstate that parking in Swinton is hard to find; generally time-limited and may involve having to go out and move your vehicle part way through the day or meeting.

Trains to and from Swinton railway station are every 30 minutes and it’s a 12 minute walk from there to the Civic Centre. Entry to the building is along the left side of the town hall past the registry office. The 36, 37 and 38 buses will bring you right outside the town hall/civic centre but you can also get a 34., V1 or V2 to Worsley Road and then walk 10 minutes up Partington Lane.

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.