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:

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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.

ESA Income Related backdating Appeals; Section 27 – your cases needed.

DWP is applying to strike out appeals against their decisions that backdating of the Income Related element of ESA should be limited to October 2014 in IB to ESA conversion cases.

HM Courts & Tribunals Service hope to deal with these applications en masse.

City of Wolverhampton Council Welfare Rights Service has been told that their case is now the lead case. They have been asked to collate as many examples of DWP applications to strike-out similar cases as possible and forward the details to HMCTS.

If you have a case the DWP is attempting to strike out please forward the appeal reference number to dan.manville@wolverhampton.gov.uk. NAWRA expect case management directions in due course.

These cases should not be struck out at present, as depending on what is decided in an ongoing case R(DS) v SSWP in the Upper Tribunal it may be that there is merit in these appeals. We need to alert the First-tier Tribunal to as many relevant cases as possible and seek to persuade them that the appropriate use of its powers under the Tribunal Procedure Rules is to stay similar cases pending the outcome of R(DS) v SSWP.

Leigh Day need case studies to support their JR case on lack of transitional protection in natural migration/

With thanks to our friends at Rightsnet for bringing this to our attention and now yours.

Tessa Gregory and Lucy Cadd from the law firm Leigh Day are bringing a judicial review challenge to the discontinuance of the Severe Disability Premium (SDP) and Enhanced Disability Premium (EDP) contained in legacy benefits when individuals are transferred, or ‘naturally migrated’, to Universal Credit (“UC”) without any transitional protection to cover the resulting significant shortfall to their income.

We represent two individuals who have lost their disability premia by virtue of moving house, into another UC full service borough. The two individuals are bringing anonymised claims and are known as ‘TP’ and ‘AR’, they both suffer from physical and/or mental health conditions. The loss of their SDP and EDP has resulted in a loss of approximately £200 per month, which is causing them significant financial and emotional hardship.

We have now reached the stage of the judicial review in which we need to collate and prepare supportive evidence. It would be helpful for the court to be provided with other case studies which show the broad and varied range of situations in which individuals are caught by the UC provisions, as well as the different impact that the loss of the SDP and EDP has had on peoples’ lives.

If any of your clients, or anybody you have been in contact with, have been moved on to UC as natural migrants, and have had their legacy benefits discontinued, in particular their SDP and EDP which had been paid through their ESA as a result of them being in receipt of DLA or PIP, we would be extremely grateful if you could provide a short summary of their situation which sets out how they came to be on UC and how the loss of their SDP/EDP is affecting them.

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.

More information can be found at https://www.leighday.co.uk/News/News-2018/February-2018/Landmark-legal-challenge-to-Universal-Credit.

Improving Lives: The Future of Work, Health and Disability – a brief part 2. There will doubtless be more to follow!

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We do know it’s snowing on the GMWRAG web site. We do know it’s only the 1st of December. We do know a number of you will object because it may even be snowing and inconveniencing you as we write. Anyway…

Following on from our recent piece on the governments somewhat under thought response to the existence of the disability employment gap which, if you haven’t read it already, can be found at  https://gmwrag.wordpress.com/2017/11/30/the-nightmare-before-christmas-improving-lives-the-future-of-work-health-and-disability, GMWRAG is pleased to see the BBC stepping to the fore with it’s first article on the subject not being an analysis of what will or won’t work amongst the many small proposals.

Instead the BBC have published this pertinent little article that ignores most of the proposals and instead focuses on a point made in the original GMWRAG article and indeed made by many responding to the original green paper. The plain old problem of transport to and from work (see the next to last paragraph in our article.

Disability employment: The challenge of getting to work in a wheelchair is worth 5 minutes of your time next time and can be found at the link above.

Justice in freefall.

GMWRAG members may want to link this post back to the now distant creation of our Access 2 Advice pages and our many posts updating on the work of the Low Commission.

Our friends at Legal Action have, to quote them directly, ended “… the year with a new report analysing the Ministry of Justice’s legal aid statistics and other evidence to identify the key trends in the legal aid market since the passage and implementation of LASPO (the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act) which came into effect in April 2013.

It’s not exactly a report infused with Christmas cheer – so don’t leave it until Christmas day to have a read.

Year after year the Ministry of Justice have been cutting civil legal aid more than they originally intended to, leaving large budget under-spends and even larger advice deserts, whilst at the same time surrounding the system with ever more suffocating and costly bureaucracy.”

We’re going to repeat what they say on their site in full as we think you need to see it and spread it. It bears repeating far and wide.

“The report’s main findings are-

  • Basic advice cases (known as civil legal help), have dropped by 75% after the implementation of the legal aid cuts in April 2013, and are continuing to fall.
  • Just over the last year the number of housing cases reduced by 18%, having already halved since 2013; the number of areas with no provision at all is growing.
  • The telephone gateway established to help people with debt, special educational needs and discrimination cases is failing the public- out of 165,000 calls last year only just over 10% were referred on to specialists for help.
  • The exceptional funding mechanism has demonstrably failed, with low take up and low numbers of applications (under 10%) granted.
  • Despite cuts to legal aid of 25% the Legal Aid Agency’s administrative budget has increased to over £100m.
  • There has been a 25% decline in solicitors firms undertaking civil legal aid work and this is leading to a lack of availability of the legal aid services which remain in scope.
  • Legal aid and other cuts have had an even greater impact on not for profit providers as these have declined by 50% in ten years

By this stage you might be asking is there anything new or different happening that we can hold onto for the hope of better publicly funded provision for access to justice?  Well perhaps.

Some time in 2017 the MoJ will commence its long-awaited post-implementation review of the LASPO reforms. There is also a new strategy for the justice system at the MoJ underpinned by the principles that the system should be just, proportionate, accessible, and involving extensive investment in courts reform and modernisation. Both the review and the reform programme are integral to the responsibilities of Sir Oliver Heald MP QC as Minister of State for Justice who has shown far greater willingness to engage and listen than his recent predecessors – so it is essential that the professions and advocacy groups engage constructively with the review.

Our report spells out some key recommendations for next year:-

  • Immediate commencement of the LASPO post-implementation review which should be undertaken independently from the Ministry of Justice, looking at whether, and set against three clear criteria for change and improvement in the legal aid system– just, proportionate, and accessible
  • The existing under-spend in the civil legal aid from the past three years should be re-invested in an innovation and early intervention fund which could be distributed on the basis of grant funding bids (for example for second tier specialist support, online tools, and public legal education projects).

The Ministry of Justice should set a target for reducing spend on bureaucracy and re-investing this in frontline services and contracts; achievable by greater discretion and delegation of powers and decision-making.

  • Immediate action should to address the low approval rates for exceptional funding through improving the guidance to decision-makers and reducing bureaucracy.
  • As a response to low take-up of civil legal aid, the MoJ needs to start a public information campaign about what problems legal aid is available for, how to seek help; this could be linked to a wider public legal education initiatives.

Immediate action should be taken over the emergence of housing legal aid deserts, by making arrangements to ensure there is contracted provision in all procurement areas and introducing greater flexibility within housing legal aid work to enable providers to undertake preventative work.

The Guardian carried a story on the report in its edition on Monday the 19th of December 2016.

Note – Since completing our report, the figures for the 3rd Quarter of 2016 have just been published showing a further decline in civil legal help over the current year. Workload in housing for example is down 9% from the same quarter last year, immigration works down 22% and help for discrimination cases is down by about a third.  

Agenda for the Tameside GMWRAG meeting now available.

If you’ve been paying attention then you’ll already know that the next GMWRAG meeting will take place on Friday the 9th of December 2016 in Tameside. Just about everything you could possibly want to know was contained in our authoritative (well, long) post here.

The only thing missing from that post was, of course, the agenda. We are pleased to announce that the agenda can now be downloaded from here.

Please remember to download and print both the agenda and minutes and bring them with you to the meeting. GMWRAG hosts are kind enough to provide a room and refreshments from their own pocket. There is no budget for printing. If anyone fancies chairing the p.m. meeting that would be much appreciated.

This is a full day meeting and to add value we have managed to secure the services of two speakers (although two may eventually read four).

SPEAKER 1 – Homeless Prevention Service officers.

The increase in rough sleeping in the towns and cities across Greater Manchester is self-evident. The increase in other forms of homelessness is seen in the queues in reception areas of council homelessness services.

Welfare rights advisers know some of the causes – bedroom tax, benefit cap, rates of LHA for singles and couples in shared accommodation, and under 35’s, as well as massive reductions in community support services, MH support, and housing rights advice services.

Other factors include reduction in hostel bed spaces, reductions in supported accommodation, rent increases that price out benefit claimants, and unfair and unreasonable sanction decisions.

Listen to those tasked with dealing with part of this situation. What can be done by local authorities to meet the need? What legal and policy restrictions do they have to work with? What are the procedures for the single and family homeless officers to respond to housing need of applicants?

David Unsworth and Jean Cavanagh specialise in brokering accommodation for applicants, sometimes vulnerable and hard to accommodate groups. They work with MH services, ex-offender support, hospital discharge teams and others. Mandy Bradbury will come along if she is available. She is the Team Leader for the Homeless Prevention and Assessment Service at Manchester City Council. They are also interested in finding out about advice services available across Greater Manchester, as their service increasingly is looking to place people outside Manchester.

SPEAKER 2 – GM Law Centre John Nicholson, Barrister and Chair of the GM Law Centre Steering Group) will talk about the reasons for the project, the current stage of development, and plans for the next 2 years and more.

Both speakers have plenty of time built into the agenda for questions and discussion.

We look forward to seeing you there.