The Christmas 2018 meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group is here.

The next meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group will be on Friday the 30th of November 2018.

We meet at 9.30 for a 10am start.

Jane Hobson from Trafford Welfare Rights will be leading off a discussion on Universal Credit under full service fresh from talking to the Money Advice Group in Manchester on the same subject and refereeing a room full of GMWRAG members v Neil Couling.

The meeting is held in in the Community Room at Central Manchester Fire Station, Cassidy Close off Thompson Street, Manchester M4 5FP. It’s a short walk from Piccadilly and there is a car park on Thompson Street.

The Community room has its own entrance.  Please don’t enter the Fire Station by any other entrance.

From Cassidy Close you take the first left. Walk towards the building and then turn left again. You should now be at the back of the building. Walk towards a set of double doors under an overhang. The entrance to the Community Room is on the right just before you reach the double doors.

If you have any problems finding the room, you can call Helen Rogers on 07800 617 866.

As this will be our last meeting before Christmas, we’ll be going for lunch afterwards.

All are welcome to join us.

NB: The minutes of the last GMWRAG meeting remain in draft form as a number of very kind people have emailed in their own notes/recollections of the day (and indeed dodgy photographs) and we’re trying to incorporate these into the excellent minutes received from Trafford so we ensure we have covered all the bases. If anyone else has notes from the day which they’re happy to email in to gmwrag at Hotmail dot co dot uk this would be much appreciated.

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Initial details of the first meeting of the GMWRAG Greater Manchester Universal Credit Forum.

Somewhat pre-empting the issuing of the minutes of the last meeting GMWRAG is pleased to be able to confirm that the first GMWRAG led Greater Manchester Universal Credit Forum (we’re open to negotiations on the name) has been scheduled to take place  between 12:30pm and 5pm on Friday the 25th of January 2019 in the Crompton Suite at Oldham Council, Civic Centre, West Street, Oldham OL1 1NL.

For SatNav use OL1 1NL as the post code. The Metrolink stop is King Street (2-3 mins walk) away.

The intention is that a a minimum of 3 DWP partnership managers will be at each meeting along with a similar number of work coach team leaders and (hopefully) the Preston Service Centre manager (but longer term staff on the front line at the SC).

The agenda for the first meeting will broadly be around

  • introductions and sorting how the group should administer itself; who it should report to etc.
  • limited capability for work and complex needs.
  • deductions from UC.

As agreed at the meeting, this post is going out her in order to generate GM interest beyond those who attended the October GMWRAG meeting and a number of people who attended that meeting will also be invited through various routes.

Our target audience here is advisers whose welfare rights work is in the GM area and we’re looking for people with a long term interest in participating in the forum to drive consistency of approach across the Greater Manchester area. One off attendees will always be welcome but the focus is initially on establishing a core group who will be able to attend quarterly meetings.

Initially if you could email gmwrag at hotmail dot co dot uk and let us know of your interest we’ll liaise with Oldham.

Please note that it was agreed that after January 2019 (when we already have a full day GMWRAG meeting scheduled for the week before the first UC forum) whoever hosts GMWRAG will be hosting a half day UC forum meeting and a half day GMWRAG meeting.

If you’re not sure when you’re hosting GMWRAG then full details can be found on our meetings page. How this works with Oldham being scheduled to host GMWRAG in June 2019 we have yet to figure out but rest assured we’re working on it.

Tidying up October. The housekeeping email and a short notice invite from PLP.

GMWRAG would like to thank all those involved in the organisation of the recent meeting in Trafford which can officially be designated the best attended in our history. On that basis we’d also like to thank those who attended and participated for the whole day. The minutes of the meeting have already been received and, as anyone who attended could imagine, there is a lot of detail to take in. GMWRAG is conscious that we may have missed some questions to Neil Couling and some answers so before publication of the final minutes we’re asking members to send in any notes you took on the day. So this doesn’t run on for too long please email us at GMWRAG at Hotmail dot co dot UK no later than Friday the 9th of November 2018.

Preparations for the January 2019 meeting in Tameside/central Manchester are at an advanced stage and we’ll publicise those as soon as we can. Rumours that Esther McVey will be in attendance can (largely) be discounted. We’re saving her for Stockport 🙂

In the meantime, could any GMWRAG members who attended the recent Manchester Tribunal User Group meeting please email any notes taken as regards who attended from HMCTS and details of any questions and answers.

This leads us on neatly to a short notice but really important invitation from the Public Law Project.

Previous GMWRAG speaker (and the first person to be streamed live from a GMWRAG meeting) Matthew Ahluwalia would like to invite a GMWRAG member to a presentation, debate and discussion on online courts and tribunals and HMCTS’ digitalisation programme. PLP is organising the event.

PLP will provide some reading material in advance and make a presentation to start the discussion. They will then invite questions, comments and concerns inviting those present to share their views, and discuss their own work that may involve or be affected by the digitalisation programme.

If there are particular issues about online courts and the reform programme you would like discussed, please let them know and we will try to allocate some time on the agenda.

Time, date and location: 2.30pm to 4.30pm, Friday 9th November, at Herbert Smith Freehills, Exchange House, Primrose Street, London EC2A 2EG.

This event will be free of charge. Please note however that there is the offer of just the one place for one GMWRAG member.

Please could you RSVP by 2nd November so that we can confirm numbers with the venue. In order to keep this manageable we suggest you email GMWRAG or DM us via @GMWRAGTweets and we’ll pass on the details of the first contact we have to Matt.

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.

Final update on the GMWRAG meeting.

GMWRAG can now confirm that the Friday meeting in Trafford is now effectively a “sell out”. Everything attendees need to know about the meeting can still be found in our post at https://gmwrag.wordpress.com/2018/10/05/your-all-in-one-gmwrag-post-on-gmwrag-in-trafford

As an update on that post:

  • All attendees had to let GMWRAG know directly they wanted a place. The meeting is now at capacity so anyone thinking they can just turn up on the day as per previous GMWRAG meetings will be turned away. We’ve not done this before and, whilst it does feel rather extraordinary, there’s a first time for everything.
  • Anyone thinking of attending for only part of the day is actively encouraged to not do so.
    • It’s unfair on those people who would like to attend for the whole day.
    • In another first, a waiting list was created as soon as we hit capacity.
    • If you can’t attend for the day then please don’t attend and we can give your place to someone on the waiting list.
  • This is a business meeting with very clearly defined aims. If you’re not going to participate in any future GM UC forum then there’s little point in attending.
  • If you cannot attend at all please let us know ASAP as we can offer your place to people on the waiting list.

NB: Anyone who chooses to attend for only part of the day will be given no priority for tickets for the free GMWRAG/GMSCG/NWMHWRAG EA 10 equalities and welfare benefits event being run in January 2019. That will also be limited to 50 and for the first time will be ticketed (free) via Eventbrite.

Updated statement from Greater Manchester Law Centre.

Exactly one year ago, we released our statement on the Universal Credit rollout. We were approached by a local Job Centre, who asked if we could provide facilities and support for Universal Credit applications. This did not sit well with us, and we carefully considered why.

We stand alongside people who’re fighting the DWP’s hostile environment. We have reclaimed over one million pounds falsely denied to disabled claimants in Greater Manchester, whilst demanding that the Government is held to account for the policies that are preventing disabled and unwell people from getting the disability payments they are entitled to. We are independent. Our legal services are free, professional, and face to face.

Therefore, our response was clear: the government cannot rely on the voluntary sector to pick up the pieces. For example, if Universal Credit is so convoluted and ineffective that those implement it ask charities for help, then it should not have been implemented at all. Our role is to publicly challenge the injustices of this government’s welfare regime.

One year on, we stand by this position. We remain independent, funded by our supporters and community.

GMLC’s statement, October 12th 2017: “We will not be complicit”

At the Greater Manchester Law Centre, we help people to navigate the existing benefits system. Vulnerable members of our community are struggling to access the support they deserve because of long and intimidating application forms and convoluted tribunal processes. In our first year, we helped clients with lost benefits to claim back £370,000, which demonstrates that many people are having to fight protracted battles to receive benefits that they should never have been denied in the first place. The consequences of an ineffective welfare system can be devastating, and Universal Credit appears destined to worsen the situation.

As a voluntary sector organisation, we are steadfast in our stance on Universal Credit: we will not assist in its implementation. If Universal Credit is so convoluted and ineffective that voluntary sector organisations are relied upon, then it should not be implemented at all. For example, a local Job Centre approached us earlier this year to ask if we would provide computers and supervisors to help people keep online journals for Universal Credit. Our response is clear: this is not the role of the voluntary sector. We will not be complicit in a scheme which results in further adversity and punishment for vulnerable people. We therefore refuse to facilitate the Universal Credit rollout.

Contact: Roz Burgin and Astrid Johnson, Development Workers, development[at]gmlaw.org.uk

Tel: 0161 769 2244                                                                                                                               

Facebook: Facebook.com/gmlawcentre

Twitter: @gmlawcentre

Web: www.gmlaw.org.uk

Registered Charity Number 1170317

Registered Company 09698401

The Greater Manchester Law Centre is a member of the Law Centres Network, http://www.lawcentres.org.uk.

Links

Manchester Evening News: Special Report on Universal Credit roll-out http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/who-going-feed-kids-stress-13739245

GMLC reclaim over one million pounds falsely denied to disabled claimants https://www.gmlaw.org.uk/2018/09/14/one-million-pounds/

The government has created a “hostile environment” for disabled people, new research shows https://www.gmlaw.org.uk/2018/07/16/hostile-environment/ 

Support GMLC today https://www.gmlaw.org.uk/donations-standing-orders/

LASPO and ESA research.

Matt Steele is a Social Welfare Law, Policy & Advice Practice MA student at Staffordshire University.

As part of his dissertation for the master’s degree he will be completing research to understand the impact of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) has had on the provision of specialist welfare benefit representation in the not-for-profit advice sector, with a particular focus on Employment and Support Allowance appeals.

The research is timely as it coincides with the government’s first review of legal aid since LASPO was enacted (expected to report in 2019).

He is looking to collect data through the use of a questionnaire. He is asking specialist welfare benefit advisers who assist clients in Employment and Support Allowance appeals to complete the questionnaire. Advisers can be paid or voluntary and operate in England and Wales.

The survey covers four fundamental areas of interest for the research.

  • How has the service offer to clients changed since LASPO?
  • What are specialist advisers’ experiences of supporting claimants through the appeals process?
  • What impact does the ESA appeals process have on the well being of clients?
  • How do the changes in legal aid impact on specialist advisers’ ability to influence social policy change?

The survey is completed anonymously with no identifying data being requested. The project focuses on the experiences of specialist advisers and does not seek to speak to clients in any way.

He wonders if GMWRAG members would be prepared to circulate the survey to your members to help the survey to reach a wide circulation?

The survey can be taken by clicking on the anonymous and re-usable link below. More information about the research can be found on the first page of the survey.

http://staffordshire.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_bKHJzJ6hSeNFgih

Please do not hesitate to contact Matt if you need any further information. He can be contacted via sv001567@student.staffs.ac.uk.

Your all in one GMWRAG post on GMWRAG in Trafford.

We’ve made our claims online. We’re in the middle of our assessment period and we’ll (perhaps) get the pay off in 2 weeks time only to watch it all subsequently fall apart 🙂 Yes, the Trafford GMWRAG approaches and it has correctly been pointed out that not all of the information about the meeting is contained in one place. So, here’s the one post where everything is collated (until the next time we need to add something).

The meeting is a full day meeting and takes place at the offices of Trafford Housing Trust, Sale Point, 126-150 Washway Road, Sale M33 6AG on Friday the 19th of October 2018. Doors will open at 9:30am for a 10am start and we aim to finish for 4ish.

The venue is (we are told) a very straight forward 14 minute walk from the Sale Metrolink stop (M33 2DG in case you were wondering) and is also on a main bus route. Drivers? You’ll figure it out 🙂. Parking? Use a a sat nav.

The minutes of the last meeting remain available here and the final agenda can be found over here. Please note that whilst the name of the latter includes the word “Draft” it is most definitely the final version of the agenda. A big thank you to all those people who threw stuff at us really quickly and in great detail by email when we asked for your top 5 issues to help shape the agenda. We’re (reasonably) confident that the final agenda reflects in general terms almost all of the issues raised but we’re also painfully aware that you can’t please all of the people all the time.

On that note we’re sure that attendees or potential attendees are aware that our key speaker is Neil Couling CBE, Director General of the Universal Credit Programme. and that the day is dedicated to looking at common UC issues in GM and putting together a plan to manage those going forward. This means we have rather more housekeeping rules than normal.

  • Anyone turning up spontaneously as per most GMWRAG meetings may find we cannot accommodate them. We appreciate this is unusual but the room holds a maximum of 50 people and we are reasonably confident we will fill it. It’s a way to travel only to find we don’t have room so please Contact GMWRAG.
  • This is a GM meeting. GMWRAG has always welcomed members from as far afield as Cumbria and North Wales but this one is a GM meeting about specific GM issues and solutions. Whilst we’re sure many members might want to turn up out of curiosity to see; listen to and debate with a national figure and three local partnership managers we have had to make the hard decision that our priority has to be to give space to active GM workers who are not only interested in devising processes to look at solutions but who will also be around to work on those in the immediate future. We are happy(ish) to apologise if this appears stern but we have a small waiting list for non-GM advice staff and if we do think there’s space then we will contact anyone on the list
  • Equally, please do not turn up just for our guest speaker. See the previous bullet point. This is a working day with very specific aims for the GM area and whilst we welcome all participants we need people to be there for the full day else it becomes a little pointless. If you wish to attend please contact GMWRAG via the usual routes.
  • The logistics of this meeting have taken considerable effort from a small group of people to whom GMWRAG would like to extend (pathetically) grateful thanks right now. However, our hosts organisational skills will be fully occupied on the day and so once again we really urge attendees to download and print both the agenda and minutes and bring them with you on the day. It will really aid the smooth running of the meeting.
  • For those who have not attended previously we provide tea, coffee, water and biscuits. No lunch is provided. Expect to go for a walk or by all means bring your own.

We’ll give you all maybe one more prod before the meeting but we look forward to seeing you on the day.