Belta UC scam advice from Newcastle.

This information is courtesy of our friend in the NAWRA.

Newcastle City Council has provided advice and information about the UC scam(s) going around. Please use or forward this information if useful.

As you know there’s been quite a bit of press about this. So we thought it would be important to provide simple and straightforward guidance about what it was, how to avoid it and what to do if such a scam was suspected. Hence the following (with links):

This follows discussions with DWP and Trading Standards.

Please let Clive Davis at Newcastle City Council know if you think the webpage information could be improved as they can always change it.

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More on no deal from Alexandra Sinclair.

Those of you who made it to our excellent Brexit and Benefits session recently will be fully aware of Alexandra Sinclair from the Public Law Project. A GMWRAG summary of the talk can now be downloaded from here. We’re awaiting word on whether we can use the PowerPoint presentation from that day.

In the meantime, Alexandra has been in touch to send you some further material that might assist our members.

She has written a research briefing paper on EU citizens’ rights in the event of a no deal Brexit after having reviewed all the SIs in areas related to citizens’ rights.

It covers immigration, housing, social security, healthcare and education. It’s published on PLP’s website here and they plan to update it regularly until such time as the Immigration Bill becomes law. Any comments/feedback are very welcome. Please circulate to your wider networks.

There is also a blog post on Free Movement about this https://www.freemovement.org.uk/what-legal-rights-will-eu-citizens-have-after-a-no-deal-brexit/

The Final Countdown.

We do apologise. We couldn’t resist.

Anyway…

Europia is pleased to announce that in partnership with Citizens Advice Bury and Bolton they will deliver support to all E.U nationals and their family members free of cost. They state they have the capacity to deal with complex immigration cases as well. Europia is also funded by the Home Office to deliver emotional support in an E.U language for victims of hate crime. They can provide professional holistic support to European Expats with multiple vulnerabilities.

Europia and Citizens Advice are holding their official launch from 1:30pm until around 3:30pm on Thursday the 29th of August 2019 at Manchester Cathedral.

There will be a short presentation and fully explain the E U Settlement Scheme and how it will impact, on European Nationals.

www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families

The presentation will be followed by a question and answer session and networking opportunities.

This is a free event.

To register please email Norman Beverley at norman dot b at europia dot org dot uk and he will add you to the guest list. More directly you can also go via our friends at Eventbrite.

Research measuring the impact of applying for PIP on a claimant’s perception of their health condition.

With grateful thanks to our friends at Rightsnet.

Can you help? Catherine from the University of Bedfordshire is wanting to reach people who’ve applied or are applying for PIP.

Are you going through or about to start the PIP application process? This can be a difficult time but, if you can, please spare a few minutes to complete a short online survey.

Your answers will contribute to new independent research into the possibility that people’s perception of their condition changes as a result of going through the PIP application process. It is important as perception has demonstrable impact on levels of depression, quality of life, ability to follow treatment plans and even recovery and survival rates. If there is an effect then this needs to be highlighted and, if not, we can look for other explanations for the experiences that many PIP claimants describe.

The research is part of an Applied Psychology Masters dissertation by Catherine Haslam and has been approved by the University of Bedfordshire’s Psychology ethics board. The survey is short and doesn’t ask any personal health questions. All data is annonymised & aggregated.

Thank you in advance for your help. The survey can be accessed at:

https://bedshealthsciences.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_9uJpGzsLdeEnPpP

Right hand. Meet left hand! Wring in despair.

HMCTS have recently upped the ante as regards tribunal modernisation and in particular COR (Continuous Online Resolution). By “upped the ante” we do of course mean that they have finally started to engage with the outside world or at least broadcast to them, which is of course as “consulty” as HMCTS tend to get.

For those of you who have no idea what we’re talking about full (ish) details can be found on an excellent thread on Rightsnet. Why are we writing this now then? Very simple.

First of all a consultation has been launched on the Courts and Tribunals (Online Procedure) Bill.

The Public Bill Committee welcomes views from anyone with relevant expertise and experience or a special interest in the Bill (that would be you GMWRAG members) which has three main effects –

  • it confers regulation-making powers on Ministers, subject to the affirmative procedure – appropriate ministers can designate certain types of court or tribunal proceedings as ones which may or must be conducted by electronic means, subject to the Online Procedure Rules (OPRs);
  • it establishes the Online Procedure Rule Committee (OPRC) and defines that body’s powers to make OPRs; and
  • it determines the membership rules and appointments process for the OPRC.

While the deadline for evidence is expected to be 5pm on Thursday 25 July 2019, the Committee highlights that it is no longer able to receive written evidence once it concludes its consideration of the Bill which may be earlier than that deadline.

Having started in the House of Lords, the Bill was debated and read for the second time in the House of Commons yesterday, during which Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice Paul Maynard – responding to concerns about ‘digitisation by default’ – stated that –

‘I have said at least twice in the debate already that the alternative methods must be protected at all times. People can seek telephone advice, for example. We are also piloting face-to-face advice in at least 25 areas. At any point, people can opt out of the online procedure, and the paper-based alternative will always be available. Either side in a case can opt out of an online procedure to ensure that it does not occur online.’

GMWRAG members can submit evidence via have your say on the Courts and Tribunals (Online Procedure) Bill.

This brings us neatly to the second aspect of this.

The Infrastructure and Projects Authority annual report 2019 has concluded that successful delivery of the HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) Reform Programme is in doubt for the sixth year running. Yes, you really did read that correctly!

The IPA assessed 133 projects included in its GMPP programme this year, including 43 ‘transformation and service delivery projects’, providing each with a ‘Delivery Confidence Assessment’ of green (successful delivery probable) through amber (successful delivery feasible but significant issues exist) to red (successful delivery appears unachievable).

Anyone familiar with the mystery of disappearing online appeals will of course be wondering out loud at this point what realistic chance there is that any of the more complex stuff like COR is ever delivered. On the other hand disappearing online appeals could be described as a fairly efficient way of reducing the backlog which sees people in some areas waiting more than a year for a hearing date.

In relation to the HMCTS Reform Programme, the IPA gives a rating of amber/red – as it has done for the five previous years – defined as –

‘Successful delivery of the project is in doubt, with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas. Urgent action is needed to address these problems and/or assess whether resolution is feasible’

NB – data from the Ministry of Justice to support the IPA report advises that –

‘The programme continues to deliver new services to users and has now launched a new service in every jurisdiction. Over 140,000 users have now used these services and the average satisfaction rate remains high, at above 80 per cent. As part of the business case refresh the programme timeline has been extended by one year and will now expect to close in 2023. Learning from the services that we have already delivered and the feedback received, including from the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office, we have decided to re-order aspects of the programme. This will allow more time to develop some of the shared systems that sit behind our next set of online services.’

Elsewhere, the IPA reports that the DWP’s People and Locations Programme has left the GMPP after successfully delivering savings from a ‘rationalised’ DWP estate (although last year’s annual report rated the Programme as amber/red), the Universal Credit Programme is rated amber (as it was last year) and GOV.UK Verify is rated red (compared to an amber rating last year).

GMWRAG rather thinks these things speak for themselves.

A reminder of things to forget.

Just a quick reminder that there is not a North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group meeting in July.

Those of you paying attention may also have noticed that news on a Salford GMWRAG in July has been conspicuously quiet. You can safely assume this isn’t happening and the most likely date for this will now be September 2019. Our meetings page has been adjusted accordingly but obviously this has the usual knock on impact and other dates have been rescheduled accordingly. Please check out our meetings page for full information.

Blatant plagiarism in the name of a good cause.

GMWRAG noted the following posted on Rightsnet. We think this is too important to miss so we’re reprinting it in full below.

CPAG is partway through releasing a series of reports entitled Computer says “No” detailing problems arising in the automated UC system.  These hard-hitting reports wouldn’t be possible without your case studies, so thank you! It’d be great to receive some up-to-date examples which may contribute to the third and final report in the series.

1. Many of you have already seen our first Computer says “No” report detailing issues with UC statements [available here: http://www.cpag.org.uk/sites/default/files/Computer says ‘no!’ Stage one – information provision_2.pdf]

2. Our second report is due to be released next week, and will set out the problems encountered by claimants in challenging UC decisions (i.e. using the MR process). So do keep an eye out for it.

3. The third report will focus on how the DWP implements decisions (other than those concerning initial calculation of entitlement).  We’re interested to hear about recent cases of:
a) DWP delay in implementing Tribunal decision in UC
b) DWP delay or mistake in paying backdated UC entitlement
c) UC statements overwritten with corrected entitlement, not reflecting actual payments made
d) UC claim start date amended and assessment periods changed from start of claim
e) Possession case adjournments/ suspended orders requiring rent arrears payments lower than standard 10-20% deductions made in UC
f) Debt Relief Orders writing off UC Advances, or other debts, being ignored
g) Failure to apply legal judgments effectively e.g. Faulty SDP gateway, High Court Johnson assessment period ruling

The above are all issues that you’ve told us about before, but recent examples would help us ascertain whether they remain unresolved and if so, add to the strength of our report.

Many thanks for any and all contributions!

Best way to submit cases is our online EWS form: https://childpovertyactiongroup.wufoo.com/forms/m1vc0zeg1sr9zgh/
or email ews@cpag.org.uk

Freshly minted new job vacancies at Greater Manchester Law Centre.

GMLC logoGreater Manchester Law Centre are looking to appoint a Director, Social Welfare Solicitor(s) and a Welfare Benefits Supervisor who share their vision for the future. An electronic version of the below can be downloaded from https://gmwrag.files.wordpress.com/2019/07/full-advert_gmlc-director-solicitor-supervisor-advert-july-20191.docx.

Solidarity not Sympathy – Law Centre Director, Solicitor(s) and Welfare Benefits Supervisor

Greater Manchester Law Centre is looking to appoint a Director, Social Welfare Solicitor(s) and Welfare Benefits Supervisor who share our vision for the future.

More and more people are experiencing benefits cuts and sanctions, homelessness and escalating racism. The hostile environment affects both claimants and migrants. The survivors of Grenfell are entitled to justice.

Yet legal aid has been cut again and again. Law firms are deterred from taking restrictive legal aid contracts. Young social welfare lawyers have few places to practise. The people most in need of legal representation are least likely to be able to find – or afford – a lawyer.

Greater Manchester Law Centre started as a protest against cuts and closures. We have been open to the public for three years, providing a welcoming face-to-face service. We’ve provided support to people to challenge benefit decisions at tribunals, legal representation for people who are homeless or facing eviction, given expert employment law advice, and through all this we have been developing a new generation of social welfare lawyers.

But while we work with individuals, we have to challenge the policies which produce the hardships they and many others are facing in the first place. That is why we set out our purpose in our recently launched manifesto “Fighting Together for Free Access to Justice”. We demand the restoration of legal aid, the legal right to a safe and secure home, and an end to the scandals resulting from Windrush and Universal Credit. Working together with the rightly-acclaimed Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit, we aim to be the leading voluntary organisation in the city-region promoting both challenges to government policy and improvements to advice and representation needed to make legal aid a reality and to empower those who are most affected by the current regime.

GREATER MANCHESTER LAW CENTRE DIRECTOR

We seek someone who shares our political outlook and has the skills and commitment to take the law centre in the direction set out in the manifesto, and who will work together with others, especially “user-led” groups of people directly affected themselves, to change government policies and end the hostile environment.

This means a clear and strategic senior manager, looking outward and upward,

  • who can use the Manifesto to put forward both policy changes and service developments [the Manifesto is at www.gmlaw.org.uk]
  • who can work with others to increase our effectiveness with both the local decision-makers and the parliamentarians with whom we have already built good links, as well as with the universities, law firms, media and indeed the general public, and
  • who can ensure that there will be financial and managerial sustainability for the law centre for the long-term future.

For an informal discussion, which we would encourage, please contact John Nicholson [13-27 July only] or Denise McDowell – johnnicholson@gmlaw.org.uk or denise@gmiau.org

For an application pack, please see www.gmlaw.org.uk

Applications to johnnicholson@gmlaw.org.uk by 12.00 noon Monday 5th August 2019.

Interviews are likely to be held in the week beginning 12th August 2019 (so please say if you have any difficulties with dates in that week).

GREATER MANCHESTER LAW CENTRE SOLICITOR(S)

GMLC also seeks (at least) 1 full time equivalent Solicitor, whether through full or part time posts, to cover at least one or more of the following:

Housing,

Public Law,

Employment,

Mental Health,

Community Care,

and

Welfare Benefits.

We are looking for people committed to our manifesto and to working in a community law centre.

The manifesto is at www.gmlaw.org.uk

For an informal discussion, which we would encourage, please contact John Nicholson [13-27 July only] or Denise McDowell – johnnicholson@gmlaw.org.uk or denise@gmiau.org

For an application pack, please see www.gmlaw.org.uk

Applications to johnnicholson@gmlaw.org.uk by 12.00 noon Monday 12th August 2019.

Interviews are likely to be held in the fortnight beginning 19th August 2019 (so please say if you have any difficulties with dates in the second half of August).

GREATER MANCHESTER LAW CENTRE WELFARE BENEFITS SUPERVISOR

GMLC seeks a welfare benefits supervisor to provide a high-quality welfare benefits advice and specialist casework service to clients in Greater Manchester, and to provide supervision, mentoring and support to volunteer workers to help develop their skills and expertise in welfare benefits.

We are looking for people committed to our manifesto and to working in a community law centre. The manifesto is at gmlaw.org.uk 

For an informal discussion, which we would encourage, please contact John Nicholson [13-27 July only] or Denise McDowell – johnnicholson@gmlaw.org.uk or denise@gmiau.org

For an application pack, please see www.gmlaw.org.uk

Applications to johnnicholson@gmlaw.org.uk by 12.00 noon Monday 12th August 2019.

Interviews are likely to be held in the fortnight beginning 19th August 2019 (so please say if you have any difficulties with dates in the second half of August).

Minutes of the GMWRAG GM UC Forum finally available.

GMWRAG has taken our time getting minutes out from the first two very successful meetings of the GMWRAG GM UC Forum. This has largely been because of a need to ensure various parties are happy the minutes accurately reflect their participation and this, to be blunt, has been like herding cats. However, herding cats is not actually impossible (follow that link folks) and so here we finally are.

The minutes for both the January 2019 meeting in Oldham and the May 2019 meeting are now available for download from the GMUCF section of our site and they are of course password protected.

Regular GMWRAG users will be able to take a punt at our password but if not you can always DM us on Twitter or email to the usual address. If you don’t know the usual address then you’re possibly not a GMWRAG member or not paying attention.

The next GMWRAG meeting and GMWRAG GM UC Forum meeting was scheduled for Salford in July. That clearly isn’t going to happen so we’re now aiming for late August or early September. More news on this as we have it.