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.

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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.

How to do judicial review (North) – places still available.

Our lovely friends at the Public Law Project have asked us to point out that their imminent one day course in Manchester on “How to do judicial review” still has places available. The course takes place on Thursday the 11th of July 2019 between 10am and 5:45 pm at 79 Oxford Street, Manchester M1 6FQ.

The course is delivered by colleagues from

and GMWRAG urges members of GMSCG and anyone with an interest in a public law approach to welfare benefits to book your place now. Please do not rule yourself out of this course because you’re a welfare rights adviser and think it doesn’t apply to you.

As PLPs “blurb” says, the course is

“A complete, one day course to provide lawyers and advisers, policy people and decision makers with an understanding of public law principles and how they operate in bringing and defending judicial review claims. The course is also relevant to those working in campaigning organisations with a legal strategy and those representing and advising marginalised groups in society.”

To book a place please go to https://publiclawproject.org.uk/events/how-to-do-judicial-review-north/ and click on the “Book Now” button on the right of the page.

CPAG looking for test cases.

CPAG is looking for test cases. To be fair, CPAG is always looking for test cases. However…

Do you have a client who would be willing to be part of CPAG’s strategic litigation?

CPAG is looking for clients in the following circumstances:

1.    The date of claim for universal credit claimants who use the Help to Claim service operated by Citizens Advice.
CPAG is looking for a universal credit claimant who has used the Citizens Advice Help to Claim service co-located in a Job Centre and their date of claim is later than the date they requested the Help to Claim service.

2.    Benefit cap
CPAG is looking for a lone parent with a child under 5 who has been subject to the benefit cap in the past few months, hasn’t had the benefit of DHPs throughout and possibly has even had to move home because of the cap.

To refer a client living in England or Wales please complete CPAG’s referral form.

The next UK White Paper on social security (welfare benefits) comes to Greater Manchester.

It was drawn to the attention of GMWRAG a few weeks back that the Commission on Social Security (welfare benefits), led by Experts by Experience was busy touring the UK but didn’t have an event in Greater Manchester. We are very pleased to draw to your attention that there will now be a GM event supported by the UK Social Policy Association.

This will take place on Tuesday the 23rd of July 2019 between 1pm-3pm and will be hosted by Greater Manchester Poverty Action and the University of Salford (venue: University of Salford, Media City). Regrettably, GMWRAG has been unable to locate an exact address for the venue but we think it’s this and there’s some more helpful stuff here too. GMWRAG accepts no responsibility for members found wandering round Salford Quays before or after said event.

So, what is it then?

What proposals should be made in the next UK White Paper on social security (welfare benefits)?

Background

The social security/welfare benefits system is failing, with foodbanks and homelessness just two of the most visible signs of this.

But there is little agreement, even within civil society, on ways forward.

The workshops

The workshops will stimulate thinking about the future of social security/welfare benefits, and provide the opportunity for discussion and collaboration among attendees.

In particular, the workshops will input to a project called the Commission on Social Security (welfare benefits), led by Experts by Experience which is issuing a Call for Solutions.

The Commission is highly innovative in that all the Commissioners are people with experience of claiming benefits. The Commission’s aim is to produce a White Paper style document setting out a better system and building consensus. The Call for Solutions will include questions such as the following.

  • What steps can be taken to make Universal Credit better or if you think it should be scrapped, what would replace it?
  • How can people who are sick or disabled be better supported and how should the system work out who should get sickness or disability benefits?
  • Should there be a minimum income level below which no one can fall and if so, how could this be done?
  • How should benefit rates be worked out and how much should each benefit be?

Workshop participants will also be welcome to identify solutions on the whole range of issues relevant to social security/welfare benefits. For example, sanctions, Child Benefit, Local Welfare Assistance Schemes, National Insurance contributory benefits, support for housing costs and council tax, individual/household assessments and payments, how increased spending on benefits can be financed, the balance between means-testing or being contributions-based and reflecting people’s particular needs or being universal? Etc.

Workshop format

The workshops will have a participatory format including small group work and consensus building activities.

They will be structured around the Call for Solutions being made by the Commission on Social Security led by Experts by Experience but will also identify other possible activity.

Who should attend?

Anyone interested in a better social security/welfare benefits system! Whether you are an individual Expert by Experience, part of a user-led or community group, from a third sector organisation, academia or anywhere else, you will be made very welcome.

Workshop organisers

Michael Orton and Kate Summers

Any queries please email Michael.Orton@warwick.ac.uk

Additional information

The Workshops are free but places are limited and registration is essential.

A small travel budget is available for people who would otherwise be unable to attend. Please contact the organisers for further information.

In 2016-17 the Social Policy Association supported a previous series of workshops on social security/welfare benefits which identified an agenda for future work. That agenda is summarised here and informs this latest initiative.

We’ll see you there (or wandering aimlessly thereabouts). You can reserve a place via Eventbrite.

Quiz Knight

Following the NWMHWRAG post with the various documents from their last meeting we have become aware that some people have asked for the answers to the UC True or False quiz. GMWRAG was not sure whether to go along with this tacit admission of failure on the part of welfare rights advisers but in the end we thought it would be at the very least fun to post answers to an quiz when we can’t even remember what the questions were!

So, the answers are as follows:

Doris                      False

Claudette               False

Joe                         True (as long as the landlord agrees for him to stay.)

Davinder                False

Julie                        False

Ahmed                   False

Heather                 True

Viola                      False

If you’re as intrigued/lost/bewildered/bemused as we were then the questions can be found on the Presentations page of our NWMHWRAG section. For our own amusement we weren’t planning on putting the answers there too.

GMWRAG can’t help but think that if you’re going to give out a true or false answer it might be an idea to know why but maybe that’s just us being picky.

GMWRAG is also of the view that all of the above is a secret code and that it’s all really taken from the lyrics of Valerie by the Zutons.

“Did you have to go to jail?” is definitely the question on Julie and her ABH as is “did you get a good lawyer?”

“Put your house on up for sale” well that could be at least 3 of them!

“And the way you like to dress Doris”

“Won’t you come on over Viola Valerie?

We rest our case (and possibly our weary hallucinating head)!

MIND research on the WCA.

MIND are conducting some research into the WCA with a view to contributing to the Social Security Commission.

They are looking for volunteers who have had a WCA and who would be interested in taking part in an interview for research for MIND.

Who are they looking for?

• People who are going or have recently been through the WCA.

• Different types of mental health conditions.

• Would be open to an interview with our research team.

• They would be paid from £60 to £80 (depending on the research part they get involved with) to say thank you for their time.

If you know anyone who might be interested or have any questions, please contact them on 020 7735 8040, or email:

rosa.grossman

@revealingreality

.co.uk or

maeve.garner

@revealingreality

.co.uk

And, yes, we did break those email addresses down deliberately.

Please see the attached.