NAWRA coming to the North West of England.

It has been a couple of months since GMWRAG posted anything in respect of our friends at NAWRA. Details of future NAWRA meetings have caught our eye though because early in March 2019 NAWRA will be coming to your area (the North West of England) and to Salford in particular. We will be playing an active role in publicising said meeting but in the meantime details of the next two NAWRA meetings are below.

The next meeting will take place from 10am-4pm (registration from 9.30am) on Friday the 7th of September 2018 at Renfield St Stephen’s Centre, 260 Bath St, Glasgow G2 4JP (hosted by Glasgow City Council).

Following that meeting the next two meetings will be

Durham on Friday the 7th of December 2018 which will be held at Town Hall, Market Place, Durham DH1 3NJ (hosted by Durham County Council) and then Salford on Friday the 1st of March 2019.

Further details to follow as we have them.

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Initial details of the next GMWRAG meeting now available.

GMWRAG is pleased to confirm that the next GMWRAG meeting will be taking place in October 2018 and will be hosted by Trafford Welfare Rights Service.

The meeting will be a full day meeting with the intention of having two speakers and will take place at the offices of Trafford Housing Trust, Sale Point, 126-150 Washway Road, Sale M33 6AG on Friday the 19th of October 2018. The venue is 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 🙂

A quick reminder also that the minutes from the last meeting have long since been available and can be downloaded from our Minutes page. The agenda for the Trafford meeting will be published here as soon as it’s finalised and if anyone has either a great suggestion for a speaker or any other agenda items please contact GMWRAG in the usual ways.

Mike Shermer.

GMWRAG estimates that in the 16 years we have had a presence on this webby thingy we have only posted obituaries on two occasions. Sadly, so recently after our second such post, we now find ourselves having to post for the second time within a week.

Mike Shermer, was a former NAWRA committee member for the East of England region, who passed away peacefully on the 17th of May 2018, aged 74.

Mike was one of the original members of the NAWRA committee and demonstrated a commitment to the organisation throughout his time with them. Many many GMWRAG members will have met Mike at NAWRA meetings and indeed he once kindly attended a GMWRAG meeting to share his expertise. They will recall being engaged in often brilliantly diverting tangential discussions on welfare rights and the world at large.

Mike was a dedicated welfare rights adviser with Kings Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council and had also served as a Town Councillor for March in the Isle of Ely area of Cambridgeshire. Following his retirement, Mike still kept in touch with welfare rights matters and indeed occasionally popped up for discussion with GMWRAG in the dim and distant days we had a Facebook account.

GMWRAG would like to pass on condolences to Mike’s wife, Jeanette, and to all the Shermer family and acknowledge our friends at NAWRA who posted much of the above and drew it to our attention. Flowers, or donations in his memory for Breathe Easy Fenland, may be made to Turner and Son, Independent Funeral Directors, City Road, March, Cambs. PE15 9LS.

GMWRAG in Manchester has been cancelled.

We are sorry to announce that, owing to circumstances beyond our control, the next GMWRAG meeting, which was due to take place in Manchester later this month, has been cancelled. Unless anyone fancies stepping into the breach for a late July meeting then the current intention is to allow our meeting rota to run as intended. This would mean that the next GMWRAG meeting remains as planned i.e. Trafford in October 2018. Manchester has now been moved down the rota so that the next meeting there will be in April 2020.

Our meetings page has been amended to reflect these changes.

Some sad news for GMWRAG members.

GMWRAG is very sad indeed to report that Steve Ogden, formerly of Tameside Welfare Rights Service, passed away on the 18th of May 2018.

Starting his working life as an electrician, Steve had to change his occupation following a serious motor bike accident in which his left arm was paralysed. He became a welfare rights officer and advocate in employment tribunals, managing for some years the independent Welfare Rights Unit in Hyde, Tameside. He later moved to a welfare rights officer role at Tameside Council, where he was a member of the Unite union.

As well as a working life dedicated to supporting others, he did voluntary work with the innovative Manchester homelessness charity, Lifeshare, and later in a service supporting victims of child abuse.

Steve has served as Treasurer, Membership Secretary and Vice-Chair of Left Unity in Stockport. He also took roles at national level as a member of the Party’s Disputes Committee and its Trade Union Commission.

Steve developing ideas for a Solidarity drop-in in Stockport. From his work as a welfare rights officer specialising in mental health, Steve had identified a need for support for claimants of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) with the forms that have to be completed.

In the two and a half years since, Solidarity Drop-in (every Monday in Disability Stockport on High Street) has gone from strength to strength and has helped nearly 500 people navigate the PIP/ESA assessment treadmill. An enormous amount of the credit for this success goes to Steve.

We send our sincerest and deepest sympathy and condolences to his family and to all of his many friends and comrades.

Steve helped set up the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group nearly 20 years ago and has been one of the main organisers ever since.  He continued to attend, and bring new people with him, even after he took early retirement.

Steve was a committed campaigner for social justice – both in his work and outside of it.  He volunteered with Tameside, Oldham and Glossop MIND.  He joined the campaign against cuts to mental health services in Stockport which was successful. He helped to set up Stockport United Against Austerity which campaigns against welfare reform and all cuts to public services. As a lifelong Manchester United fan, Steve was very pleased with the title of that group.
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Outside of work he loved to play badminton and squash. He loved hiking and he was an avid Manchester United fan. As a result of his accident he could not drink due to medication, but whenever he met someone new and the conversation turned to alcohol he would state (with a mischievous half smile) “I don’t drink since I found god” and would start to sing “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam”. It would take about 2 minutes to realise he was joking.

Steve will be greatly missed. Colleagues wishing to pay their respects should be aware that his funeral takes place on Tuesday the 5th of June 2018 at 12.45pm at Cyprus Chapel, Stockport Crematorium Buxton Road SK2 6LS. Burial takes place at 13.45 followed by a wake at 14.15 at the Waterside Hotel and Leisure Club, Wilmslow Road Didsbury M20 5WZ.

GMWRAG would like to thank Helen Rogers of Stockport Advice and Stephen Adams-Corbett of Tameside Welfare Rights Service for their kind permission to use their words to pay tribute to Steve. We are bitterly disappointed to be unable to use one of the many great photos of Steve which people have gathered over the years.

The minutes of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group are now available for download.

The minutes from the last meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group are now available for download. They will of course be permanently available in their usual location.

Additionally, presentations from the same meeting are also available for download as follows:

All of the above will also be available within the NWMHWRAG pages.

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:

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 🙂

New video from Housing Systems.

GMWRAG would like to draw your attention to yet another excellent video from our friends at Housing Systems. This time it’s all about looking at Universal Credit Monthly Assessment Periods in detail. At best this might be described as a somewhat dry subject. Whilst this video contains no exciting new concepts like “UC as a smoothie” we can say we were utterly mesmerised by the big yellow jumper/sweater which keeps appearing and the use of a pen which makes words and entire sentences appear some time after the pen has finished writing. We want one of those. Anyways, in the meantime you can watch the video at