The Money Advice Trust wants to hear from debt advisers about what it’s like on the frontline

GMWRAG is aware that many of our members work for organisations which offer debt advice as well as welfare rights advice.

A new research project has launched today looking at how the debt advice sector supports people in vulnerable situations. Conducted by University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre (PFRC) in partnership with the Money Advice Trust and the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute and grant funded by the Money Advice Service, the research involves a large scale survey of UK debt advisers’ experiences with vulnerability and advice.

Central to the research is the gathering of first hand experiences of front line debt advisers, who are often working with people with complex needs such as serious illness, or wider life events like substance addictions or gambling problems.

Any organisations that provide debt advice and are interested in participating in the survey can register at:

New research on debt advice and vulnerability launched


Quick reminder about the next NAWRA meeting.

GMWRAG was for once on top of its game when reminding you previously of the next NAWRA meeting as far back as the 15th of January 2018. However, the moment is nearly upon us so we thought it prudent to remind those members who may have missed the last post.

For the sake of brevity here is the previous post in full below.

The first NAWRA meeting of 2018 takes place from 10:00am to 4:00pmwith registration from 9:30am) on Friday the 9th of March 2018 at The Tab, The Square, Stockton-on-Tees TS18 1TE.

The NAWRA web site provides a link for the above venue but it appears dead to us and a quick search didn’t reveal a web site so at present you’ll be navigating by post code. Agenda, minutes etc. will be on their meetings page as soon as they’re available.

NAWRA quarterly meetings are held around the country and include keynote speakers, workshops and a range of networking and professional development opportunities. You must be a member to attend. Details of how to become a member are available on their web site.

Quick reminder – the Blue Badge consultation is ongoing and is not a done deal.

And a further quick reminder for GMWRAG members that the Blue Badge consultation in response to the loss of a legal case quite some time ago (and not because the government are nice as they seem to be proclaiming :)) is not a done deal and remains an open consultation.

Full details can be found at and it’s worth GMWRAG members responding because whilst the proposal theoretically expands the scope of the scheme it also links it explicitly to two areas of already problematic wording used in the PIP mobility criteria.

The consultation closes on the 18th of March 2018.

Fit for the future: Transforming the court and tribunal estate.

This has been circulating the outer ring roads of the GMWRAG brain for a little while so it’s time to put the car into gear and… well,  we may have overstretched our analogy.

This HMCTS consultation sets out the proposed future strategy for HM Courts & Tribunals Service in its approach to court and tribunal estate reform.

The consultation document sets a number of proposals within the wider context of the modernisation work underway in HMCTS and discusses proposals for evaluating how the estate should change as a result. The consultation is aimed at court and tribunal users, legal professionals and bodies, the judiciary and magistracy and all other individuals with an interest in the court and tribunal estate in England and Wales.

That’ll be GMWRAG members then!

The consultation documents can be found at but for the lazy amongst you (us) we have included them below.

The consultation document itself.

Putting aside the main proposals, this is a useful document in terms of seeing how HMCTS sees itself in the immediate future re: modernisation; video links and virtual hearings; flexible operating hours (yes, you read that right)  and digital service delivery.

The Welsh version.

Because Wales is an independent and powerful state in Black Panther (amongst many other slightly more solid reasons) 🙂

The map of the HMCTS estate by region and country.

The latter is a useful document regardless of the consultation.

The consultation itself appears to be online only at, which is not great but we’d urge GMWRAG members to complete it asap.

For those of you thinking there’s nothing here for you…

  • the consultation includes a proposed “benchmark” (not even a promise or guarantee) that “…  nearly all users should be able to attend a hearing on time and return within a day, by public transport if necessary?”. What then happens to those who fall short of the benchmark?
  • the consultation includes a change in the way in which travel time is calculated when venues are consolidated closed. GMWRAG strongly feels this lacks detail and the commitment to obtain local knowledge appears half-hearted with no accompanying commitment to talking to local tribunal users for example.

New job advert on the GMWRAG web site.

People Directorate

Welfare Rights & Debt Advice Service

Welfare Rights Adviser (Direct Payments)

18 hours (job share)

Scale 2C £20,456 – £22,434

Scale 3A £23,166 – £25,694

Scale 3B   £25,694 – £28,203

[Pro Rata. Scale depends on level of experience and ability]

Personalisation of services provided by local authorities led to an increase in the number of people opting to use a direct payment from Adult Social Care to organise their own care. The flexibility offered by taking a direct payment has increased the number of people who choose to employ a personal assistant to provide the support they require. This post is designed to provide complex benefit advice to those people who chose this option. It involves working closely with disabled people, their carers and social work staff in order to identify benefit issues, offer advice on the options available to maximise income for service use and the potential employee. The post holder will join a team of Welfare Rights staff dedicated to ensuring that users of domiciliary services receive their correct benefit entitlement and can make an informed choice about the way their care needs are met.

The successful applicant will need to have:-

  • proven experience and expertise in Welfare Benefit advice work
  • a well developed understanding of Direct Payment legislation
  • an understanding of how charges for non-residential care services are worked out
  • an understanding of care commissioning procedures
  • experience of working with disabled people
  • the ability to communicate complex information clearly and concisely

Further information available from

Closing date: Friday 16th March 2018   

Refining Advicelocal

GMWRAG members, we would like to think, should by now be familiar with the Advicelocal web site run by LASA.  We’ve been asked by the latter to assist with getting the site noticed by search engines and, to that end, you’ll notice new links to the site have appeared down the right side of every GMWRAG page you view.

This is also a good opportunity for GMWRAG to practice what we preach.

So, the preachy bit… please have a look at Advicelocal and test out the functionality. Like most things, it can only improve its accuracy with decent feedback. There’s a contact form on the web site and it couldn’t be easier to use.

The practicey bit…  GMWRAG is about to undertake our occasional, annual, biannual, when we can be bothered trawl of said links on our web site and we’ll be doing updates where possible but weeding out and deleting dead links when we can. If as a consequence of this a link to your organisation disappears and you think this is wrong please, please let us know and we’ll be more than happy to post up any new links you have.

Initial details of the next GMWRAG meeting – in Bolton.

A date for your diaries.

GMWRAG is pleased to announce that (for once) we are wholly ahead of the game and can confirm that the next GMWRAG meeting will take place on Friday the 20th of April 2018 in the Hindleys Room at Bolton At Home. The full address is Valley House, 98 Waters Meeting Road, The Valley, Bolton BL1 8SW. This will be a full day meeting and as per the Salford meeting we are hoping to secure two excellent speakers.

The minutes of the Salford meeting and associated documents and videos have been available since the end of January 2018 and can still be downloaded from the initial post or their more permanent home. An agenda for the Bolton meeting will be available as soon as we have finalised speakers and at that point we’ll post up your full options for travel and food as well.

More information as we have it.

Children’s Society Research on local welfare assistance schemes.

The Children’s Society is conducting some research on local welfare assistance schemes.  They are looking for children and parents who have experience of local welfare assistance schemes in their area so that they can interview them for the qualitative part of the research.

Have you worked with a parent/carer with children, one of whom is aged 13-18, who has gone to the council for support because of a financial crisis in the last six months?

Please see the flyer for more information or contact Richard Crellin, Policy and Research Manager at The Children’s Society at

Mental health evidence reports – A request from the Royal College Psychiatrists for guidance from welfare rights advisers.

With grateful thanks to Susannah Fayers of Camden Citizens Advice and largely purloined and adapted from our friends at Rightsnet.

Following many online/real life robust discussions re: psychiatrists failure and/or reluctance to grasp the essentials of writing evidential reports, or, their just feeling totally out of their depth when wanting to assist, the President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists has put out a call to see if anyone has any guidance that will help them with supplying medical evidence for appeals.

There is a general fairly outdated link to ESA on the website at

They have had some input in the past pro bono from a welfare rights worker and a psychiatrist who has attended tribunals. Whilst pressing for this type of work to be fully funded (and included in the next year’s budget and beyond) they are in the meantime asking if any of the welfare rights community have, or want to create, a template or a link for PIP and ESA that can be put forward to RcPsych. We all have ideas of what we want but if someone has produced something bespoke already maybe we can get it shared this way.?

The new President is engaged with this issue and active on Twitter (@wendyburn) if anyone wants to engage directly with her. Only 10% or so of those with mental health conditions are seen under secondary care but if we can get something the WR community thinks covers the essentials onto the website maybe we can then get GP’s to lift, copy and paste.

Details are on Rightsnet: and you can respond via Rightsnet or Twitter.