The Right To Justice.

‘Right to justice’, the final report of the Bach Commission is out today.

People should have a right to justice they can afford, urges a new report on access to the justice system.

The Fabian Society was secretariat for the Bach Commission which has heard from more than 100 individuals and organisations over the past two years. The commission found that cuts to legal aid created a two-tier justice system where the poorest go without representation or advice.

In its final report, published today, the commission calls on the government and other political parties to ensure minimum standards on access to justice are upheld through a new Right to Justice Act.

The proposed Right to Justice Act would:

  • Codify our existing rights to justice and establish a new right for individuals to receive reasonable legal assistance without costs they cannot afford
  • Establish a set of principles that guide interpretation of this new right
  • Establish a new body called the Justice Commission to monitor and enforce this new right

The commission also sets out an immediate action plan for the government to: widen the scope of legal aid, with a focus on early legal help; reform the eligibility requirements for legal aid; replace the Legal Aid Agency with an independent body; and improve the public’s understanding of the law.

To read the appendices to the report and see the written evidence the commission has received, please click here.

Detailed commentary can also be found via the Grauniad, Independent , The Law Society Gazette and the Solicitors Journal.

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The next meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group.

The next meeting of the NWMHWRAG will take place on Friday the 29th of September 2017 at 9.30am for 10am start.

We do not have an outside speaker this time, but we will have an information exchange for people to discuss issues/ask questions/canvass others’ opinions on welfare rights issues.

The meeting will be in Room 2001 at Manchester Town Hall.

Robin Serjeant from Manchester City Council will add everyone on the NWMHWRAG mailing list to the attendees of the meeting so that you can access the room.  He will then send an email out with instructions of how to find the room.  If anyone who is not on this mailing list wants to attend the meeting, please let Helen Rogers have their email address.

We look forward to seeing you there.

A Gremlin in the works.

It has been very kindly brought to GMWRAGs attention that our last post, regarding the current vacancy in Tameside, set members a challenge that was perhaps a little too taxing in that we didn’t link to the application process and we published an incorrect closing date, albeit that we’d given you 48 hours less than you actually have!

GMWRAG is pleased to say that both errors have quickly been fixed and for those of you who don’t have the energy then the application process starts here and ends at 11:59pm on Wednesday the 30th of August 2017 not Monday the 30th, which is of course a Bank Holiday.

Those of you cheered by the prospect of filling your application forms can console yourselves with the thought that the weather forecast for the Bank Holiday is rubbish and 11:59 is not so bad if you’re a Blondie fan.

 

A job vacancy in Tameside.

Tameside Council

CUSTOMER CARE AND ADVOCACY

WELFARE RIGHTS OFFICER

36 hours per week

Grade G point 29 £25,951 to point 23 £28,485

Fixed term contract for 12 months to cover a specific project.

Located at Clarence Arcade, Stamford Street, Ashton-under-Lyne OL6 7LT

An opportunity has arisen for an experienced Welfare Rights Officer to join a wider team of both benefits and debt advisers in supporting Tameside residents with a diagnosis of cancer.

You will use your expertise and knowledge in welfare rights advice work to advise residents on their entitlement to welfare benefits and tax credits. You will assist with claims for benefits and provide representation at welfare benefit appeals.

Partnership working with Macmillan and the clinical nurse specialist teams is essential to the success of this post.

For more information or for an informal discussion please contact Janine Yates on 0161 342 3494.

This role is a designated customer facing role under the fluency duty and requires a specified level of spoken English in the person specification.

Ref: ADV576.

Closing date: 11:59pm on Wednesday the 30th of August 2017.
Interviews: Monday the 18th of September 2017.

Applications can be made via the GreaterJobs site.

A permanent link to this job advert can be found within our current job vacancies page and will subsequently remain available in our archive.

The National Audit Office calls for evidence on the impact of Universal Credit.

The National Audit Office (NAO) has called for evidence on the impact universal credit is having on both claimants and local stakeholders.

Following its two previous reports Universal Credit: early progress (in September 2013) and Universal Credit: progress update, (November 2014) the NAO is commencing a third study examining whether the DWP is on course to make the full service available in all jobcentres by September 2018 and to transfer existing claimants by March 2022. Anyone remember when UC was going to all be sorted 2018 or did we hallucinate that?

Evidence can be emailed direct to the study team (the director of this work will be Joshua Reddaway and there are two audit managers – Caroline Harper and Andy Nichols), presumably because if they set up an office there would be insufficient space to queue!

The report is due in Spring 2018 and will assess whether universal credit is delivering its objectives and the impact on claimants and local stakeholders.

For more information see Rolling-out Universal Credit from the NAO website.

Evidence for the study can be emailed to the study team via enquiries@nao.gsi.gov.uk putting the study title in the subject line. The team will consider the evidence you provide; however, please note that due to the volume of information they receive they may not respond to you directly. If you need to raise a concern please use their contact form

Research participants needed – Sanctions, Support and Service Leavers: Welfare Conditionality and Transitions from Military to Civilian Life.

Dr. Lisa Scullion is recruiting for research subjects.

We have attached a flyer for any veterans who might be interested in taking part – and also attached a participant information sheet, which provides further info for anyone who may be willing to speak to us.

Funding has been received for a new research project relating to military veterans. The project is called Sanctions, Support and Service Leavers: Welfare Conditionality and Transitions from Military to Civilian Life. It is funded by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) and is being undertaken jointly by researchers at the University of Salford and the University of York. It is a two-year project (2017-2019) representing the first substantive research focusing specifically on how Armed Forces Service leavers experience the mainstream conditional social security benefits system.

Central to the work is a desire to establish an original evidence base to inform future policy and practice in relation to Service leavers and their families. This will be achieved through two rounds of interviews with Armed Forces Service leavers and their families, along with consultation with key national, regional and local stakeholders.

The research is also supported by an advisory group, including representatives from the College for Military Veterans and Emergency Services (CMVES), The Royal British Legion (RBL) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The following web link also provides details about the research: http://www.welfareconditionality.ac.uk/about-our-research/service-leavers/.

The North West is the key fieldwork site for the project, and they are keen to ensure they are able to capture the voices of people who are living in the Greater Manchester area. They are looking for people who are claiming the following benefits: Employment and Support Allowance (WRAG), Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) or Universal Credit (UC), as they would really like to hear people’s experiences of meeting the conditions attached to these benefits and whether or not they feel they have been appropriately supported by the Job Centre. The interviews are carried out by trained researchers, and take place wherever the participant is most comfortable – whether that is at a trusted organisation or another suitable location. A £20 shopping voucher is being offered as a thank you for people’s time.

This is the first research project to focus on this issue from the perspective of veterans, so we are keen to ensure that their voices are heard.

If you need any more information please contact

Dr Lisa Scullion

Reader in Social Policy

School of Nursing, Midwifery, Social Work & Social Sciences, the University of Salford, Salford, M6 6UP.

t: +44 (0) 161 295 5078 | e: l.scullion@salford.ac.uk

Skype: lisa.c.scullion | www.salford.ac.uk | www.shusu.salford.ac.uk/ | www.welfareconditionality.ac.uk/

PLP’s project on benefit sanctioning would like your input.

Shivani Misra is a research fellow at the Public Law Project and is conducting research on the impact of benefit sanctioning on disabled people. This is a part of PLP’s three-year project to develop and instigate a strategic legal response to the national issue of benefit sanctioning.

She will be particularly focusing on the following:

  1. Delays at the mandatory reconsideration and appeal stages, particularly for ESA claimants who have been put into the WRAG or refused ESA altogether and/or where hardship payments are unavailable.
  2. Problems caused by failures to share relevant information about a claimant’s medical condition or disability between the Work Capability assessor, the JCP Decision Maker, and the Work Programme Provider
  3. Failures by Work Programme Providers to make reasonable adjustments for disabled claimants in the WRAG or claiming JSA
  4. Lack of/inadequate reasons for sanctioning decisions undermining appeal rights.

As a part of the research she is interested in gathering evidence and hearing individual cases studies as well as talking to advisers about their experience.

Would your organization be interested in participating in the research? Your experience and inputs would certainly enrich the project.

She would also be willing to meet and discuss the issues at greater length and looks forward to hearing from you.

You can contact Shivani at The Public Law Project on 020 7843 1260  or email: s.misra@publiclawproject.org.uk

You can follow PLP on Twitter @publiclawprojct.

GMWRAG members will already be getting themselves familiar with the idea that all 4 of the above areas are ripe for public law, EA 10 or Article 6 challenges. If not, please have a look at our strategic casework pages at https://gmwrag.wordpress.com/gmscg.

GMWRAG at PLP Conference North on Benefit Sanctions and the rule of law.

GMWRAG members turned out en masse for the PLP Conference North at the BPP Law School in Manchester last week. There was particularly strong representation from the newly formed GM Strategic Casework Group and much work is now being done to assimilate what was learnt through a long day of networking, lectures and workshops.

We have attempted a brief taster below and in due course we hope to present some the key documents from the day which are not already in the public domain. Where we can we have provided links so if you want to know who someone is or what they said then please click away.

Happy reading.

Michael Adler Benefit sanctions and the rule of law – Great Britain is 33rd of 40 OECD countries in terms of severity of work incentives. We are worse than South Korea. The slide did say “Korea”. How sad that someone had to ask which one!

2012 was the first year the number of benefit sanctions exceeded the number of fines for criminal offences (Just let that one sink in!)

Judge Wright UT – How the first tier tribunal deals with sanctions following Reilly – the Government response to Jobseekers (Back To Work Schemes) Act 2013 breaching Article 6 is due in August 2017. Could impact many stayed Reilly cases.

Richard CrellinResearch on the impact of benefit sanctions – Research is being undermined by DWP repeatedly resetting the clock on FoI requests at 19 days by asking for clarifications. They refuse to provide data and then publish it as a response on the day any report with is released.

Alison Pickup – Public Law Workshop – looked at project approaches to systemic issues with organisations i.e. not just using the law. We were especially interested in the idea that challenging an apparent unfairness could involve more than litigation e.g. campaigning; publicity; partnership working and so on.

James Stark – Anti-social behaviour legislation, poverty and discriminationvivid description of the Tour De France being used as a test bed for clearing the street homeless and beggars across the UK. People being imprisoned for 6 months for begging for 50p. Longer than under the Vagrancy Act 1824 (1 month).

Zoe Leventhal – Article 6 in social welfare law – Zoe has history on Article 6 challenges. Currently testing the legality of a refusal by the SoS to extend the right to a late MR so appeal rights are lost. A 3 judge panel has sat on whether denial of appeal is a breach of article 6 and whether JR is a sufficient remedy. Decision due in August 2017.

Joseph Markus and Clare Fowler – Bringing an EA 10 claim in the County Court concerning housing, benefits and education. How to bypass the Civil Legal Aid telephone Gateway issues on discrimination cases.

Charlotte O’Brien – Brexit and benefits – There is significant potential for an “administrative cataclysm” yet this is not even on agenda. Need to understand that even the most innocuous changes to benefits now e.g. definitions of work, will have huge impact on who stays post Brexit.

Update on the roll-out of Universal Credit.

GMWRAG has been handed this handy little updated document detailing when various parts of the North West will finally experience the joy of full service Universal Credit. It looks as follows but you can download from the link above. If anyone hears of any changes to this please DM us via @GMWRAGTweets.

If anyone from Oldham would like to get in touch and maybe contribute an article about how things have been going since April then we’d be more than happy to publish.

Seems like a good moment to remind people of our hugely popular previous post on the high quality videos available about Universal Credit too.

  • April 2017
Oldham
  • July 2017
Trafford

Cheshire East – Crewe

Cheshire West & Chester – Chester

  • October 2107
Manchester – Alex Park, Didsbury, Rusholme
  • Nov 2017
Manchester – Newton Heath, Town Hall, Openshaw
  • Dec 2017
Cheshire West & Chester – Ellesmere Port, Neston, Northwich
  • Feb 2018
Rochdale
  • March 2018
Stockport

Tameside

Cheshire East – Congleton, Macclesfield

  • April 2018
Wigan
  • May 2018
Manchester – Cheetham Hill, Wythenshawe

Bury

  • June 2018
Salford
  • July 2018
Bolton