Do you know anyone who has lost benefits due to surveillance by the fraud and error prevention service? GMWRAG thinks you probably do.

The Guardian reports that

“A 26-year-old man with multiple sclerosis has been told to pay back thousands of pounds after being deemed not disabled after being under surveillance by the Department for Work and Pensions, despite medical confirmation of his diagnosis.

The Fraud and Error Prevention Service, part of the DWP, secretly followed Michael Forsyth in Lanark and concluded he “deliberately misrepresented his needs” after looking through his Facebook account and recording him walking his dog. Forsyth was diagnosed with MS at the age of 20 and was in a wheelchair for his PIP assessment in 2015. “The nature of the illness means I can’t say what I’ll be able to do from day to day,” he says in The Sunday Post.

Forsyth has appealed the decision and has a letter confirming his diagnosis from his neurologist at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow which details symptoms such as: “worsening leg weakness, arm weakness, dysarthria (speech problems) and double vision”.

Share your experiences
If you have been under surveillance by the FEPS and your benefits have stopped the Grauniad would like to hear from you. What happened? Did you have to pay the money back? Have you appealed the decision?

You can get in touch by filling in the encrypted form at https://guardiannewsandmedia.formstack.com/forms/lost_benefits_due_to_surveillance – anonymously if you wish. They’ll feature some of your responses in theirreporting. Your responses will only be seen by the Guardian.”

GMWRAG cannot imagine that members have not at some point come across the joy of DWP fraud and error prevention and especially their fantastically high quality interviews under caution and video recording. Off you go.

Any sarcasm detected in the last paragraph is entirely in the eye of the beholder.

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GMWRAG starts a running thing. Hearts sink everywhere.

Following a post on here yesterday, GMWRAG member Rob Jenkins reports a small but effective surge in interest in sponsoring his attempt to raise money for The Wellspring as previously reported here. 

This means he’s actually reached his target (although that doesn’t mean potential sponsors can now look away) but the pressure is now on as he reports that

“Great news on my last run out before the big day. I was going up a bit of a hill, and I OVERTOOK someone. He was a bit younger than me, as well, and looked surprised. Then another runner with a heavy backpack ran past at about twice my speed – but he might not be in the race, so no need to worry just yet.”

Excitement on this can be countered by the statement that

“My race pack arrived today, and turns out I’ve been placed to start at the back, with the duffers and no-hopers who aren’t necessarily expected to finish at all. To add insult, my race number has a “Where’s Wally” theme. At least it will stand out on the telly, as I surge through the crowd to take top spot. Either that, or I’ll be relying on a big ‘chip time’ adjustment.”

Further bad news for Rob is that sales of British eggs are apparently on the up and dramatically so. We are most definitely labelling this the “GMWRAG effect”.

As an alternative to this frivolity, GMWRAG can now offer a further sponsorship opportunity to members desperate to invest in something resembling actual running. Actually, we’re not sure on that last bit but bear with us.

Yasmin Green of Salford Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Service “roped” Kate Anstee and Sean Finnigan of the same service into running the Great Manchester 10k run on Sunday the 20th of May 2018 in order to raise money for our friends at Greater Manchester Law Centre. We’ve no idea what terrible secret she knows about the other two which persuaded them into this folly but we’re working on it.

GMWRAG has also yet to figure out why Rob was dumb enough to volunteer to run further when a mere 10k was available but we won’t tell him if you won’t!

Whereas Rob has offered comedy in return for cash (and a possible refund if he wins) Yasmin, Kate and Sean are offering “… dedication and inspiration in the middle of Manchester, where some of you might like to meet us in a bar afterwards”. Three strangers in a bar or Where’s Wally? It’s a tough call! 🙂

You can sponsor Kate on her Just Giving page where she’ll tell you more about GMLC.

Alternatively you can sponsor Sean via HIS Just Giving page and maybe add a bit extra so he can get that shirt clean. We’re thinking that where Kate referred to inspiration Sean is offering only perspiration. Irresistible we’re sure you’ll agree. On the other hand, Sean has tried to con sponsors by suggesting he will be running “… a bit in freezing weather”. We know that this isn’t true and we think you should rack up the pressure by sponsoring him and making him run and finish in 20 plus degree heat as a punishment.

Yasmin on the other hand has at least been brutally honest.

“I hate running, I am rubbish at it and will be miserable all the way round to the pub at the end. I am willing to put myself through the embarrassment of being passed by panto horses and people being pushed on hospital beds because I want to help GMLC raise funds.”

This seems eminently reasonable to GMWRAG.

It could of course be worse. She might even be passed by Kate and Sean! You can sponsor Yasmin at Just Giving. We’re hopeful GMWRAG can retweet and maybe even post here some exciting sweaty pictures from @ansteekate; @objenkinsrob and @7yas on the day but if not we’ll be asking Sean for evidence that he’s washed the shirt before running!

GMWRAG notes that no-one from GMLC appears to be running or even walking. We’ll be having words 🙂

Do the right thing!

GMWRAG member Rob Jenkins recently made the terrible error of judgement of including GMWRAG in a round robin email advising that he was about to run a likely very warm half marathon this coming weekend in aid of local resource centre “The Wellspring” – a charity for the homeless; near homeless and disadvantaged.

Rob advises that he can be sponsored via Just Giving

“Any contributions would be amazing – or just turn up and throw something at me as I go past. But not eggs. I don’t like eggs.”

When GMWRAG pointed out that this was an open invitation to GMWRAG to post his email as it stood he, perhaps recklessly, responded that

“That sounds like an invitation to the whole of the Welfare Rights community to throw eggs at me, but why the hell not. It’s a bit ‘It’s a Knockout’ but I’ve got form there too, dressed up as Batman in a field in suburban Newcastle under Lyme.”

When GMWRAG responded that all this was going into a post, matters were compounded with the words

“My then colleague Geoff was Robin, and I seem to remember having wet sponges thrown at us.”

Rob, it appears, doesn’t know when to stop. An approach that may indeed serve him well this coming weekend.

Now GMWRAG members, plenty of options to ponder there. We’re inclined to go with suggesting a donation but it’s a close run thing. As you can see, Rob is anxiously keenly awaiting your responses.

As an added incentive we note that Rob has posted on the aforesaid page that

“As a special offer, I’ve decided that if I win the race I will agree to reimburse all my kind sponsors the full amount of their donations.   It’s a little unlikely, but they do say it’s a good course for a personal best.

That said, I’m over 50 now, and the bunions don’t get any less painful.”

By gmwragauthor Posted in Event

Seeking claimants to take legal cases over PIP dishonesty

Disability News Service has been investigating claims of dishonesty in the PIP assessment process for 18 months.

A leading discrimination lawyer has now said he may be able to take legal cases on behalf of PIP claimants who believe that the HCPs who carried out their assessments did not honestly report the results.

Cases would be taken under the Equality Act, but crucially the assessment must have happened in the last 6 months, for legal reasons.

If GMWRAG members know of any PIP claimants who have had an assessment in the last few months and want to consider legal action, please contact DNS – with some brief details of the dishonesty and when it took place – either by phone or email*.

Here’s some background to the DNS investigation…

In November 2016, DNS began an investigation into claims that healthcare professionals who carry out face-to-face assessments of benefit claimants had lied, ignored written evidence and dishonestly reported the results of physical examinations.

The claims involved HCPs working for both Capita and Atos.

The alleged dishonesty included HCPs: refusing to accept further written evidence from medical experts; wrongly claiming that physical examinations had been carried out; refusing to list all medications; ignoring or misreporting key information detailed during the assessment; and reporting a refusal to co-operate with a physical examination, when they were unable to complete it because of their impairment.

The first story was published in January 2017 and since then, DNS has compiled claims of dishonesty made by about 300 PIP claimants.

Over 18 months, evidence of institutional dishonesty has continued to build, and many of the stories published by DNS have been shocking.

DNS also reported how secret recordings revealed how a nurse failed to mention a disabled woman’s near-fatal asthma attacks, accidental overdoses and repeated blackouts in yet another dishonest benefits assessment report.

The DWP, Capita and Atos continued to insist that there is no dishonesty in the process as the evidence continued to mount.

Since the investigation began, many claimants have expressed a wish to take legal action against assessment companies because of harm caused to them and the discrimination they believe they faced.

There was some hope when a court ruled last year that a disabled woman should be awarded £5,000 compensation by Atos, after a dishonest report by one of its assessors led to her being awarded the wrong level of benefits, but Atos had failed to offer a defence to her claim for damages and is now challenging the court’s ruling.

And there was hope when solicitor Daniel Donaldson announced earlier this month that he was taking a case against DWP in the Scottish courts for allegedly discriminating against him in the way it dealt with his PIP claim.

DNS has now been in touch with a leading London-based lawyer, who has offered to consider cases of PIP claimants who allege dishonesty by their assessors, to see if there is a way to take legal action against Atos or Capita under the Equality Act.

*If you’re interested in potentially taking a legal case, contact DNS editor John Pring by phone (weekdays only, please: 01635 228907) or email: john@disabilitynewsservice.com

URGENT! – Please note the change of date and venue for the next meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group.

The next meeting of the NWMHWRAG will be on Thursday the 24th May at 9.30am for a 10am start.

Kim Heyes from Manchester Metropolitan University will be giving a talk on “Virtual Mental Health Support”.

The meeting will be in room GM 326 in the Geoffrey Manton Building, Manchester Metropolitan University, 4 Rosamund Street West, Manchester M15 6LL .

This is on the third floor, which is accessible by lift. It also has two accessible toilets (as well as other toilets!). There is a café in the building atrium and you are welcome to bring drinks into the meeting room. There are also water dispensers on the third floor with which you can fill your own drink containers.

There is an entrance on Oxford Road, directly opposite the Manchester Aquatics Centre, or a wheelchair accessible entrance just off Rosamund Street West. The best place for car parking is the NCP at the Aquatics centre.

Upon arrival (from the Oxford Road entrance) the lifts are in the far right, and the café is in the far left. You do not need to sign in at reception. Head for the third floor. As you come out of the lift, the toilets and water dispenser are round to the right. The meeting room is to the left and through the double doors. The floor is set out as a rectangle and the meeting room is along the back wall.

Apparently you “can’t miss it!”. Clearly these people have not met GMWRAG members!

Minutes of the GMWRAG meeting in Bolton plus presentation.

The minutes of the last GMWRAG meeting, held at Bolton at Home, are now available for download. Additionally, you can view the presentation from Amanda Phillips, Priority Service Lead at United Utilities here and both items will be permanently available in their usual locations within the site.

The next GMWRAG meeting is scheduled for Manchester late on in sunny June but dates, venues and speakers have yet to be finalised so we’ll publicise that information as soon as we have it.

Foodinate! Do whatinate?

GMWRAG would like to draw members attention to Foodinate. No, us neither, until now. Soooo…. in case you haven’t heard of this yet. Order any item on the menu in a Foodinate that has been marked with a sticker… and enjoy your meal. For every sticker item sold the restaurant funds a nourishing meal for a local person in need. Thusfar that’s 23,335 meals and counting at the time of writing. Foodinate aims to match each restaurant with a food-giving charity in the same area, so the meals funded by each restaurant can be served to people in need in the same community.

Foodinate restaurants in  Manchester currently include:

Proove Pizza, 160 Burton Road, West Didsbury M20 1LH.

Both branches of Crazy Pedro’s (and if you don’t know where THEY are then clearly you’re not a Mancunian).

The Lead Station, 99 Beech Road, Chorlton M21 9EQ

Tariff & Dale, 2 Tariff Street, Manchester M1 2FN

George’s Dining Room and Bar, 17 to 21 Barton Road, Worsley M28 2PD.

Evuna (we’re not sure which one from the web site).

Don Giovanni, 1 – 2 Peter House, Oxford Street, Manchester, M1 5AN.

1761, 2 Booth Street, Manchester M2 4AT.

GMWRAG cannot guarantee that this list is up to date so check out the Foodinate web site itself and treat someone other than yourself.

Next meeting of the GM Living Wage Campaign

GM Living Wage Campaign hope you can join them on May the 22nd 2018 from 2pm – 3.30pm, at the Manchester Universities’ Catholic Chaplaincy, Avila House, 335-337 Oxford Road, M13 9PG. They are going to begin planning some action they hope will enable the Cooperative Group to agree to become an accredited Living Wage employer. The decision to target the Cooperative Group was decided at the last Campaign Meeting in March 2018.

Following this meeting, agreed actions will take place on May the 29th 2018 from 2pm onwards. They hope you can join them on both days. Alternatively, if you cannot attend on one or both days, but would like to get involved in other, future action, then please do get in touch via the contact details below.

Please join on May the 22nd and/or 29th. In the meantime should you have any questions, queries, comments or suggestions for the GM Living Wage Campaign, please get in touch via an email to Lynn or call 07948 549 485.

The first episode of GMPAs “Beyond Poverty” report has been issued.

Greater Manchester Poverty Action are committed to strengthening the voices of people in poverty. People who have lived experience of poverty are sometimes referred to as experts by experience, rightly
recognising the potential that they have to bring about real change for themselves, for their communities, and for wider society. Sharing people’s stories is important for raising their voices and helping them to be heard, and for developing everyone’s understanding of poverty.

The reasons why poverty exists in Greater Manchester, and in the UK as a whole, are well understood;
high living costs, a housing market that is incapable of meeting everyone’s needs, a broken social security system that fails to provide a sufficient safety net, and an economy that relies too heavily on insecure and low paying work in order to function are all among the structural factors that result in people experiencing poverty and hardship.

However, the reasons why one person experiences poverty and one person doesn’t, and why some
people are at greater risk of poverty are complex and multifaceted. Policy and practice needs to be
designed in a way that responds to these complexities and challenges. To do so the voices of people with
lived experience of poverty must be heard, and furthermore they must be involved in re-designing policy
and practice.

We are therefore pleased to announce the launch of GMPA’s “Beyond Poverty” report, which will be
serialised in a newsletter and on their web site over the next few months. The report will share the stories of people from across Greater Manchester who are either currently experiencing poverty or who have experienced poverty in recent years, describing the experience, the causes and the effects of poverty. They don’t offer detailed commentary alongside the case studies, we want the voices of these experts by experience to speak for themselves. When all the articles have been published we will print them as a single report – please let them know by email if you would like a copy.

They start with David’s story that describes being out of work due to illness and disability,
and shows the importance of a supportive and effective welfare system for those unable to work.
They want to take the opportunity to thank everyone whose story you will read in the coming months,
who have showed great courage and understanding in coming forward and telling their stories, as well as
Peter Cruickshank for having conducted the interviews with such sensitivity and dedication.

Going beyond the Beyond Poverty report, sharing stories is important, but it is only the beginning.
Poverty can only be addressed when those who experience it first-hand are involved in the process of
identifying problems and working on solutions. We are therefore also inviting experts by experience to
co-chair each sub-group of the Food Poverty Alliance (launching on the 8th of May 2018 – https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/greater-manchester-food-poverty-alliance-launch-tickets-44144968790). In so doing, we aim to co-produce a Food Poverty Action Plan for Greater Manchester with a deep understanding of the causes, effects and experience of food poverty.