Updated – GMWRAG resources for advisers.

GMWRAG has updated the sub pages of the NWMHWRAG with so that the presentations to the group page now includes recent DWP responses to group questions about Universal Credit.

Within our “Protected: Resources for advisers in the North West” section we have now added email contact details for every DWP Partnership Manager within the Greater Manchester area. You’ll be needing these for those rare UC failures you may occasionally come across when you need some soothing Vivaldi and a cushion to bite.

These are only accurate as of today and you will of course need the asymmetric encryption key and pass card…

Oh, okay. Ask nicely and we’ll give you the password.

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Countdown to the October the 6th GMWRAG meeting in Oldham.

We posted full details of the next GMWRAG meeting as far back as the 12th of July 2017. To save yourself (well, us) some time, you can have a look at that post now.  Everything you need is in there. The date, the time, the place , how to get there and even tentative details of a speaker.

A quick hint. It’s a full day meeting on Friday the 6th of October 2017 (that bit wot is in the title of this post) and you’re still going to have to read that previous post and remember to bring your own minutes from the last meeting.

We’re waiting for final confirmation on our morning speaker but we can confirm that our afternoon speaker will definitely be Vivien Robinson, DWP Partnership Manager, who will be talking about the local roll out of full service Universal Credit from 2:00pm onward.

Some of you may remember that in a previous post we detailed an update to UC roll out and this included the news that Oldham was rolling out from April 2017.

As soon as our a.m. speaker is confirmed the full agenda will be published here.

DWP launches yet another consultation in which they will listen very carefully to what you have to say and then… well who knows!

Following on from the report of the Work and Pensions Committee which concluded that bereavement support was “opaque and outdated” the DWP have launched a consultation on reforms to the social fund funeral expenses payments scheme with the aim of making it clearer who is eligible for a payment and easier for people to claim.

Introducing the consultation, Minister for Family Support, Housing and Child Maintenance Caroline Dinenage said –

‘We understand what a distressing and difficult time it can be losing a loved one and we want to make the process of claiming a Funeral Payment as simple as possible..’

The proposals include –

  • allowing recipients of payments to receive additional contributions towards the cost of a funeral from charities, friends and relatives without deducting these from the value of the funeral payment award;
  • introducing an exception for people living in care who receive income-assessed financial support from their local authority towards all or part of their care fees (and therefore not receiving a qualifying benefit), and not assigning them the responsible person status;
  • extending the application period from 3 to 6 months;
  • a shorter application form for claims for children’s funerals;
  • amending regulations to clarify that funeral payments will pay for the necessary costs of a burial with or without exclusive rights of burial;
  • allowing applicants and funeral directors to be able to submit evidence electronically to support a claim for funeral payments; and
  • including medical examiner fees under a proposed unified system of scrutiny of all deaths, if adopted in the future, as a necessary cost as currently covered  for cremation medical fees.

The consultation period runs until the 21st of August 2017. You know what to do.

For more information see Reforms to the Social Fund’s Funeral Expenses Payments

Getting a home-visit for form filling from the DWP.

It’s very easy for welfare rights advisers to forget that, despite death by a thousand cuts, there are still organisations out there who will do home-visits and will still do form filling. Amongst them of course remains DWP. We have uploaded a list of contacts for DWP visiting services across the North West and Wales as well as the referral form they ask people to complete.

Please note that the referral form is for organisations only and, for that reason, we have chosen to password protect both the referral form and the associated document which gives advisers a nice list of email, phone and fax contacts across the North West of England and Wales. Most GMWRAG members will know our password routine but if you need us to spell it out then please DM @GMWRAGtweets on that Twitter thing or email the usual suspects within GMWRAG for details.

We are strangely reassured (or something) that in the age of driverless cars and the internet of things DWP still have fax machines.

Those of you who have had your interest piqued by the strategic casework approach we describe in our new section may want to consider that outsourcing form completion back to the organisation who issue most of them so you can focus on challenging erroneous decisions via complaints, letters before action and judicial review has many advantages.

  • Download a referral form for a DWP home-visit from here.
  • Download a list of DWP contacts from here.

GMWRAG is keen to emphasise that, when completing a referral for a home-visit, there is an unprecedented opportunity to detail whether there are any “risk factors” and whether there are any “accessibility requirements”.

Whilst DWP are undoubtedly only thinking of risk and access for their visiting officers this space can be used to spell out the risk of visitors for clients e.g. people with mental health issues, learning difficulties and sensory impairments, and, the accessibility needs of the claimant e.g. a large print form and so on.

DWP Christmas and New Year information now out.

We have attached the two fliers from DWP advising first of all when payments will be made over the forthcoming week and opening times for the Christmas and New Year period.

Whilst we hesitate to suggest there are green shoots of recovery we note that GMWRAG has been able to advertise job vacancies with relative regularity for the first time in a good while. We’re also confident that, by the time you’ve read this, and for the first time since 2013, numbers visiting the site have risen. There has been a slow but noticeable decline which we associate with the plain simple fact there have been less of us doing the work. That decline is now over and will be further arrested when we unleash our new section (which some of you may have already noticed) imminently.

If you stare at this page for long enough (not long in reality) then the GMWRAG site will of course start snowing for you (although we like to think it’s weeping at welfare reform!) so GMWRAG would like to of course take this opportunity to wish our members a peaceful Christmas and all the best for 2017.

Benefit uprating 2016 to 2017

The government has announced the new benefit rates to be introduced in April 2017.

Further to the Treasury’s publication last week of the new tax credit, child benefit and guardian’s allowance rates, the government has today published the proposed DWP benefit and pension rates for 2017/2018.

The proposed benefit and pension rates 2017 to 2018 are available from gov.uk. Separate links are available as follows:

There are a small number of potentially misleading elements to this which our friends at Rightsnet are busy noting. Check out this thread for further information.

GMWRAG has noted that Carer’s UK has welcomed the increase in the earnings limit for carer’s allowance, albeit that this is pitifully small. No-one else is shouting from the roof tops? You will of course note the number of benefit rates which remain frozen although it’s good to know that, presumably with his irony meter switched off, IDS is on our side on this! For an alternative perspective on what these cuts mean (and for many people they are undoubtedly further cuts) there are plenty of real world accounts out there like this.

Consultation on supported housing.

This has, to say the least, rumbled on for a good few years, but we are now at the stage when another attempt to resolve it has been suggested. So, the Department for Communities and Local Government and Department for Work and Pensions have now published a new consultation on the detail of the future funding model for supported housing from April 2019. This will obviously be hugely significant for a number of our members.

The consultation lasts for 12 weeks from the 21st of November 2016 until the closing date of Monday the 13th of February 2017. Everything you need to know can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/funding-for-supported-housing.

At the same time the government has published the evidence review of supported accommodation in Great Britain.

Queries and responses can be sent via email to supportedhousing@communities.gsi.gov.uk or you can write to the Department for Communities and Local Government, Supported Housing Programme, Fry Building, 3rd Floor, 2 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF

IMPORTANT: The world turned upside down. Twice over.

You may recall GMWRAG expressing serious concern recently about a government consultation titled “Transforming our courts and tribunals.” We wrote about it at length and it’s worth reading again to remind yourselves that this wasn’t just about reducing the number of people who form a tribunal panel. It was also about the end of oral hearings (although it was hidden away in the original document). There’s also lots of the original post which bears repeating about the background to this.

You (well, we) would expect that at the point DWP are putting up such a consultation they would of course have decided what they wanted and know what they were doing. It is bemusing therefore to have to report that one consultation has now become two and has even acquired not one, but two, separate closing dates.

So, those of you (like us) who were busy writing your responses for the 27th of this month may want to take a deep breath and take a look at the following.

The “Transforming Our Justice System” consultation, which had a closing date of the 27th of October 2016 has been superseded by two separate consultations:

Transforming Our Justice System: Assisted Digital Strategy, Online Conviction and Statutory Fixed Fines – This has a closing date of the 10th of November 2016.

Transforming Our Justice System: Panel Composition in Tribunals This has a closing date of the 24th of November 2016.

With no irony whatsoever, this was due to an administrative error where two documents (the Online Convictions/Statutory Fixed Fine Impact Assessment & Equalities Statement, and the Panel Composition Equalities Statement) were not uploaded correctly when the consultation launched on the 15th of September 2016.

So, to summarise!!! Government can mess up an electronic consultation through a simple failure to upload documents correctly and wants to introduce an appeals system involving, amongst other things… uploading of documents!!!

GMWRAG has no words other than to wonder why our members would need further encouragement to respond to both of the above.

The relevant page can be found at https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/transforming-our-courts-and-tribunals. It includes seven associated documents. On current evidence we cannot confirm whether you’ll be able to open them 🙂 or whether there’s more to come. However, the links to the two specific consultations can be found at

Responses already written on the basis of the original consultation, or already written and submitted will be accepted and taken into account.

In the meantime if anyone wants to start a petition for there to be a (paper) consultation about whether government is capable enough to hold online consultations…

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NAWRA submission re: the abolition of Attendance Allowance.

NAWRA has submitted a response to the “Self-sufficient local government: 100% business rates retention consultation” voicing their concern at the proposal that Attendance Allowance will no longer be a cash benefit in England and Wales when responsibility for it transfers from the DWP to each local authority’s social care budget.

If you didn’t realise that the abolition of AA was a real thing then please refer back to our previous items on this

One of the biggest reallocations of public resources in 25 years, and

More information on the abolition of Attendance Allowance as we know it.

Always keep in mind some people said Universal Credit would never start!!!

The submission is available on the NAWRA website. The deadline for submissions has now passed.

Thanks very much to Julie Henry (Durham County Council) for drafting it.