GM Law Centre Legal Advocacy Support Group

GM Law Centre’s Pro Bono LASP (Legal Advocacy Support Project), modelled on the work done at Avon and Bristol Law Centre LASP, have advised GMWRAG that they “… have capacity to take on failed WCA, ESA and UC appeals” as they have a new intake of student caseworkers from MMU Law School proactively looking to prepare and represent alongside University of Manchester colleagues.

They can take on appeal bundles issues 3-4 months ago, which leaves time to prepare. The team have recently been nominated for the Manchester Legal Awards Pro Bono/Community Initiative Award.

Claimants can get an appointment by calling GMLC reception on 0161 769 2244 between 9:30am and 3pm, Monday to Friday except for Bank Holidays (we presume) of which there are some soon. Alternatively you can email reception.

Advisers should note that GM Law Centre serves the whole of Greater Manchester and thus you are being offered a service which can help you manage your own capacity issues in a world of contracting advice services and advice deserts.

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LASPO and ESA research.

Matt Steele is a Social Welfare Law, Policy & Advice Practice MA student at Staffordshire University.

As part of his dissertation for the master’s degree he will be completing research to understand the impact of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) has had on the provision of specialist welfare benefit representation in the not-for-profit advice sector, with a particular focus on Employment and Support Allowance appeals.

The research is timely as it coincides with the government’s first review of legal aid since LASPO was enacted (expected to report in 2019).

He is looking to collect data through the use of a questionnaire. He is asking specialist welfare benefit advisers who assist clients in Employment and Support Allowance appeals to complete the questionnaire. Advisers can be paid or voluntary and operate in England and Wales.

The survey covers four fundamental areas of interest for the research.

  • How has the service offer to clients changed since LASPO?
  • What are specialist advisers’ experiences of supporting claimants through the appeals process?
  • What impact does the ESA appeals process have on the well being of clients?
  • How do the changes in legal aid impact on specialist advisers’ ability to influence social policy change?

The survey is completed anonymously with no identifying data being requested. The project focuses on the experiences of specialist advisers and does not seek to speak to clients in any way.

He wonders if GMWRAG members would be prepared to circulate the survey to your members to help the survey to reach a wide circulation?

The survey can be taken by clicking on the anonymous and re-usable link below. More information about the research can be found on the first page of the survey.

http://staffordshire.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_bKHJzJ6hSeNFgih

Please do not hesitate to contact Matt if you need any further information. He can be contacted via sv001567@student.staffs.ac.uk.

ESA Income Related backdating Appeals; Section 27 – your cases needed.

DWP is applying to strike out appeals against their decisions that backdating of the Income Related element of ESA should be limited to October 2014 in IB to ESA conversion cases.

HM Courts & Tribunals Service hope to deal with these applications en masse.

City of Wolverhampton Council Welfare Rights Service has been told that their case is now the lead case. They have been asked to collate as many examples of DWP applications to strike-out similar cases as possible and forward the details to HMCTS.

If you have a case the DWP is attempting to strike out please forward the appeal reference number to dan.manville@wolverhampton.gov.uk. NAWRA expect case management directions in due course.

These cases should not be struck out at present, as depending on what is decided in an ongoing case R(DS) v SSWP in the Upper Tribunal it may be that there is merit in these appeals. We need to alert the First-tier Tribunal to as many relevant cases as possible and seek to persuade them that the appropriate use of its powers under the Tribunal Procedure Rules is to stay similar cases pending the outcome of R(DS) v SSWP.

NAWRA News

The first edition of NAWRA News is out now.

It has recently come to light that around 75,000 incapacity benefit claimants lost out when they were migrated over to contributory ESA (cESA) but not assessed for income-related ESA (irESA).

Find out how the DWP intends to contact those affected and NAWRA’s advice for advisers in NAWRA News.

NAWRA News is in the members area of their website.  Those of you within NAWRA should have already received an email detailing how to access using a password. If not, please talk to your NAWRA representative.

The BBC are looking at the accessibility of every ESA and PIP assessment venue and your help is needed.

With thanks to our colleague Peter Turville via our friends at Rightsnet.

A BBC disability correspondent is compiling details of the accessibility of every ESA and PIP assessment venue – following up on a piece on ‘You & Yours’ some months back.

They are looking at practical issues including:

• Where is the venue located – city centre, out of town industrial estate, rural location etc?
• How easy is it to get to by public transport? Frequency of service, distance from nearest bus stop / trains station etc. Would a client need to take a taxi for part of the journey?
• Parking – at venue or nearby, cost etc. Problems if not a Blue Badge holder.
• How well is the venue signed – big sign or little plaque on door / in window? How is it identified – providers / sub-contractors name / logo?
• Financial difficulty for client paying for the travel cost up front / delay in provider paying refund or refusing to pay taxi fares.
• Accessibility – steps, ramps, for (electric) wheel chairs etc. Issues with suitable adaptions, provision of BSL and other interpreters etc.
• Pre-appointment info. – does it provide details of public transport routes, parking, accessibility restrictions, prepayment & refund of fares, paying for taxi, requesting an alternative venue or time of appointment?

They would be interested in particularly difficult to get to or find or otherwise inappropriate venues and other related problems like clients refused appointments at local / most easy to get to/accessible venue.

For example: a venue (featured in the previous item) is ‘hidden away’ in a small industrial estate in a village which has no public transport on a Sunday (when claimants are offered appointments). City centre(ish) venue is on a busy main road with no parking (double yellow, residents only in side streets, public car park 150m away and often full), old shop front with whitewashed windows (looks empty) with a tiny sign in the window (if you can see it due to condensation!).

If anyone has a claimant who is willing to be interviewed (radio – probably pre-recorded) about issues they had with a venue Carolyn would love to hear from you!

So for example – if a client missed their appointment because they couldn’t find the venue (tucked away on an industrial estate with a tiny sign on the door) or couldn’t get to the venue for the correct time (or had to go hours early or hang around for hours after) because of infrequent bus services etc.

Perhaps what they are not so interested in is claimants who were given an appointment at a venue a long way away when they had a more local venue. That was covered in the original piece – although if the provider refused to change the venue that would still be of interest.

Please contact: carolyn.atkinson@bbc.co.uk

 

Critical social policy work from NAWRA.

NAWRA has been liaising with a firm of solicitors talking about possible ways to take judicial review action on various aspects of Universal Credit. They are very interested in taking challenges on working disabled people and the self-employed – they are already taking a challenge on behalf of claimants losing the SDP.

They remain keen to hear about clients who have lost out moving to UC who are either –
• a working disabled person moving from WTC to UC and losing money due to loss of the disabled worker element;
• a self-employed person who is losing out because of irregular income and so gets less UC than an employed person earning a similar amount, or other self-employed people losing out under UC.

NAWRA are also widening their search for potential UC judicial review claimants to people in the following circumstances:

1. Claimants who are naturally migrating from ESA – failure to pay the LCW/LCWRA element straight away

2. The application of waiting days when they shouldn’t be applied as claimant was on legacy benefits before migrating

3. Submission of a DS1500 by a third party and a refusal to accept without explicit consent

If you have a client who is affected and would consider taking part in a legal challenge please email daphne@nawra.org.uk

 

 

 

Work and Pensions Committee launches inquiry into effectiveness of PIP and ESA assessments.

The Work and Pensions Committee has launched an inquiry into the effectiveness of personal independence payment (PIP) and employment and support allowance (ESA) assessments. They are seeking recommendations for change on the assessment process for each benefit individually, and to hear about common lessons that can be learned from the two processes, the Committee invites submissions over three main areas:

Assessors and assessments –

  • whether contractor assessors possess sufficient expertise to carry out assessments for people with a wide range of health conditions;
    • whether the DWP’s quality control for contractors is sufficient and effective;
    • whether the options for reforming the work capability assessment mooted in the government’s Improving Lives green paper should be taken forward; and
    • what examples of best practice in assessing eligibility for benefits are available internationally, and whether they are transferable to ESA and/or PIP.
  • Mandatory reconsideration and appeal –
    • the reasons why claimants seek to overturn initial assessment outcomes for ESA and/or PIP;
    • the reasons why levels of disputed decisions are higher for PIP than for ESA;
    • whether the mandatory reconsideration process is working well for claimants of ESA and/or PIP;
    • the reasons for the rate of overturned decisions at appeal for PIP and/or ESA;
    • whether there are lessons that could be learned from the ESA mandatory reconsideration and appeal process for PIP and vice-versa; and
    • whether there are changes that could be made earlier in the process to ensure fewer claimants feel they need to appeal.
  • Claimant experiences –
    • whether prospective claimants currently understand the purpose of the assessment;
    • in what way could claimants be helped to better understand the assessment process;
    • whether there are some groups of claimants particularly likely to encounter problems with their assessments – and if so, how can this be addressed; and
    • whether the assessment processes for PIP and ESA should be more closely integrated, and other ways the processes might be streamlined for claimants.

The Committee is seeking written submissions by the 10th of November 2017 and also invites claimants who have had an assessment, or are waiting for an assessment, to submit a comment on its web forum.

For more information see Are PIP and ESA Assessments working well? from parliament.uk

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.