GMWRAG GM UC Forum – a quick reminder for tomorrow.

GMWRAG has “tested the tech” (Microsoft Teams for those of you not paying attention) and we’re happy that we’re all “good to go” for tomorrow afternoon’s resumption of the GMWRAG GM UC Forum at 2:30pm online. 

The agenda for the meeting has previously been published and you’ll be aware we have 2 presentations on UC/deductions and plenty of opportunity for questions. We’ll have plenty of people in attendance but places are still available if you’re a GM welfare rights adviser. Simply email GMWRAG and we’ll send you a meeting request. See also here for the initial announcement of the meeting.

By the time you read this we will have sent out, as previously promised, one final updated meeting request. That doesn’t stop us adding more names if you would like to attend. A link to join the meeting should be within that Meeting Request.

Whilst the meeting kicks off at 2:30pm and we will spend some time going through some basic video meeting etiquette GMWRAG hopes to open things up around 2:15/2:20pm to give everyone a chance to get in on time and sort out (most) technical issues.

Please note that at the end of the meeting we will need to define an agenda and time-scale for the next meeting and we are hopeful there will be one quick final item as the estimable Mr. Dan Manville of GM Law Centre pops in talk about another GMWRAG sub-group – the GMWRAG GM Strategic Casework Group.

GMWRAG out of lockdown. Online GMWRAG GM UC Forum meeting announcement.

GMWRAG hopes all our members; their family; friends and co-workers remain safe and well. 

GMWRAG has quietly watched as NAWRA and PLP and all these new kids on the block steal our thunder (well, our Friday meeting times) and run online meetings via Zoom. Well, it’s over now kiddies!

GMWRAG is back and bigger and badder than ever. Or something like that! That roughly translates as “please come to our meeting too”.

Attendees at the last GMWRAG meeting will be aware we had a tentative proposal that the sole agenda item for the next GMWRAG GM UC Forum should be “Deductions From UC”. This has taken some time to pull together but we’re pleased to say this session is now a reality and we have agreed it will take place on

Wednesday the 22nd of July 2020 between 2:30pm and 4pm.  The meeting will be hosted by Microsoft Teams as a video meeting and admission is of course free.

We know those of you already used to getting drunk with family and friends on Zoom may be disappointed by this but both DWP and several local authorities do not currently allow access to Zoom so Teams (which is replacing Skype for Business) is the solution which securely allows the largest number of attendees from both sides.

We can confirm that in addition to our usual array (is that the word?) of JCP Partnership Managers, DWP have secured the attendance of reps. from both Debt Management and Strategy (Universal Credit and Employment Policy) which should facilitate an in depth discussions of current and past issues with UC deductions. This leaves a number of outstanding issues:

How do I join the GMWRAG GM UC Forum online meeting? In order to attend the meeting you will need to be a GMWRAG member. You know who you are!

You will then need to email us to indicate your intention to attend. We can be contacted at GMWRAG at Hotmail Dot Co Dot UK

NB: Please email us with the email address you intend to use to attend the meeting as we will be emailing out an Outlook meeting request.

Do I need Microsoft Teams or a Microsoft Teams account? You do not. You will need an internet browser compatible with Teams (Edge, Chrome; Safari; that sort of thing) and a Gmail or Hotmail address or similar.

When you accept our meeting request (and you will won’t you!) it will hopefully put the meeting in your calendar. On the day, open the calendar item and click the “Join Teams Meeting” link. That will take you into Teams where the chair will leave you in a “virtual lobby” until we spot you and admit you to the actual meeting asap.

If the meeting request doesn’t go into your calendar then, after you’ve finished berating your IT support, just retain the email in your inbox and you should be able to join on the day from there. 

This is however all a little smoother if you have the Teams app and your own login. It’s available for desktop or mobile from https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/microsoft-365/microsoft-teams/download-app

Is there a limit on the number of places? Places are limited by overall bandwidth and speed of response. We would not expect to host substantially more attendees than a usual GM UC Forum but equally we need attendees to indicate their attendance really quickly as we don’t want to spam inboxes sending out updated meeting requests every few days. Bearing this in mind, we’d ask all who wish to attend to indicate this by email no later than Wednesday the 15th of July 2020. If all goes smoothly you should receive no more than one initial invite and maybe one update after that.

Can I ask questions about deductions in advance? We think it will help give the session a sharper focus if questions are submitted in advance. We appreciate we’re on a short time scale here but we will give DWP every opportunity to come to the session knowing the areas in which we have an ongoing interest or concern. 

When you email us re: attendance please include any questions you have in the email. Where issues or questions overlap we reserve the right to butcher your question and give it a completely different meaning amalgamate questions as best we can to reflect the general area at issue. 

This of course won’t prevent questions on the day. We shall attempt to balance the two as best we can. 

Is there anything else I need to know? Yes, online meetings can be plagued with all manner of technical and practical issues. You can help the meeting go smoothly if you could kindly:

  • use appropriate real or virtual backgrounds if using video.
  • recognise not all users may wish or be able to use video for cultural or other reasons.
  • mute your microphone when not speaking. 
  • raise your “virtual hand” when you wish to speak. This will be acknowledged by the chair and you’ll be invited to speak as the moment arises. 

Owt else? Yes, please familiarise yourself with Teams as best you can if you’re not already familiar. Whilst the meeting will be on video there will also be a chat channel available for all attendees and there is a facility to share screens; presentations etc. if needed. 

We look forward to seeing and hearing you all on the day. 

We will post again in advance of the meeting to remind people to register and sort out any issues which arise in the meantime. 

Finally, if anyone would like to chat post meeting we’re sure a number of members will be around for you to do so. In the absence of a GMWRAG meeting at present we are intending that there will be a short AOB session at the end and we’ll be looking to facilitate a GMWRAG social event in lieu of a meeting as soon as possible after this meeting. 

Salford GMWRAG meeting finally announced.

Hello happy GMWRAG followers. We trust you had an enjoyable Summer somewhere away from the B word; climate change; the silently creeping surveillance society and of course Harrogate and managed migration. No? Us neither.

Well, thinking about it we suppose there could be several B words right now.

Anyway, after much sitting on our hands we have found a room (in a city – one for the late 1980s music fans there) and the next GMWRAG meetings are sort of good to go. The next meetings will be hosted in Salford by Salford Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Service on Friday the 4th of October 2019 in Committee room 3 of the Civic Centre, Chorley Road, Swinton M27 5DA.

The morning meeting will be the GMWRAG GM UC Forum whilst the afternoon meeting will be yer actual bog standard cliquey GMWRAG meeting, possibly with added speaker but definitely with an opportunity to catch up on much GMWRAG business in the 12 months since we’ve hosted Neil Couling; Everyday Equalities and Brexit and Benefits.

Agendas for both meetings will be published as soon as they’re finalised. Minutes for previous meetings are already available on the Forum part of the site although there have been no formal minutes in 2019 so far because of the nature of the events we’ve hosted.

Travel to Swinton is easy nowadays, unless you own a car, in which case, no it isn’t. Parking is very limited but Swinton railway station is 10 minutes walk from the Civic Centre and well(ish) served by trains from Wigan, Southport, Salford and Manchester. It is not however a fully accessible station. There are only stairs to/from the 2 platforms.

Alternatively 36,37, 38 and various other buses stop right outside the Civic Centre or you could get a V1, V2 or 34/X34 along the East Lancs. Road to the Worsley Road stop from where it’s also only a 13 minute walk. Cyclists are also reasonably well served with storage facilities at a number of sites (to varying standards).

Swinton now sorta has “food opportunities” too. Well, one of the largest Costa Coffees outside of Manchester; an Asda café and even a Morrisons one for good measure. Some nice indie caffs are appearing and we’ll be happy to point you there on the day in the expectation that some of you won’t come back.

Anyway, more to follow as we have it and we’ll see you there.

Minutes of the GMWRAG GM UC Forum finally available.

GMWRAG has taken our time getting minutes out from the first two very successful meetings of the GMWRAG GM UC Forum. This has largely been because of a need to ensure various parties are happy the minutes accurately reflect their participation and this, to be blunt, has been like herding cats. However, herding cats is not actually impossible (follow that link folks) and so here we finally are.

The minutes for both the January 2019 meeting in Oldham and the May 2019 meeting are now available for download from the GMUCF section of our site and they are of course password protected.

Regular GMWRAG users will be able to take a punt at our password but if not you can always DM us on Twitter or email to the usual address. If you don’t know the usual address then you’re possibly not a GMWRAG member or not paying attention.

The next GMWRAG meeting and GMWRAG GM UC Forum meeting was scheduled for Salford in July. That clearly isn’t going to happen so we’re now aiming for late August or early September. More news on this as we have it.

Brexit and Universal Credit going south.

GMWRAG has secured two excellent speakers on Brexit and Benefits for our next meeting for the Friday the 17th of May 2019. Stockport were due to host both that meeting and the 2nd GMWRAG GM UC Forum on the same day. Logistical complexities mean we have yet to secure a venue. Although we haven’t completely given up hope of Stockport being able to host we are currently feeling a bit like (insert Brexit joke here) and now need to revert to plans B or C as both our speakers are in great demand and have limited alternative availability.

Plan B is this. We put a plea out on here and social meejah and hope that one of our many members can produce a free, relatively accessible venue which can host up to 50 people on Friday the 17th of May 2019.

Plan C is that basically we will go to Stockport and hold an open air meeting. Maybe Edgeley Park (although we understand they’re not used to large crowds :))

Over to you GMWRAG members. Help save Brexit (and Benefits). Contact us vy the usual routes.

Change of time for the first GMWRAG Greater Manchester Universal Credit Forum.

Full details of this Friday’s meeting in Oldham can still be found at https://gmwrag.wordpress.com/2019/01/10/gmwrag-greater-manchester-universal-credit-forum-in-oldham-a-quick-reminder/ however, after a number of queries, it has been agreed that the meeting will now commence at 1pm with a 12:30pm lead in time for refreshments and networking. This will allow people to grab lunch before the meeting starts.

We’re expecting around 30 people so please let others know if they’re not subscribers to this site.

In view of the sudden deterioration in the weather the advice in the previous post remains good. “… this is Oldham in January. Layers will be required. Good advice can be found here. Treating it as a day out doing “sedentary ice fishing” will give you a good idea of what’s required.”