GMWRAG has whispered. Who will heed the whisper?

So, the poll results are in and GMWRAG members have responded with a resounding whisper in low numbers but, nevertheless, “some numbers”. Indeed, more people voted than have attended some GMWRAG meetings on occasion (!) so we’ll go with it and declare ourselves quarantined or quorate or quixotic or quite easily pleased or whatever the term is.

And the verdict is:

  • you want virtual meetings but you’d also entertain a virtual social.
  • Zoom is very much the tool of choice.
  • most of you would prefer to stick with the traditional “GMWRAG Friday” despite the efforts of others to screw that up. NAWRA, we’re looking at you (sternly).

So, by our reckoning we have missed meetings in Bolton, Manchester and Trafford with Oldham to come in September 2020.

We fully appreciate that circumstances may reduce the number of services capable of running a virtual meeting but GMWRAG hosts should know where they are on the meetings list – here’s a reminder – and the process has long been that hosts organise their own meeting and provide a chair and minute taker.

So, the big question now is who will step up and set us going once again? GMWRAG members, we’re looking at you.

GMWRAG social

Aside from this week’s GMWRAG GM UC Forum there have been no GMWRAG meetings during lockdown. In part this has been driven by necessity. The priority for all of us has been our own day jobs and the welfare of those around us. It’s also been driven by the sense that many of the issues GMWRAG members might want to discuss in our new pandemic driven advice environment have been more than adequately addressed by NAWRA.

However, as things move along we think it’s time to put the feelers out as regards stepping things up once more. In the first instance those feelers are tentatively edging their way towards a GMWRAG social event. This will likely include virtual rooms for people who want to be part of a raucous drunken session; people who would just like a quiet chat and catch up and maybe even people who would like a quiz? With that in mind we’d appreciate it if members could complete the following poll asap and we’ll go from there.

Once we have co-produced our social event we will look to setting up regular GMWRAG meetings online if we’re clear that the demand and a distinct agenda exists.

Anyways, answers within the week please…

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.

A reminder of things to forget.

Just a quick reminder that there is not a North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group meeting in July.

Those of you paying attention may also have noticed that news on a Salford GMWRAG in July has been conspicuously quiet. You can safely assume this isn’t happening and the most likely date for this will now be September 2019. Our meetings page has been adjusted accordingly but obviously this has the usual knock on impact and other dates have been rescheduled accordingly. Please check out our meetings page for full information.

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.

Initial details of the first meeting of the GMWRAG Greater Manchester Universal Credit Forum.

Somewhat pre-empting the issuing of the minutes of the last meeting GMWRAG is pleased to be able to confirm that the first GMWRAG led Greater Manchester Universal Credit Forum (we’re open to negotiations on the name) has been scheduled to take place  between 12:30pm and 5pm on Friday the 25th of January 2019 in the Crompton Suite at Oldham Council, Civic Centre, West Street, Oldham OL1 1NL.

For SatNav use OL1 1NL as the post code. The Metrolink stop is King Street (2-3 mins walk) away.

The intention is that a a minimum of 3 DWP partnership managers will be at each meeting along with a similar number of work coach team leaders and (hopefully) the Preston Service Centre manager (but longer term staff on the front line at the SC).

The agenda for the first meeting will broadly be around

  • introductions and sorting how the group should administer itself; who it should report to etc.
  • limited capability for work and complex needs.
  • deductions from UC.
  • any other business.

As agreed at the meeting, this post is going out her in order to generate GM interest beyond those who attended the October GMWRAG meeting and a number of people who attended that meeting will also be invited through various routes.

Our target audience here is advisers whose welfare rights work is in the GM area and we’re looking for people with a long term interest in participating in the forum to drive consistency of approach across the Greater Manchester area. One off attendees will always be welcome but the focus is initially on establishing a core group who will be able to attend quarterly meetings.

Initially if you could email gmwrag at hotmail dot co dot uk and let us know of your interest we’ll liaise with Oldham.

Please note that it was agreed that after January 2019 (when we already have a full day GMWRAG meeting scheduled for the week before the first UC forum) whoever hosts GMWRAG will be hosting a half day UC forum meeting and a half day GMWRAG meeting.

If you’re not sure when you’re hosting GMWRAG then full details can be found on our meetings page. How this works with Oldham being scheduled to host GMWRAG in June 2019 we have yet to figure out but rest assured we’re working on it.

GMWRAG in Manchester has been cancelled.

We are sorry to announce that, owing to circumstances beyond our control, the next GMWRAG meeting, which was due to take place in Manchester later this month, has been cancelled. Unless anyone fancies stepping into the breach for a late July meeting then the current intention is to allow our meeting rota to run as intended. This would mean that the next GMWRAG meeting remains as planned i.e. Trafford in October 2018. Manchester has now been moved down the rota so that the next meeting there will be in April 2020.

Our meetings page has been amended to reflect these changes.

First GMWRAG meeting of 2018.

We confirmed back in October 2017 that the next GMWRAG meeting would take place in Salford and we anticipated this would take place on Friday the 19th of January 2018. We can now confirm this as a definite date. The meeting will take place in committee room 3 of the old town hall in Swinton (M27 5 FJ). It will be a full day meeting and we are just waiting for two of three potential speakers to confirm. Minutes of the last meeting are awaited from Oldham and we’ll distribute those and a full agenda as soon as they’re finalised.

Many of you will have been to Swinton before and recognise there are considerable difficulties in securing parking, especially if needed for the day. For this reason GMWRAG urges attendees to either car share or use public transport. There is public transport information available at https://www.salford.gov.uk/council-buildings-and-venues/how-to-find-us but we have alerted Salford to the fact much of this out of date. Some options have improved (electric car charging) and some have not (parking generally).

We can tell you at this stage that Salford is well served by public transport with a train station less than 10 minutes walk from the civic centre and buses coming past the civic centre on Chorley Road and Partington Lane on a regular basis. Guided busway and other buses also go down the East Lancs. Road and drop off less than 10 minutes walk from the civic centre.

We’ll post more about your transport options when we post up the full meeting details with agenda, speakers and minutes of the last meeting.

Happy Christmas from GMWRAG

At this time of year GMWRAG pontificates on the year passing and hopes for better to come. So, here we are again. We’re not sure attempting to summarise this year in terms of welfare rights is the best approach. David Bowie died; Donald Trump became POTUS in waiting: Britain voted to leave Europe and Iain Duncan Smith ended the year thinking he’s on the same side as us. GMWRAG is not sure there is anything we can add to that so we’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all the best Christmas you can have and a peaceful 2017. The word “prosperous” doesn’t seem appropriate.

We’ll see you on the other side. Try and pretend it’s just a dream…