URGENT: North West Mental Health WRAs Group meeting has been cancelled and re-arranged.

The meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group on the 27th March 2020 has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The speaker, Susan Perry, Team Leader at DWP Disability Services, has agreed to re-schedule for Friday the 29th of May 2020.

This meeting remains at 9.30am for 10am at Greater Manchester Law Centre as per our previous post.

A reminder and further confirmation nearer the time.

GMWRAG meetings part 2.

You may have been expecting the next GMWRAG post to be something about Covid-19. It is not (much).

Further to our recent post re: the next meeting of the NWMHWRAG we have been advised by Greater Manchester Law Centre via Twitter that they will “get the kettle on”. Better still the email which told us that all those complex instructions on how to get there – “press a buzzer and wait for someone to let you in.” – can be superseded as “The buzzer’s broke; just let yourselves in.”. We’re not sure this is the safest advice but go with it and see what happens.

GMWRAG takes no responsibility for people stood outside like lemons waiting for something to happen.

Those of you awaiting confirmation that the next GMWRAG meeting is cancelled will have to wait a little longer. At present, the meeting proceeds on the 15th of May 2020 albeit that our intended speaker @citizenbradshaw has been told to step down by his wife because he’s on holiday. Yes, you really did just read that correctly 🙂

A replacement speaker (also from Leigh Day) has been tentatively sorted by the kind Mr. Bradshaw so at present we’re all systems go for both the GM UC meeting and the pm GMWRAG meeting.

“Fighting Together For Free Access To Justice” event at Greater Manchester Law Centre..

GMWRAG is not one for fighting but on this occasion we’ll make an exception.

On Saturday the 21st of March 2020 Greater Manchester Law Centre are hosting an event titled “Fighting Together For Free Access To Justice”. The more eagle-eyed amongst you may notice that this has in fact been their strap-line for some time. Anyway…

The event will discuss

  • Combating Universal Credit.
  • Supporting and enforcing workers’ rights for those in the Gig Economy and on zero hours contracts.
  • Promoting and demanding the right to decent, affordable housing that provides secure homes for everyone.

All three bouts appear to be reffed by some bloke called Jeremy Corbyn MP. We’ve provided a link in case you need more information on who he is.

As with all good fights spaces are limited and things will (ahem) “kick off” at 12:45pm for a 1pm start with the last man standing to be declared around 2:45pm so you can wander off to the football and kick off all over again.

Please RSVP to developmentworker@gmlaw.org.uk confirming your attendance.

For more information, please call 0161 769 2245.

Ipswich, Bolton, Dead Parrots and the resurrection of the “northerly” GMWRAG Strategic Casework Group.

Many GMWRAG members looked forward enthusiastically to meetings of our Strategic Casework Group. Indeed, the last entry on the SCG pages (until today)looked forward to the GMWRAG meeting on 16th June 2017! Sadly, thanks to life getting in the way of the steering group, the wheels fell off. However this parrot is not quite dead:

Greater Manchester Law Centre are hoping to breathe life into the Norwegian Blue once more and propose a meeting to plot a way forward on Tuesday the 28th of April 2020 at, 9.30am, at the Law Centre, above the Jain Community Centre, 669 Stockport Rd, Levenshulme, Manchester M12 4QE.

Anyone interested would be wise to email danmanville@gmlaw.org.uk so Dan can keep an eye on the numbers; it’s not a huge room!

We’re hoping to create a more northerly focus to the group going forward so please don’t be put off by the Greater Manchester badging…

See you there.

And just like that… more GMWRAG meetings.

GMWRAG is pleased to confirm that our next meetings can already be confirmed as definite. This magnificent piece of organisation comes to you largely courtesy of people talking across other people and mumbling stuff during last weeks first post millennium trip to Bury. This may also explain why we’ve managed to announce the next meeting without actually getting notes written up from the last one as yet. Fear not. We’re “on it” whatever “it” may be.

The next GMWRAG UC Forum and GMWRAG meeting will both be hosted by Manchester and will take place on Friday the 15th of May 2020 at Greater Manchester Law Centre. Instructions on how to get as lost as several of us did in Bury will follow in due course.

The UC Forum will commence at 9:30 for refreshments/networking for a 10am start with a 12:30pm finish. The agenda has already been defined as follows:

1 Apologies.

2 Minutes of the last meeting and matters arising.

3 Deductions from Universal Credit.

4 Messages around mixed age couples.

There is plenty of time available for this agenda to accommodate additional items but we’re planning on asking for someone from Debt Recovery and the UC Service Centre to attend in service of item 3 and someone from the Pension Service in respect of item 4 so that might be more than enough to be going on with.

Nevertheless please Contact GMWRAG through the usual channels if you wish to do so (or we forgot something).

The main GMWRAG meeting will start at 1:30pm for refreshments/networking for a 2pm start and a 4pm finish.

Our speaker will be Ryan Bradshaw, Associate Solicitor from Leigh Day. At present the likely topic will be “Challenging welfare benefits decisions using the European Convention on Human Rights and the sorts of compensation that might be awarded.”

Again though, things move on quickly in the magical world of welfare rights so this is a movable feast and there may be something Ryan could do which might be more pertinent to the timing of the meeting depending on what happens over the next couple of months.

The rest of the agenda is up for grabs so if you have a suggestion for other agenda items or even a second speaker then, again, please Contact GMWRAG through the usual routes.

The notes/minutes of the last meeting will be available as soon as enough of us have pooled resources/spoken to each other to remember what might have happened. That’s two months advance notice that you can print your own and bring them with you by the way!

North West Thingummy You Know What Group Stuff.

Yeah, essentially there are only so many times in your life you can type North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group or NWMHWRAG and not lose the will to live.

In the background here GMWRAG has people whispering seductively in our ear(s) about adding an extra word/letter to the GMSC but taking 2 letters out in order to make it the NSCG. Now that people is how you do it. They’re probably right too but come on now let’s not forget these things are GMWRAG sub-groups so it should really be the GMWRAG NSCG and the GMWRAG NWMHWRAG. Don’t tempt us or we will insist 🙂

So, yeah, them and.. more stuff.

Firstly, here’s yer minutes. Then here’s, er, stuff.

As if this were not enough joy for one day we must also say that we have been advised that there was some confusion at the last meeting. With a group name like that how could there not be. Oh no, hang on. That wasn’t it.

“There was some confusion about Work Allowances at the meeting.  Speaker Julie Conneely has emailed to clarify:-

To be eligible for a work allowance the claimant (and/or partner) either have

  • Responsibility for a child
  • Limited capability for work

There are two levels

if UCFS includes housing support the work allowance is £287

if UCFS does not include housing support) the work allowance is £503“.

But we knew that didn’t we?!

We will of course be adding the “stuff” to “their” pages as soon as we’ve stopped chortling at our own wit. So, that’s never then?

Oh yeah, and this.

The next meeting of “them” will be on Friday (the – why do we keep having to add in “the” for them?)  27th (of – and “of”) March 2020.

The speaker will be Susan Perry, Team Leader at Disability Services at Chorlton. She will be talking about and taking questions on PIP.

The meeting will be at Greater Manchester Law Centre. More details to follow nearer the time. We think that’ll be the usual don’t wander through the wrong door at the fire station stuff. Nope? Wrong venue. Don’t wander down the middle of the law centre or you’ll be arrested? Something like that? No? Don’t read the letters or they’ll change to N or NWLC? Sigh. Time for a lie down.

It’s Christmas. Don’t argue. It’s beyond October so therefore it’s definitely Christmas. GMWRAG is being invited to things. This may not be a party!

Disappointingly, Greater Manchester Law Centre is not inviting us to a Christmas party. They’re inviting GMWRAG members to

“Turned away: ‘Gateway’ or gatekeeping in homelessness services” on Monday the 18th of November 2019 between 10:00am and 1:30 pm.

They are hosting an event with Greater Manchester Housing Action and Garden Court Chambers and would like to invite you to join us.

Shu Shin Luh and Tessa Buchanan of Garden Court Chambers will be speaking about their case, ‘D’ v Essex County Council, challenging the local authority’s unlawful practice of turning homeless children away from care. (https://www.gardencourtchambers.co.uk/news/essex-county-council-admits-unlawful-practice-in-turning-away-homeless-children-from-care)

They will be discussing and inviting questions on the specific barriers faced by young people and homeless people in in Greater Manchester and the North West.

More information can be found on their Eventbrite page by clicking here .

Shu Shin Luh, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers (Year of Call: 2006)

Shu Shin is a leading public law practitioners whose practice focuses on human rights and equality law. She has substantive knowledge and expertise in advising on matters in all areas of social welfare law, including housing, mental health and mental capacity, health care and benefits. She aims to act for her clients in a comprehensive way, advising where possible on the full range of legal issues impacting on different aspects of their lives. She also acts for organisations as claimants and interveners on policy matters of public importance. She is particularly recognised for her legal work in the areas of children’s rights, victims of trafficking and migrants. Shu Shin won the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year award in 2012 for her contribution to the advancement of children’s rights. She regularly advises NGOs and government organisations on legal policy development and draft legislation in the areas of children’s rights, trafficking, immigration and violence against women and has acted as a legal advisor to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights.

Over the course of 2018 / 2019, Shu Shin led Tessa Buchanan of Garden Court in a series of strategic challenges to the unlawful practice of Essex County Council of diverting homeless teenage children away from accommodation and support under section 20 Children Act 1989, which consequence was to deprive these children from receiving the benefit of leaving care support in their transition to adulthood. The litigation culminated in a settlement in D v Essex, in which Essex County Council admitted that this practice was unlawful. Shu Shin has also successfully challenged other local authority practices including gatekeeping to disabled children’s services (AT and KT v LB of Haringey) and subsistence levels for migrant families supported under s. 17 Children Act 1989 (PO and Ors v Newham LBC). She has also acted in high-profile challenges in the context of welfare benefits and homelessness on behalf of Shelter as an intervener in Samuels v Birmingham CC [2019] UKSC 28 and DA and Ors v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2019] UKSC 21.

Tessa Buchanan, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers (Year of Call: 2012)

Tessa Buchanan is a busy and widely respected barrister with an impressive track record representing clients across a broad range of social welfare cases, with particular expertise in the fields of community care, homelessness, housing and Gypsy and Traveller Law. Her practice is primarily publicly funded and she is often instructed in cases involving challenges to failures to provide support or accommodation under the Children Act 1989; cases involving children who are leaving or who have left care; and challenges to age assessments of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. Tessa is regularly instructed in appeals and applications for judicial review and represents clients in a wide range of hearings in the County Court and High Court.

This year, with Shu Shin Luh of Garden Court, she represented a 16 year old homeless child, D, in D v Essex, instructed by Kelly Everett of Coram Children’s Legal Centre, in which Essex County Council admitted unlawful practice in turning away homeless children from care in breach of section 20 of the Children Act 1989. She has also appeared in several cases in the Court of Appeal, including the leading case of Panayiotou v London Borough of Waltham Forest [2017] EWCA Civ 1624.

Tessa is the vice-chair of the Housing Law Practitioners Association, a co-author of the fifth edition of Housing Allocation and Homelessness: Law and Practice (Jordans, August 2018), and a contributing author to several other forthcoming works.

They look forward to seeing you there. Greater Manchester Law Centre, 669 Stockport Road, Longsight, Manchester, M12 4QE. 0161 769 2244

GMLCAGM – oh come on. It’s not that hard to figure out!

GMWRAG members should already be aware Greater Manchester Law Centre has moved to 669 Stockport Road, Longsight, Manchester M12 4QE (next to the Jain Centre). Why should you be aware? Well, because we told you.

GMLC want to work closely with local community organisations.

They have a new director, Jason Tetley, starting work middle of November. The first opportunity to meet Jason will be at their Annual General Meeting, to be held in our new premises on Thursday the 28th of November 2019 at 6pm. Presumably tea will be on offer?

GMLC would be pleased if members of your organisation could attend. You will hear about their progress so far, get a chance to meet the law centre workers and volunteers and contribute to developing our future plans.

GMWRAG thinks this is like one of those Facebook parties where a well meaning 16 year old throws a party and then an entire neighbourhood turns up. Go on. Make their day 🙂

Freshly minted new job vacancies at Greater Manchester Law Centre.

GMLC logoGreater Manchester Law Centre are looking to appoint a Director, Social Welfare Solicitor(s) and a Welfare Benefits Supervisor who share their vision for the future. An electronic version of the below can be downloaded from https://gmwrag.files.wordpress.com/2019/07/full-advert_gmlc-director-solicitor-supervisor-advert-july-20191.docx.

Solidarity not Sympathy – Law Centre Director, Solicitor(s) and Welfare Benefits Supervisor

Greater Manchester Law Centre is looking to appoint a Director, Social Welfare Solicitor(s) and Welfare Benefits Supervisor who share our vision for the future.

More and more people are experiencing benefits cuts and sanctions, homelessness and escalating racism. The hostile environment affects both claimants and migrants. The survivors of Grenfell are entitled to justice.

Yet legal aid has been cut again and again. Law firms are deterred from taking restrictive legal aid contracts. Young social welfare lawyers have few places to practise. The people most in need of legal representation are least likely to be able to find – or afford – a lawyer.

Greater Manchester Law Centre started as a protest against cuts and closures. We have been open to the public for three years, providing a welcoming face-to-face service. We’ve provided support to people to challenge benefit decisions at tribunals, legal representation for people who are homeless or facing eviction, given expert employment law advice, and through all this we have been developing a new generation of social welfare lawyers.

But while we work with individuals, we have to challenge the policies which produce the hardships they and many others are facing in the first place. That is why we set out our purpose in our recently launched manifesto “Fighting Together for Free Access to Justice”. We demand the restoration of legal aid, the legal right to a safe and secure home, and an end to the scandals resulting from Windrush and Universal Credit. Working together with the rightly-acclaimed Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit, we aim to be the leading voluntary organisation in the city-region promoting both challenges to government policy and improvements to advice and representation needed to make legal aid a reality and to empower those who are most affected by the current regime.

GREATER MANCHESTER LAW CENTRE DIRECTOR

We seek someone who shares our political outlook and has the skills and commitment to take the law centre in the direction set out in the manifesto, and who will work together with others, especially “user-led” groups of people directly affected themselves, to change government policies and end the hostile environment.

This means a clear and strategic senior manager, looking outward and upward,

  • who can use the Manifesto to put forward both policy changes and service developments [the Manifesto is at www.gmlaw.org.uk]
  • who can work with others to increase our effectiveness with both the local decision-makers and the parliamentarians with whom we have already built good links, as well as with the universities, law firms, media and indeed the general public, and
  • who can ensure that there will be financial and managerial sustainability for the law centre for the long-term future.

For an informal discussion, which we would encourage, please contact John Nicholson [13-27 July only] or Denise McDowell – johnnicholson@gmlaw.org.uk or denise@gmiau.org

For an application pack, please see www.gmlaw.org.uk

Applications to johnnicholson@gmlaw.org.uk by 12.00 noon Monday 5th August 2019.

Interviews are likely to be held in the week beginning 12th August 2019 (so please say if you have any difficulties with dates in that week).

GREATER MANCHESTER LAW CENTRE SOLICITOR(S)

GMLC also seeks (at least) 1 full time equivalent Solicitor, whether through full or part time posts, to cover at least one or more of the following:

Housing,

Public Law,

Employment,

Mental Health,

Community Care,

and

Welfare Benefits.

We are looking for people committed to our manifesto and to working in a community law centre.

The manifesto is at www.gmlaw.org.uk

For an informal discussion, which we would encourage, please contact John Nicholson [13-27 July only] or Denise McDowell – johnnicholson@gmlaw.org.uk or denise@gmiau.org

For an application pack, please see www.gmlaw.org.uk

Applications to johnnicholson@gmlaw.org.uk by 12.00 noon Monday 12th August 2019.

Interviews are likely to be held in the fortnight beginning 19th August 2019 (so please say if you have any difficulties with dates in the second half of August).

GREATER MANCHESTER LAW CENTRE WELFARE BENEFITS SUPERVISOR

GMLC seeks a welfare benefits supervisor to provide a high-quality welfare benefits advice and specialist casework service to clients in Greater Manchester, and to provide supervision, mentoring and support to volunteer workers to help develop their skills and expertise in welfare benefits.

We are looking for people committed to our manifesto and to working in a community law centre. The manifesto is at gmlaw.org.uk 

For an informal discussion, which we would encourage, please contact John Nicholson [13-27 July only] or Denise McDowell – johnnicholson@gmlaw.org.uk or denise@gmiau.org

For an application pack, please see www.gmlaw.org.uk

Applications to johnnicholson@gmlaw.org.uk by 12.00 noon Monday 12th August 2019.

Interviews are likely to be held in the fortnight beginning 19th August 2019 (so please say if you have any difficulties with dates in the second half of August).