Updated statement from Greater Manchester Law Centre.

Exactly one year ago, we released our statement on the Universal Credit rollout. We were approached by a local Job Centre, who asked if we could provide facilities and support for Universal Credit applications. This did not sit well with us, and we carefully considered why.

We stand alongside people who’re fighting the DWP’s hostile environment. We have reclaimed over one million pounds falsely denied to disabled claimants in Greater Manchester, whilst demanding that the Government is held to account for the policies that are preventing disabled and unwell people from getting the disability payments they are entitled to. We are independent. Our legal services are free, professional, and face to face.

Therefore, our response was clear: the government cannot rely on the voluntary sector to pick up the pieces. For example, if Universal Credit is so convoluted and ineffective that those implement it ask charities for help, then it should not have been implemented at all. Our role is to publicly challenge the injustices of this government’s welfare regime.

One year on, we stand by this position. We remain independent, funded by our supporters and community.

GMLC’s statement, October 12th 2017: “We will not be complicit”

At the Greater Manchester Law Centre, we help people to navigate the existing benefits system. Vulnerable members of our community are struggling to access the support they deserve because of long and intimidating application forms and convoluted tribunal processes. In our first year, we helped clients with lost benefits to claim back £370,000, which demonstrates that many people are having to fight protracted battles to receive benefits that they should never have been denied in the first place. The consequences of an ineffective welfare system can be devastating, and Universal Credit appears destined to worsen the situation.

As a voluntary sector organisation, we are steadfast in our stance on Universal Credit: we will not assist in its implementation. If Universal Credit is so convoluted and ineffective that voluntary sector organisations are relied upon, then it should not be implemented at all. For example, a local Job Centre approached us earlier this year to ask if we would provide computers and supervisors to help people keep online journals for Universal Credit. Our response is clear: this is not the role of the voluntary sector. We will not be complicit in a scheme which results in further adversity and punishment for vulnerable people. We therefore refuse to facilitate the Universal Credit rollout.

Contact: Roz Burgin and Astrid Johnson, Development Workers, development[at]gmlaw.org.uk

Tel: 0161 769 2244                                                                                                                               

Facebook: Facebook.com/gmlawcentre

Twitter: @gmlawcentre

Web: www.gmlaw.org.uk

Registered Charity Number 1170317

Registered Company 09698401

The Greater Manchester Law Centre is a member of the Law Centres Network, http://www.lawcentres.org.uk.

Links

Manchester Evening News: Special Report on Universal Credit roll-out http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/who-going-feed-kids-stress-13739245

GMLC reclaim over one million pounds falsely denied to disabled claimants https://www.gmlaw.org.uk/2018/09/14/one-million-pounds/

The government has created a “hostile environment” for disabled people, new research shows https://www.gmlaw.org.uk/2018/07/16/hostile-environment/ 

Support GMLC today https://www.gmlaw.org.uk/donations-standing-orders/

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A mission to get a massage!

GMWRAG is disappointed to report that once again we’re asking you for money rather than advertising jobs in the advice sector but we’ll live with it as this is once again for a good cause. We’ve even had to now (reluctantly) create a “Fundraising” category for web site posts. This has made us “sad”. That’s GMWRAG sad not Donald Trump sad.

You may recall that GMWRAG member Rob Jenkins raised money for The Wellspring in Stockport whilst Kate Anstee, Sean Finnegan and Yasmin Green raised money for Greater Manchester Law Centre. GMWRAG noted very carefully the bump up in sponsorship some of the above had after our posts. but all attempts to cream some money off the top for GMWRAG funds have thus far failed.

George Oldbury is now attempting to raise money for Wood Street Mission. Unlike the above named, George has set his sights low and is looking to raise a mere £100 through the folly of cycling from Manchester to Blackpool. Surely GMWRAG can help him do better than that?

For those of you who don’t know much (or anything) about Wood Street Mission please do have a read of the above link as they’ve been around a long time; do hugely useful work and will need to continue doing so (see our Universal Credit post/rant from yesterday).

If you’d like to sponsor George you can do so via his hugely disappointing JustGiving page. No pictures. No humour. He’s no Rob Jenkins is he 🙂 but he does need your money.

So, we’ll do the hard work for him and tell you all about cycling from Manchester to Blackpool. It doesn’t appear to involve much cycling. It starts from the Piazza in Salford Quays and covers (a mere) 60 miles to Blackpool with what’s described as “lots of refreshment stops along the scenic country lanes of Lancashire and finishes on the South Promenade in Blackpool.” That scenic stuff seems wrong to us as the route map we’ve seen suggests it goes through Leigh!

The mere act of finishing appears to entitle you to “food, beer tent, live music and a well-earned massage!” A what??? Pfft. Sounds a pamper session to us. There’s even special buses back to Manchester in the afternoon.

So, if you’d like to sponsor George to get a massage raise hugely needed funds then you know what to do.

GMWRAG starts a running thing. Hearts sink everywhere.

Following a post on here yesterday, GMWRAG member Rob Jenkins reports a small but effective surge in interest in sponsoring his attempt to raise money for The Wellspring as previously reported here. 

This means he’s actually reached his target (although that doesn’t mean potential sponsors can now look away) but the pressure is now on as he reports that

“Great news on my last run out before the big day. I was going up a bit of a hill, and I OVERTOOK someone. He was a bit younger than me, as well, and looked surprised. Then another runner with a heavy backpack ran past at about twice my speed – but he might not be in the race, so no need to worry just yet.”

Excitement on this can be countered by the statement that

“My race pack arrived today, and turns out I’ve been placed to start at the back, with the duffers and no-hopers who aren’t necessarily expected to finish at all. To add insult, my race number has a “Where’s Wally” theme. At least it will stand out on the telly, as I surge through the crowd to take top spot. Either that, or I’ll be relying on a big ‘chip time’ adjustment.”

Further bad news for Rob is that sales of British eggs are apparently on the up and dramatically so. We are most definitely labelling this the “GMWRAG effect”.

As an alternative to this frivolity, GMWRAG can now offer a further sponsorship opportunity to members desperate to invest in something resembling actual running. Actually, we’re not sure on that last bit but bear with us.

Yasmin Green of Salford Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Service “roped” Kate Anstee and Sean Finnigan of the same service into running the Great Manchester 10k run on Sunday the 20th of May 2018 in order to raise money for our friends at Greater Manchester Law Centre. We’ve no idea what terrible secret she knows about the other two which persuaded them into this folly but we’re working on it.

GMWRAG has also yet to figure out why Rob was dumb enough to volunteer to run further when a mere 10k was available but we won’t tell him if you won’t!

Whereas Rob has offered comedy in return for cash (and a possible refund if he wins) Yasmin, Kate and Sean are offering “… dedication and inspiration in the middle of Manchester, where some of you might like to meet us in a bar afterwards”. Three strangers in a bar or Where’s Wally? It’s a tough call! 🙂

You can sponsor Kate on her Just Giving page where she’ll tell you more about GMLC.

Alternatively you can sponsor Sean via HIS Just Giving page and maybe add a bit extra so he can get that shirt clean. We’re thinking that where Kate referred to inspiration Sean is offering only perspiration. Irresistible we’re sure you’ll agree. On the other hand, Sean has tried to con sponsors by suggesting he will be running “… a bit in freezing weather”. We know that this isn’t true and we think you should rack up the pressure by sponsoring him and making him run and finish in 20 plus degree heat as a punishment.

Yasmin on the other hand has at least been brutally honest.

“I hate running, I am rubbish at it and will be miserable all the way round to the pub at the end. I am willing to put myself through the embarrassment of being passed by panto horses and people being pushed on hospital beds because I want to help GMLC raise funds.”

This seems eminently reasonable to GMWRAG.

It could of course be worse. She might even be passed by Kate and Sean! You can sponsor Yasmin at Just Giving. We’re hopeful GMWRAG can retweet and maybe even post here some exciting sweaty pictures from @ansteekate; @objenkinsrob and @7yas on the day but if not we’ll be asking Sean for evidence that he’s washed the shirt before running!

GMWRAG notes that no-one from GMLC appears to be running or even walking. We’ll be having words 🙂

Maxine Peake supports Bolton Law Centre appeal.

After the successful launch of the Greater Manchester Law Centre in Moss Side two years ago, campaigners are now seeking to create a centre in Bolton, run by the community for the community.

With the massive reductions in Legal Aid, community access to justice was reignited by the founding of the Greater Manchester Law Centre Moss Side, which opened its doors in 2016. Since then, over £500,000 worth of benefits have been reclaimed from the DWP for Greater Manchester residents, while many others have received free advice on a number of issues.

On Friday February 2nd, there’s a public meeting to found another law centre, in Bolton, with speakers including Bolton South East MP, Yasmin Qureshi and Denise McDowell of the Greater Manchester Law Centre.

“More and more families and individuals are finding themselves in positions where access to the law is being denied them, at precisely the time when they are most in need of it” says Maxine Peake, who is supporting the Bolton appeal.

“Universal Credit, the denial of employment rights through zero hours contracts and minimum wage infringements and a hardening of the Government’s stance against refugees and asylum seekers all make the Law centre Bolton urgent and necessary” she explains “I welcome and support the initiative whole heartedly.”

While the Centre would be based in Bolton it would be open and accessible to Salford people and anyone in Greater Manchester.

“We are not just a campaign for access to advice, or even access to the law, we are a campaign for justice” states the Greater Manchester Law Centre “We call for full and equal legal advice and representation for the claimants, as the state awards (out of our taxation) to the police and other departments of the state. We want independent walk-in face-to-face advice for everyone in need in all ten boroughs of Greater Manchester.”

“Bolton Needs A Law Centre”
Friday 2nd February 7pm-8pm
Bolton Central Library
Le Mans Crescent BL1 1SE

If anyone can’t make the meeting but wants to donate towards the centre the account details are Lloyds Bank Sort Code: 309192 Account Number: 55658268

Further details on the Bolton Needs A Law Centre Facebook event page.

NB: Maxine Peake was due to speak at this event but has had to cancel due to other commitments

 

Welfare benefits advisers – we need you!

GMLC volunteer ad gmlc-logoThere are only 2 law centres in Bury and Rochdale, with the rest of Greater Manchester (and its 2.7 million people) effectively being a ‘law centre-free zone’. In addition to the increased number of people representing themselves, a recent report by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission citing the disproportionate effect of the legal aid reforms and law centre closures on women, disabled people and BME communities, the demand for a new law centre is clear. Quite simply, no representation means no access to justice.

In 2015, legal aid lawyers, trade unionists and advice organisations came together to set up a community law centre for Greater Manchester. The centre intends to provide access to high-quality, free legal advice and representation for people in Greater Manchester and to empower people to use their voices to campaign for change.

Volunteers will be the backbone of this law centre.

We have launched a pilot scheme that delivers advice and representation in welfare benefits and are looking for volunteer advisers and lawyers to help deliver these services.

If you are:

  • an experienced welfare benefits adviser or lawyer.
  • able to volunteer a few hours each week.
  • eager to be involved at the start of an exciting new project, then we would love to hear from you.

Please send over a CV with details of your experience in welfare benefits advice and representation to ngaryanli@gmlaw.org.uk by Tuesday 31st January, 6pm.

You can download a pdf version of this post from https://gmwrag.files.wordpress.com/2017/01/gllc-volunteer-ad.pdf

Agenda for the Tameside GMWRAG meeting now available.

If you’ve been paying attention then you’ll already know that the next GMWRAG meeting will take place on Friday the 9th of December 2016 in Tameside. Just about everything you could possibly want to know was contained in our authoritative (well, long) post here.

The only thing missing from that post was, of course, the agenda. We are pleased to announce that the agenda can now be downloaded from here.

Please remember to download and print both the agenda and minutes and bring them with you to the meeting. GMWRAG hosts are kind enough to provide a room and refreshments from their own pocket. There is no budget for printing. If anyone fancies chairing the p.m. meeting that would be much appreciated.

This is a full day meeting and to add value we have managed to secure the services of two speakers (although two may eventually read four).

SPEAKER 1 – Homeless Prevention Service officers.

The increase in rough sleeping in the towns and cities across Greater Manchester is self-evident. The increase in other forms of homelessness is seen in the queues in reception areas of council homelessness services.

Welfare rights advisers know some of the causes – bedroom tax, benefit cap, rates of LHA for singles and couples in shared accommodation, and under 35’s, as well as massive reductions in community support services, MH support, and housing rights advice services.

Other factors include reduction in hostel bed spaces, reductions in supported accommodation, rent increases that price out benefit claimants, and unfair and unreasonable sanction decisions.

Listen to those tasked with dealing with part of this situation. What can be done by local authorities to meet the need? What legal and policy restrictions do they have to work with? What are the procedures for the single and family homeless officers to respond to housing need of applicants?

David Unsworth and Jean Cavanagh specialise in brokering accommodation for applicants, sometimes vulnerable and hard to accommodate groups. They work with MH services, ex-offender support, hospital discharge teams and others. Mandy Bradbury will come along if she is available. She is the Team Leader for the Homeless Prevention and Assessment Service at Manchester City Council. They are also interested in finding out about advice services available across Greater Manchester, as their service increasingly is looking to place people outside Manchester.

SPEAKER 2 – GM Law Centre John Nicholson, Barrister and Chair of the GM Law Centre Steering Group) will talk about the reasons for the project, the current stage of development, and plans for the next 2 years and more.

Both speakers have plenty of time built into the agenda for questions and discussion.

We look forward to seeing you there.

 

Job vacancies on GMWRAG becoming a recurring theme?

It has been some time since job vacancies were a regular thing on the GMWRAG web site. We’re not quite there yet but it looks like we’ve found the tunnel if not yet a light at the end of it. In the meantime…

SUPERVISING SOLICITOR

People are facing greater and greater hardship as a result of cuts in benefits, homelessness, uncertainty at work, and escalating racism. Legal aid – which is an essential part of the welfare state – has been cut again and again. The people most in need across the ten boroughs of Greater Manchester are being deprived of access to justice.

Greater Manchester Law Centre has been set up as a clear challenge to this. We now have premises (the main Princess Road in inner city Moss Side) and volunteers providing some legal advice (welfare rights, with sessional solicitors offering more widely).

We have been generously supported by two national charitable trusts to appoint a Supervising Solicitor so that we can become a “law centre” (full member of the Law Centres Network) and start to supervise and regulate all our advice and representation.

We are looking for a truly tremendous person (or possibly a job share) to make the law centres policy demands and fulfill our service delivery aims.

This will be a three year post (in the first instance) and requires someone who is able to start up the paid work force from almost scratch. Anyone who is interested is invited to contact j.nicholson@kenworthysbarristers.co.uk or denise@gmiau.org in the first instance (for informal inquiries and information).

Formal applications will need to be made by 12.00pm (noon) on Monday the 7th of November 2016 and we are hoping that interviews will be able to be held in Manchester within the next 10 days after that.

Further details available on www.gmlaw.org.uk and details of the post can also be found on our Job Vacancies page up to the expiry date. After that you can always find details of what has been advertised here at our previous job vacancies archive.

[*Currently this is “Greater Manchester Law Centre Steering Group” – full membership of the Law Centres Network is to be considered at their next meeting in November 2016]

GM Law Centre AGM tonight.

The annual general meeting of the Greater Manchester Law Centre steering group* will take place tonight from 6:30pm onwards at the rather wonderful Mechanics Institute at 103 Princess Street, Manchester M1 6DD.

Renowned Human Rights lawyer and GMLC patron, Robert Lizar is the guest speaker and the full agenda can be found on the website.

*Formally this is Greater Manchester Law Centre Steering Committee, until we gain full membership of the Law Centres Network (they have had “observer status” since the LCN’s AGM in January 2016).

Please accept our apologies for the lateness but we can only print what we know. As soon as we knew, we printed.