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. 

NAWRA and Stoke-on-line.

Pandemics do strange things to people. Never did GMWRAG think we’d mention Stoke and yoga in any post let alone together but there you go. The NAWRA conference in Stoke on Trent will no longer take place at Staffordshire University due to the COVID-19 situation. However, they are pleased to announce a special online event. On Thursday the 11th of June 2020 and Friday the 12th of June 2020 NAWRA will present ‘Stoke-on-Line’ – a virtual version of their planned conference with guest speakers, workshops, information exchange, pub quiz and yoga. GMWRAG does agree online is probably the best place to put Stoke but, if you’re still interested… read the agenda for both days and book a place on each session. The events will take place on Zoom. Email Kelly at NAWRA if you need help to use Zoom and she can send some instructions. This event is open to NAWRA members only. Kelly Smith Secretary and Treasurer www.nawra.org.uk

Shall we be nice to NAWRA? Yes, lets’s be nice to NAWRA.

Following on from our recent post cancelling the May GMWRAG meeting the details of how to book on the NAWRA online event have now been brought to our attention by 5 lovely people in about 5 minutes so we thought the decent thing to do would be to tell you that before all places have been grabbed.

In order to register for a place you simply use this link. 

You must be a NAWRA member in order to book a place.

GMWRAG will of course be Zoom bombing in protest at the clash of dates 🙂

Meeting cancellation (sort of) – number 2.

The next GMWRAG meeting was listed for Friday the 15th of May 2020. Previous posts on the meeting can be found here and here.

This included the a.m. GM UC Forum which this time around was to have a focus solely on deductions. Obviously, recent events have rendered this never more relevant but things are moving fast on multiple fronts and the logical thing to do at present is to cancel and reschedule the meeting asap. 

The reasoning for this is as follows:

1 – our full day meetings now clash with a special Covid-19 NAWRA event online with two interactive workshops focusing on the current benefit changes, homeworking issues and dealing with new ways of working. Read the agenda. It’s not obvious how you join (so if someone could tell us, that would be good).

2 – Friday is not ordinarily a working day for a number of GM Partnership Managers and obviously we would like as many as possible in the room.

3 – Taking the meeting online requires finding applications that allows DWP to appear remotely but also allows access forGMWRAG members. That’s not an issue we have fully resolved yet although we’ll be polling members on some options asap to move that forward.

4 – Advance notice of the meeting has (for once) allowed DWP to contact specialist colleagues in Deductions Operations to attend but the latter have been re-deployed to other tasks in the same way as Partnership teams. Thus July would be the earliest feasible time to do this.

GMWRAG will happily apologise for the lateness of the cancellation and would ask all members to complete the various polls on key questions about how we move forward which we’ll post up as soon as time allows.

Stay safe and well.

NAWRA in Wales.

GMWRAG used to be really good at notifying you all about NAWRA meetings. Indeed we used to make our web site do clever things like count down to the day of the meeting but then… well then we just got too busy. So here we are with 3 days left to go to the next NAWRA meeting and we can probably no longer refer to them as “our friends in NAWRA” as we keep messing this up. Anyway…

All NAWRA members are invited to attend their quarterly conference.

Date: Friday the 6th of March 2020.
Time: 10.00am – 16.00pm (registration from 9.30)
Location: Swansea Civic Centre, Oystermouth Road, Swansea, SA1 3SN

Guest speakers will be Fran Bennett of Oxford University on recent research about universal credit and couples followed by Lisa Reese, a tribunal judge, on the role of representatives.

There will be participatory workshops on mixed age couples in UC, conditionality in UC and public law remedies, support for disabled people in UC, and assessing mental health for PIP.

Download the agenda

NAWRA meetings are only open to members.  There’s no need to book a place.  Please let them know if you have any accessibility needs.

GMWRAG has fond memories of their first visit to NAWRA being a trip to Swansea approximately 30 years ago in the back of a some kind of van with people from Flintshire Welfare Rights. Nowadays there would be a hashtag attached to that and some kind of legal action! Nowadays we think the train may be an option.

This sounds like the plot of a potential EastEnders episode but sadly it isn’t.

NAWRA has been contacted by a BBC journalist looking at options for pieces relating to young people

  • being asked to leave their parent’s home
  • (or experiencing conflict or becoming homeless)

because of parents losing benefits, particularly where the young person has disengaged from the social security system. This illustrates problems with the cliff edge around the loss of familial benefits such as Child Benefit and Child Tax Credits/Universal Credit for children and then a potential double whammy of the non-dependant deduction being applied to HB or UC housing costs.

The journalist is looking for young people (ideally aged 18 and under) and parents in this position. He may also want to speak with experts and is looking for people who would be happy to discuss the issues faced by young people and their low income parents that you and your team encounter on a day to day basis.

If you would like to get involved please email

kelly

at

nawra

dot

org

dot

uk

and she will pass your details on.

First dumbass to point out that the email is formatted oddly will win no prize. This is a means of avoiding spam bots etc. picking up email addresses and deluging them with spam.

Details of the next NAWRA meeting in Leeds.

The next NAWRA conference will take place from 9.30am-3pm (registration from 9am – note the earlier than usual start) on Friday 6 December 2019 at Leeds Civic Hall, Calverley Street, Leeds LS1 1UR.

Our guest speaker Sue Royston from Harrogate Citizens Advice will deliver the Phil Hanns memorial lecture on managed migration to UC. Simon Duffy of the Centre for Welfare Reform will be speaking about basic income and Sarah Clarke from the Public Law Project will run a session on conditionality in UC and public law remedies.

There will be participatory workshops on non-EU citizens and benefits, professional standards, and council tax support for UC claimants.

In the evening it’s NAWRA’s Christmas party – all are welcome!

Read the full agenda.

NAWRA conferences are open to members only. Find out about joining.

Agenda for NAWRA in Greenwich.

Following GMWRAGs post about the notes from the Salford meeting we now have further information about the Greenwich NAWRA meeting agenda.

Date: Friday the 7th of June 2019
Time: 10.00 – 16.00 (registration from 9.30)
Location: Queen Anne Building, Old Royal Naval College, King William Walk, London SE10 9NN (number 2 on the Greenwich University campus map)

The guest speaker will be Marsha De Cordova MP, Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions, Disabled People)  

There will be participatory workshops on how to claim universal credit, procedures to identify vulnerable clients, recent benefit changes for pensioners and the White Paper Commission on Social Security.

They will also hear about using judicial review to resolve welfare rights issues without going to court and there will be a presentation from Policy in Practice on how data analysis can be used to design better support.

The full agenda, along with details of travel, accommodation and social evening is now available.

NAWRA meetings are only open to members. There’s no need to book a place. Please let NAWRA know if you have any accessibility needs.

GMWRAG is especially pleased to Marsha De Cordova as the guest speaker as we have had the opportunity to hear her in person in the past 12 months and found her both refreshing and inspirational. She also has a background in benefits advice.

NAWRA notes from the Salford meeting now available.

NAWRA hasn’t happened too many times in Greater Manchester over the years so we’re not going to let go easily.

The notes and presentations from the day are now available on the NAWRA website. If you don’t know the password then you’re probably not a NAWRA member so… we’re not going to tell you. Your manager will likely know and if not please contact NAWRA not GMWRAG.

The next NAWRA meeting will take place from 10am-4pm (registration from 9.30am) on Friday the 7th of June 2019 at The Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich. To be fair it looks spectacular but it’s not Salford is it! They’ll be back.

The agenda will be available here (and there) in early May.