The next meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group is upon us.

The next meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group will be on Friday the 23rd March at 9.30am for a 10am start at Manchester Town Hall.

Details of the room and how to access it are to follow but can we please have volunteers to chair and to take minutes?

The minutes of the last meeting can be found in the usual places.

We will be discussing the group’s “Mission Statement.”,  which you can view by clicking on the foregoing link. This is the blurb that we have used in the past on letters and responses to consultations but, as you can see, it needs updating!

We will also have a discussion about PIP decisions post the RF judgement and the Government’s announcement that it will trawl cases for incorrect decisions. Members may also want to read the minutes of the last GMWRAG meeting which provide significant detail on the live-streamed talk re: RF and what should happen next.

Please bring any (anonymised) cases that you want to discuss.


Quick reminder – the Blue Badge consultation is ongoing and is not a done deal.

And a further quick reminder for GMWRAG members that the Blue Badge consultation in response to the loss of a legal case quite some time ago (and not because the government are nice as they seem to be proclaiming :)) is not a done deal and remains an open consultation.

Full details can be found at and it’s worth GMWRAG members responding because whilst the proposal theoretically expands the scope of the scheme it also links it explicitly to two areas of already problematic wording used in the PIP mobility criteria.

The consultation closes on the 18th of March 2018.

The BBC are looking at the accessibility of every ESA and PIP assessment venue and your help is needed.

With thanks to our colleague Peter Turville via our friends at Rightsnet.

A BBC disability correspondent is compiling details of the accessibility of every ESA and PIP assessment venue – following up on a piece on ‘You & Yours’ some months back.

They are looking at practical issues including:

• Where is the venue located – city centre, out of town industrial estate, rural location etc?
• How easy is it to get to by public transport? Frequency of service, distance from nearest bus stop / trains station etc. Would a client need to take a taxi for part of the journey?
• Parking – at venue or nearby, cost etc. Problems if not a Blue Badge holder.
• How well is the venue signed – big sign or little plaque on door / in window? How is it identified – providers / sub-contractors name / logo?
• Financial difficulty for client paying for the travel cost up front / delay in provider paying refund or refusing to pay taxi fares.
• Accessibility – steps, ramps, for (electric) wheel chairs etc. Issues with suitable adaptions, provision of BSL and other interpreters etc.
• Pre-appointment info. – does it provide details of public transport routes, parking, accessibility restrictions, prepayment & refund of fares, paying for taxi, requesting an alternative venue or time of appointment?

They would be interested in particularly difficult to get to or find or otherwise inappropriate venues and other related problems like clients refused appointments at local / most easy to get to/accessible venue.

For example: a venue (featured in the previous item) is ‘hidden away’ in a small industrial estate in a village which has no public transport on a Sunday (when claimants are offered appointments). City centre(ish) venue is on a busy main road with no parking (double yellow, residents only in side streets, public car park 150m away and often full), old shop front with whitewashed windows (looks empty) with a tiny sign in the window (if you can see it due to condensation!).

If anyone has a claimant who is willing to be interviewed (radio – probably pre-recorded) about issues they had with a venue Carolyn would love to hear from you!

So for example – if a client missed their appointment because they couldn’t find the venue (tucked away on an industrial estate with a tiny sign on the door) or couldn’t get to the venue for the correct time (or had to go hours early or hang around for hours after) because of infrequent bus services etc.

Perhaps what they are not so interested in is claimants who were given an appointment at a venue a long way away when they had a more local venue. That was covered in the original piece – although if the provider refused to change the venue that would still be of interest.

Please contact:


DLA and PIP caselaw for visual impairment.

At the June 2017 Stockport meeting GMWRAG members had a rare opportunity to look directly at issues around hearing and sight impairment in relation to DLA for children and PIP.

Presentations have previously been circulated from both speakers and made available via a post here on the 4th of July 2017. However, for reasons which escape, but which are most likely wholesale incompetence, the presentations have not been made available on a permanent basis in our “presentations and notes” page. Indeed, we had managed to turn the menu item for this off in our Meetings section. Good to see no-one noticed 🙂

Anyway, a number of requests have been made for the case law pack for people with a sight impairment, improvised for the session, to be made properly available. Additionally a number of GMWRAG members have contributed new decisions to be added so, we have been able to produce an updated edition. Nowt special but it’s as good a place as any to start. You can download it from here and find it permanently here, which is a different “here” if you see what we mean. We have also added the NDCS new line on PIP and safety document to the same place.

In other news we appear to have posted up the minutes of the Oldham meeting and then completely forgotten to add them to the minutes section of the web site. Fixed it now.

Work and Pensions Committee launches inquiry into effectiveness of PIP and ESA assessments.

The Work and Pensions Committee has launched an inquiry into the effectiveness of personal independence payment (PIP) and employment and support allowance (ESA) assessments. They are seeking recommendations for change on the assessment process for each benefit individually, and to hear about common lessons that can be learned from the two processes, the Committee invites submissions over three main areas:

Assessors and assessments –

  • whether contractor assessors possess sufficient expertise to carry out assessments for people with a wide range of health conditions;
    • whether the DWP’s quality control for contractors is sufficient and effective;
    • whether the options for reforming the work capability assessment mooted in the government’s Improving Lives green paper should be taken forward; and
    • what examples of best practice in assessing eligibility for benefits are available internationally, and whether they are transferable to ESA and/or PIP.
  • Mandatory reconsideration and appeal –
    • the reasons why claimants seek to overturn initial assessment outcomes for ESA and/or PIP;
    • the reasons why levels of disputed decisions are higher for PIP than for ESA;
    • whether the mandatory reconsideration process is working well for claimants of ESA and/or PIP;
    • the reasons for the rate of overturned decisions at appeal for PIP and/or ESA;
    • whether there are lessons that could be learned from the ESA mandatory reconsideration and appeal process for PIP and vice-versa; and
    • whether there are changes that could be made earlier in the process to ensure fewer claimants feel they need to appeal.
  • Claimant experiences –
    • whether prospective claimants currently understand the purpose of the assessment;
    • in what way could claimants be helped to better understand the assessment process;
    • whether there are some groups of claimants particularly likely to encounter problems with their assessments – and if so, how can this be addressed; and
    • whether the assessment processes for PIP and ESA should be more closely integrated, and other ways the processes might be streamlined for claimants.

The Committee is seeking written submissions by the 10th of November 2017 and also invites claimants who have had an assessment, or are waiting for an assessment, to submit a comment on its web forum.

For more information see Are PIP and ESA Assessments working well? from

The Stockport GMWRAG meeting is here – Friday the 16th of June 2017. Speakers, public transport, presenting officers and biscuit details all below.

On the 10th of May 2017 GMWRAG quietly announced that the next meeting (indeed the first of 2017) would take place in Stockport. You can find that post here but we’re now in a position to provide you with full details and there are a lot of them. Please note that a number of key details have changed from that original post, not least the venue. Soooo…

The next GMWRAG meeting is a full day meeting and takes place in room 5 of Stockport Town Hall (NOT Fred Perry House as we originally suggested) on Friday the 16th of June 2017. Doors will open for refreshments, networking and those without any sense of direction at 9:30am for a 10:00am start.

The minutes of the last meeting can be downloaded from here and the full agenda can now be downloaded from here. Please print them off and bring them with you. GMWRAG hosts are no longer funded to provide copies on the day.

The meeting will have an update on the newly launched GM Strategic Casework Group. If you haven’t had a look at our pages then please do so. There will also be an opportunity to share experiences of the new tranche of Presenting Officers at First Tier Tribunals and both the morning and afternoon sessions will have speakers as detailed below.

GMWRAG was surprised to learn that in our near 4 decade existence we appear to have never had speakers talking about sensory impairment and benefits. Our friends at NAWRA have had workshop presentations from charities like RNIB (and even then maybe only the one) but our agendas and minutes suggest we have not. Hopefully the speakers at this meeting will whet the appetite for further work in this area.

Neither session will involve death by PowerPoint and there will be much in the way of handouts; quizzes; throwing things, er, discussion, interaction and some case law!

Stockport Town Hall, or the “spiritual home of GMWRAG” as it was recently described, is very easily accessed by rail and is a massive 4 minutes walk from Stockport railway station. GMWRAG recommends the train as absolutely the fastest way to get to (and from) Stockport from/to Manchester city centre. Journeys are between 7 and 14 minutes from Manchester Piccadilly station. Please note though that tickets on this route may only be valid for some trains e.g. Northern Trains tickets may not be valid on Virgin Trains and so on.

There are frequent buses and you can get full multi-modal travel information on this via the My TfGM journey planner but all will take considerably longer than the train. If you weren’t already aware, there is also an app available for your smartphone. Welfare rights advisers all have smart phones, don’t you!

If you’re driving in, there are several car parks nearby but you will pay a lot for a full day and the road system can be very confusing for anyone not familiar with the area. Don’t say we didn’t warn you 🙂

Oh, yeah, and the biscuits are on order.

SDP awards following an award of PIP.

A number of GMWRAG members have brought it to our attention that there has been a nosedive in the number of awards of Severe Disability Premium (SDP) since the introduction of Personal Independence Payment (PIP). This has apparently been confirmed via a Freedom of Information request and appears to be related to the removal of SDP from Universal Credit (UC) and a policy intent to not check for SDP entitlement UC takes hold.

It’s worth remembering that checking for entitlement to means-tested benefits in specific scenarios remains an obligation regardless of policy intentions and future changes. See, CE277/2014 for but one example.

The above would also explain why a number of members have reported having to repeatedly send in IS 10s or their equivalent as forms mysteriously drop into some kind of abyss. If GMWRAG members can cast this drop off in any different light please let us know but we thought we’d flag it up after several members highlighted numerous issues fully explained by a policy change e.g. SDP forms going missing; SDP forms taking an age to be processed unless constantly chased; SDP being refused incorrectly or refusing to issue forms in the first place.

New PIP tool for advisers from LASA.

Lasa has just launched a new web tool designed to help advisers find details of regulations and case law relating to Personal Independence Payment.

The new web tool is available at

Any help you can provide in sharing a link to pipinfo would be very much appreciated. Like what we have done here 🙂

There’s also have a widget if you’d like to add pipinfo search to your site for your visitors to use. You can find this at GMWRAG likes widgets and we use lots of them. Sadly our web site platform doesn’t accept this kind of tool else we’d be widegting away with the rest of you. .

Information on Lasa’s range of web tools is available @

Now, if someone could just explain what’s wrong with a capital letter at the start of a web site name!