Future GMWRAG meetings.

We’re around the time of year when people start asking when the next GMWRAG meeting is. What they really mean is “is there a GMWRAG meeting before Christmas?”. The answer to this is “No, there isn’t.” Details of GMWRAG meetings have long since been plotted considerably in advance and full details can always be found on our meetings page.  We’re currently up to 2019 although those people hosting then probably haven’t noticed 🙂

The next GMWRAG meeting will be in Salford and, although it’s not finally confirmed, we are hoping it will take place in Swinton on Friday the 19th of January 2018.  We’re anticipating a full day meeting with two or more speakers. More details will be posted as soon as we have them. Minutes of the last meeting will be out in due course.

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Powerlines: New Stories From The Urban Edge at the Manchester Literature Festival.

This years Manchester Literature Festival, features an event on the 20th of October 2016 which will be of interest to all GMWRAG members, If you can’t go, maybe send details to your local DWP, local councillors or your MP!.

The project began following a discussion with ex Manchester Advice worker, David Gaffney, about the lack of real, genuine voices around the subject of welfare ‘reform’ and benefits in general. In particular annoyance (to put it mildly) about the DWP inventing stories to justify sanctions.

The idea was discussed of using the Manchester Literature Festival, to create a platform  for the ‘real’ stories (from those on the sharp end of the benefit system) to get a hearing. A bit unusual for a literature festival but worth giving it a go. The festival were keen and so Church Action on Poverty were approached to become a partner (based on their previous work in this area and direct experience of working with them around financial inclusion). A successful bid was made to the Arts Council for funding, participants recruited, workshops ran and now material gathered. Other partners include The University of Manchester’s Centre for New Writing and Salford City Councils Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Service.

The evening will be a mixture of pieces (poetry, prose, visual, audio), the vast majority of which will come directly from the participants themselves.

Five artists have worked with people in Salford to explore the lives unfolding far beyond the aspirational city of artisan coffee shops and slick new builds.

Join poet Jo Bell, graphic novelist Darryl Cunningham, sound artist Gary Fisher, short story writer David Gaffney and novelist Stephen May as they place these stories centre stage.

These stories will make you cry, laugh and shout with rage at inequalities perpetuated by a social security system that is no longer social or secure.

Steve Quinn from Salford Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Service was asked by David to write a short piece in the first person, from an advisers perspective, which we may use in the run up to the festival. It may or may not chime with your experience, but hopefully it contains something that you can recognise. Powerlines will shed light on some of the too-little considered realities of life in the Northern Powerhouse.

You can find out details and even hear a sound trailer here.

Please download and circulate the flyer for the event.

Tickets are free but the performance space has a 100 person capacity. We expect more people to take tickets than attend and so if people can’t get tickets online we would still encourage them to attend.

Tickets can be obtained here.

Sanctions report goes viral.

Following on from yesterdays flurry of posts on sanctions we are pleased to note that the Salford report “DWP Benefit Conditionality and Sanctions in Salford – One Year On.” has now gone viral nationally. In what The Independent is claiming as an “exclusive” titled “Benefit sanctions lead claimants to suicide, crime and destitution, warns damning report”

Ashley Cowburn (@ashcowburn) writes that “Contrary to the DWP’s insistence that the threat of sanctioning encourages social security claimants to move from benefits into work, the system at present causes “damage to the wellbeing of vulnerable claimants and can lead to hunger, debt and destitution”, the report’s authors claim.”

“The report says that the rate of people being sanctioned in the area has not reduced over the previous 12 month period. But, critically, it adds: “Register sizes are decreasing and we believe this is in part due to a growing number of ‘disappeared’. These are claimants who drop their benefit claim or who move off benefit but do not take up employment. The Government has refused to publish destination data.”

DWP have now been forced into a response to the report which says little more than “A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “It’s only right that there are conditions attached to receiving benefits – this is nothing new. Sanctions are a long-standing part of the welfare system and are only applied where people fail to engage with the support on offer.”

This neglected to mention that, whilst historically sanctions have formally been around since the Poor Laws they were usually directed at preventing people relying upon the state, or, somewhat ironically aimed at local communities failing to fulfill what we would now characterise as their big society” obligations. Compare and contrast this to the scenario nowadays where sanctioning claimants is rife but the sanctioning of work providers usually involves the award of another contract.

At the time of writing the article has been shared nearly 700 times and has attracted more than 200 comments. Feel free to add to that as, as ever, the comments section can make for depressing reading. This is an important message and we need to get people hearing it and acting.

Notes on Housing Systems GMWRAG session in Salford.

Updated version – 16th of December 2015.

As promised in our recent post here are some additional hand outs from the recent GMWRAG session at Salix Homes in Salford from Housing Systems on EEA Right To Reside For Family Members and Extended Family Members. Follow the preceding link for the presentation itself.

The additional notes are as follows:

In the meantime, to say thanks to Housing Systems we did agree to remind GMWRAG members that more detailed training is available from them across a variety of related subjects. Full details can be downloaded from their brochure here.

Supplementary notes re: the food bank presentation are awaiting approval. We’ll post as soon as we have that.