Radical Readings

Radical Readings in  progressGMWRAG has generally been good over the past year publicising theatrical and cinematic events related to rights based advice work. We know many of you took the opportunity to attend events like Powerlines and Wish List. Indeed GMWRAG followers who have been paying attention will be aware that Cardboard Citizen’s “Cathy” is imminent. Welfare reform can at least take credit for some powerful art if nothing else especially positive.

Unfortunately, GMWRAG managed to attend one such event and forgot to tell members about it. We’re going to tell you about it now and hope that you’ll anticipate and book a place on the next one in 2017. The event in question was the second ever “Radical Readings” and it took place at the University of Salford as a fundraiser for the Working Class Movement Library in Salford on Sunday the 27th of November 2016.

Christopher Eccleston, Sheila Hancock, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Mike Joyce and Maxine Peake, who are all strong supporters of the Library, participated in an afternoon of prose, poetry and drama telling stories of radicalism and revolution.

Following on from 2014’s fantastically successful fundraiser for the Library  the audience were treated to old favourites, Ewan MacColl, Robert Roberts, Shelagh Delaney, Harold Brighouse and many more, as well as readings on such diverse subjects as Peterloo, the Spanish Civil War, Engels’s view of the Salford slums, and memories of Broad Street and Rat Week…

Maxine Peake, who is also a Trustee of the Library, said; ‘It is always a pleasure and an honour to take part in the Radical Reading and support the wonderful and invaluable resource that is the Working Class Movement Library. A building we should all be proud of’.

There is a comprehensive report of the event on the Salford Star web site. It’s hoped that the next event will include music as well as readings, prose and poetry.

If you would like to know more about the WCML please check out their web site or email them at trustees@wcml.org.uk. Indeed, if you’re really interested then this Saturday, the 3rd of December 2016, they are running a free event called Looking Back at the Grunwick Strike 1976-1978. Click on the lick for more information.

GMWRAG promises to try to stay more abreast of such things in 2017.  Why are we posting such stuff? How is it relevant to welfare rights advisers? Take you pick.

“Any fool can be happy. It takes a man with real heart to make beauty out of the stuff that makes us weep.” – Clive Barker, Days of Magic, Nights of War.

“Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.” – Pablo Picasso.

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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.

The first post European era minutes of the GMWRAG Manchester meeting are now available plus lots of supporting documentations from the speakers and, yes, we are aiming for the longest title ever…

We’ve now had a taste of the future, what with needing to take passports to get into Manchester town hall for our last meeting! The first post European GMWRAG minutes are now available for download from our minutes page. Grab them now before they get turned back at the borders. On the plus side, sanctions will presumably need to be re-named as we start to lose French words from our language! The “Universal” in Universal Credit is in trouble too although possibly in more ways than we can cover here 🙂

In addition the supporting documents below have all been added to our presentations and notes pages.

Details of the next GMWRAG meeting in Trafford in September will be posted as soon as we have them.

DWP Benefit Conditionality and Sanctions in Salford – One Year On.

In 2014 a Task Force comprised of Salfords Financial Inclusion Practitioners Group in Salford was invited by the Chair of the Skills and Work Board to produce a report into the impact of DWP conditionality and benefit sanctions in Salford. An interim report was produced in August 2014; endorsed by the Skills and Work Board and publicly launched in October 2014.

The conclusions of that report will surprise no-one. The threat and use of sanctions help no-one to move into work but do cause damage to the wellbeing of vulnerable claimants and can lead to hunger, debt and destitution. Furthermore, public and voluntary sector organisations were increasingly having to step in to support claimants in crisis due to sanctions but also benefit delays. This added to the strain on resources when faced with local government budget cuts.

It was recognised that the impacts of welfare reform were only just emerging so it was agreed an additional report would be produced after a period of at least 12 months had elapsed and particularly following the introduction of Universal Credit. That report can now be viewed here. Again, the conclusions should surprise no-one.

It was launched in Salford on Monday the 23rd of May 2016 at an event which included keynote speakers

JobcentrePlus were also in attendance.

We thought GMWRAG members would have an interest in all aspects of this subject.

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.

Minutes of the Salford GMWRAG meeting.

The minutes of the Salford GMWRAG meeting are now available for download. We had been waiting for additional notes from the speakers to be approved as well as promising ourselves we would upload additional documents from our speakers but, as we appear to have been temporarily hamstrung by technical glitches, we have decided to do an initial post about the minutes with both the presentations from our excellent speakers and then we’ll re-post everything when all the additional documentation is in place.

The presentation on EEA Right To Reside for Family Members and Extended Family Members from Housing Systems can be found by following the obvious link.

The presentation on Foodbank Use in Greater Manchester from the Trussell Trust can also be found by following the hopefully equally obvious link. Further information will be added to both presentations in due course.

Please remember that we do have a permanent home for any presentations at GMWRAG meetings so you will always be able to find past presentations there provided we have received an electronic copy. Any additional documents will be posted there also.

Minutes of the NWMHWRAG now available.

The minutes of the November NWMHWRAG meeting are now available for download from their GMWRAG pages and of course from here. Details of the January 2016 meeting have already been posted in our pages.

Minutes of last Fridays GMWRAG meeting have already been done in draft form and will be published once additional documents (especially from the session run by Housing Systems) have been scanned and approved. The excellent presentations have from Trussell Trust and Housing Systems have already been uploaded to the site but we’re not going to post them publicly until such time as the minutes and all other documents are available.

In the meantime, keeping a promise we made to the original NWMHWRAG site to post up relevant case law we have posted a copy of the IM case up in the NWMHWRAG case law section of the GMWRAG site.