New Universal Credit freephone numbers.

Following the announcement by David Gauke that call charges for calls to Universal Credit would be scrapped it appears that the new freephone numbers have been published on Twitter. You can find the actual tweet at https://twitter.com/rightsnet/status/935754885794058240. Rightsnet think these could be free from today. They are as follows:

Universal Credit Live Service

Telephone: 0800 328 9344

Textphone: 0800 328 1344

Universal Credit Full Service

Telephone: 0800 328 5644

Textphone: 0800 328 1344

All numbers are available Monday to Friday between 8am and 6pm so it looks like little account has been taken of those people on UC and in employment. The very people who will mostly only be able to ring at lunch times or on their way home. Ah yes, employment. The thing UC was meant to incentivise!

Calls to these numbers have been free on all providers since 2015. However, GMWRAG has already noted that the textphone number for live and full service is the same. The potential for confusion for when dealing with hearing impaired clients should be obvious, but apparently not. Granted the tweet does says that “If you don’t have a Universal Credit online account and contact us by phone you are using Universal Credit live service… If you have a Universal Credit online account and contact us via your online journal you are using Universal Credit full service.”

QUICK UPDATE:

GMWRAG is highly amused that “building a welfare system that is fit for the modern world”  doesn’t seem to include spending money on having phone numbers which automatically re-direct so, yes, you guessed it… anyone unaware of the new freephone numbers will of course ring the old numbers and will have to listen to a message telling them to ring the new numbers. Will the original phone call still cost? No answer as yet but we think we can guess.

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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.

GMWRAG running out of original ways to say…

… that the next meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group will take place on Friday the 25th of November 2016 at 9.30am for a 10:00am start. Their pages already told you this along with the fact it will be at the usual venue at Manchester Central Fire Station.

More details to follow nearer the time but as we’ve now managed to restore the Search functionality on the site you shouldn’t have much trouble finding out about the venue etc.

What their pages don’t tell you is that the speaker for the next meeting will be Stuart Erskine, Personal Budgeting Support Adviser at Stockport Council.  Stuart is on secondment to Stockport JobcentrePlus to work with Universal Credit claimants.

Universal Credit widget

GMWRAGs friends (yes, GMWRAG has friends) at Rightsnet towers have alerted us to the new widget/thingumabob from our slightly more distant friends at LASA (much bigger towers) and the LITRG (no idea if they have towers. They do tax so, presumably a bunker!). Together they have produced a new and simple way to check the current state of play regarding Universal Credit in your area. Can you claim? What are the gateway conditions? Indeed what ARE the gateway conditions?

This new whatchamacallit is actually called http://universalcreditinfo.net and you will notice it’s very big and very green. We like one of these things. The idea that “green for go” could ever be associated with Universal Credit seems lacking in credibility and has amused us no end. It’s a sad sign of the times that it simply hasn’t occurred to DWP to do anything this competent. Instead you could use this!

No, we thought not…

There is also the enticingly titled “widget”, which allows you to post some “code” on your web site and have a tiny version of the site and the post code search appear on your site. Sadly, we couldn’t get it to work on our site! If you want to be better than us then you can find that at http://universalcreditinfo.net/about/widget.

NB: Those nice peeps at Rightsnet have since made it clear that, because the widget uses an “iframe” then we are techically “stuffed”. Well, that’s not exactly what they said but… being a blog platform hosted by WordPress means that we can’t show you the widget.

We are immensely gratified that the WordPress spell checker accepted “whatchamacallit” without question by the way! This augers well for future flippancy.

Launch of review into Council Tax support.

GMWRAG members will be filled with seasonal joy at the announcement from the Department of Communities and Local Government of an independent review into

  • how local Council Tax local support schemes are working across the country;
  • what it has meant for people receiving the support; and
  • whether it should be part of Universal Credit in the future.

We won’t bore you with all the details. You can find everything you need to know on the DCLG site.The terms of reference can be found here.

The main things we think GMWRAG members need to know are

  1. The review is taking place.
  2. The mention of of Council Tax Support being incorporated into Universal Credit.
  3. The consultation ends of the 12th of January 2016.

So, don’t be distracted by all that festive jollity thing. Start writing your responses now. It’s hard to imagine any GMWRAG member having nothing to say about the idea of CTS going into UC!

If any members are ahead of us on this and can provide a copy of their response we’ll happily share it to make everyone’s life easier.