Final preparation for the GMWRAG meeting in Trafford. Final agenda now available.

Everything is now in place for the next GMWRAG meeting in Trafford on Friday the 19th of October 2018. As usual this is a full day. Most of the details you need to attend can be found in our previous post.

The minutes of the last meeting remain available in the usual place and, as ever, we would prefer that you print these off in advance and bring them with you to the meeting to minimise the work of the meeting hosts. The agenda for the day is also now available and can be downloaded from here. As with the minutes, please bring your own copy if you can.

As per previous posts, this is going to be a busy meeting with a very tight agenda in a limited space. Anyone who turns up on the day assuming they can roll up spontaneously as per most GMWRAG meetings may find that we cannot accommodate them. We appreciate this is unusual but the room holds a maximum of 50 people and we are confident we already have 45 plus people attending including our 4 guests.

Equally, please do not turn up just for our guest speaker. This is a working day with very specific aims for the GM area and whilst we welcome all participants we need people to be there for the full day else it becomes unmanageable. If you wish to attend please contact GMWRAG via the usual routes.

Rumours that we’ve ordered a take out from the food hall at the Trafford Centre at lunch time are wholly unfounded, although if anyone wants to offer…

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Liverpool report on “Universal Credit Unintended Consequences”.

GMWRAG is pleased to see yet another report talking in depth about the consequences of the introduction of Universal Credit. We’re not sure about the title. Are the consequences of UC FS really unintended? Were they really not obvious some years ago? GMWRAG thinks that’s a generous interpretation but anyway here’s a short video of City of Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson introducing the report. We are aware that a number of you may be viewing this in the workplace and may not have access to a sound card. Regrettably subtitles are not available. We have commented to this effect on the above video.

However, you can read the full report here and we look forward to hearing the response from Esther McVey in due course.

Complex needs plans and They Work For You.

GMWRAG recently brought to your attention that we now have an account with WhatDoTheyKnow and after our first experience of using the account we have been casting about to see what we can do next. We now have an obvious answer.

Every JCP needs to create their own complex needs plan to support claimants with the aforesaid complex needs. These are based on templates produced by DWP but nevertheless show great variation. We understand that many local offices are insisting said documents are not publicly available, which seems rather bizarre as this is surely crying out to be a living document worked on in partnership. Equally we understand that these documents will be put into the public domain if an FOI request is submitted and Owen Stevens has been doing some fine work on this front down in Greenwich.

It’s interesting to read his experience that

“A common feature of all the complex needs plans is a list of local and national organisations relevant to particular groups that the JCP imagine may present with complex needs.  I’ve attached an example of the types of groups considered in one plan.

One or two of the plans seem not to involve much more than a list of signposting.

Most of the plans do include quite comprehensive signposting in each area. The lists are so comprehensive that it may be difficult for staff under time pressure to absorb all the information. Jobcentre may find it more useful to flag up a couple of key contacts before going on to list the more extensive signposting.

I can’t see that any of the plans I’ve looked at have included information about discretionary funds such as local welfare assistance, etc.

None of the plans seem to include a list of common problems (for example claim for terminally ill people, transferring ESA components to UC, etc).  It may be useful for complex needs plans to include a regularly updated list of problems, the correct process, and fixes for these problems.

We hope to set up an arrangement where the JCP can flag up complex needs to the local authority. If this progresses this arrangement could be set up in the complex needs plan.” …

“… I actually think that they have potential to be made into quite effective documents which could take a lot of pressure off the advice sector by enabling DWP to resolve problems before they ever reach us.

However, it’s clear that in their current form even the best of these documents leave quite a lot to be desired…”

“… I still get the impression that they remain very far from the kinds of documents that will enable work coaches to effectively support vulnerable claimants.”

GMWRAG heartily endorses both the approach and the views expressed by Owen to accompany them. What we would like members in the North West to do is to contact GMWRAG if you already have a copy of your complex needs plan and we’ll post them up here as a central repository of the up to date position in your area as well as (hopefully) examples of best practice.

If you don’t have a copy but would like to obtain one, again, please contact GMWRAG and we’ll do the hard miles and make the request for each of the JCPs in your area via WhatDoTheyKnow.

A big announcement for the next GMWRAG meeting.

Some two months after we first announced the next GMWRAG meeting would be in Trafford on Friday the 19th of October 2018 we are pleased to be able to put a little flesh on the bones of the agenda and we’re confident that we have a day which will pique the interest of even the most diehard Principal Officers stayaways .

Our original plan was to have our traditional 2 speakers and a full day. Only the latter of these ideas remains in play. At the request of several GMWRAG members the whole day will understandably be dedicated to Universal Credit Full Service. However, instead of 2 speakers we will be playing host all day to Neil Couling CBE, Director General of the Universal Credit Programme and working with him and DWP to put together an agenda agreeable to all.

Mr. Couling will be bringing with him 3 partnership managers, although GMWRAG had already started the process of inviting every GM partnership manager before he graciously accepted our invitation, so whether we end up with the former or the latter is currently up in the air.

The focus of the meeting will be on identifying common UCFS issues across the GM area and looking to identify consistent cross GM solutions in order to move away from having different problem solving processes for each of the 10 GM areas.

The intent is to leave the meeting with a clear plan for a cross GM UCFS forum to meet on a regular basis to build on the work we plan to get through in Trafford over a longer period.

In deference to Mr. Couling we are likely to have specific agenda items about what is going well with UCFS and also a discussion on the evidence base for the suggestion that UC campaigning is causing anxiety amongst claimants which will make managed migration difficult to move people over safely to UC from 2020 onwards. There may be further requests for specific agenda items from the DWP side which we will also try to accommodate.

GMWRAG members can now help make this a successful day by contacting GMWRAG and letting us know your top 5 UCFS issues or concerns. Where common issues are identified across GM we’ll put these as specific agenda items and will try to give them 30 to 60 minutes each. These need to be strictly defined as anything broad is likely to go nowhere fast.

GMWRAG already has some ideas around this from members posts in forums and social media e.g. issues around terminal illness; unspecified/unjustified deductions; corporate appointeeships and many more but we want members to lead in defining your concerns not ours. We will be contacting some GMWRAG members in existing UCFS areas in GM for their specific thoughts.

We may ask 1 person per item to set the scene on the day by spending 5 minutes outlining the issue in depth (and perhaps giving a quick case study) before we set about co-operatively agreeing solutions which work for the majority.

This is likely to be the most focused and stimulating GMWRAG meeting (since the last one); a PowerPoint free zone (unless absolutely unavoidable) and we anticipate numbers may be high. Bearing this in mind, we’ll be posting separately in due course to ask GMWRAG members to indicate whether they will be attending so we can get a quick idea of numbers.

All of this does of course mean that a final agenda may be produced only at a very late stage so please keep an eye on this site and Twitter for further information. The minutes of the Bolton meeting remain available for download now.

Agenda and speakers for next weeks GMWRAG meeting in Oldham.

The agenda for next weeks GMWRAG meeting in Oldham is now available and can be downloaded by clicking on this link. Everything else you need can be found in our previous posts yesterday and back in July 2017.

Well, yeah, okay. You will need a coat, possibly a scarf. Almost certainly gloves and maybe even a hat and an umbrella. Apart from that, everything you need to know is in those posts 🙂

Er, okay, you might also want to know how to get there. We sort of covered that in the July post when we mischievously described transport to Oldham as “straightforward nowadays”. If you don’t believe us then please check out MyTfGM for journey planning.

We are pleased to confirm that we have two speakers for the day covering innovation and Universal Credit. If you want to know more please download the agenda from the link above.