Those magic words you’ve not heard in so long. The minutes of the last GMWRAG meeting are now available for download. Something to do with Trainspotting. Blah Blah.

Blame Universal Credit. Blame Neil Couling. Blame Jo Chimes. Blame the Equality Act 2010. Blame Brexit. Yeah definitely blame Brexit.  Blame PLP. Blame the University of York. Blame Your Parents. No, er, hang on…

Anyway, it’s been over a year since we had such a plain old, vanilla, boring afternoon GMWRAG meeting with just the one speaker and with it the requirement to take actual notes like. All of the above are most definitely to blame for that but only in a good way. GMWRAG has had a great 12 months of unusual and interesting events with huge turnouts and even proper refreshments.

Finally then, here we are. Just a very straightforward GMWRAG meeting with some hopefully very straightforward notes. Yes, we are aware there are 5 sides of them. We’ll have none of that TL:DR nonsense thank you very much.  Kindly remember that this is because this is what accessible large print looks like; Norman waffled on quite a lot and the attendance list was quite big too.

Anyway, our delightful Our Meetings section has been updated with something that looks very much like actual minutes and if you lack even the basic energy to get that far then yes, you can download them from here. 

Please note that we are well aware that the above meeting was indeed preceded by a GMWRAG GM UC Forum meeting and that therefore you might be expecting notes from that too. Fear not. They have been circulated for approval and will be circulated for real as soon as we have that. However, this week does involve some ancient concept called “half-term” so a number of those charged with moaning about the inaccuracies have possibly been put nominally in charge of small people for the week. As soon as they’re back doing proper jobs you can have your UC Forum notes too.

University of Salford and Salford City Council research into the experience of Universal Credit.

So this is one for those of our advisers who live or work in the Salford area of Greater Manchester. Nevertheless we think it will be of wider interest to the rest of you. The University of Salford and Salford City Council are doing research into the experience of Universal Credit.

How has Universal Credit impacted you, and what can we do about it?

We know that Universal Credit is having a huge impact on Salford’s Residents and family, friends and organisations that support them, but what exactly does that look like? What can we do about it? The University of Salford and Salford City Council are working together to answer those questions and you can help!

Can I take part?

Are you a Salford resident in receipt of Universal Credit? The answer is yes!

How do I take part?

Contact us and we will arrange a time and date for the interview at the place of your choice. We want to know how people’s experience with Universal Credit are changing over time, so we would like you to undertake two interviews, the first one now, and the second one in 6-8 months. We would like to ask you about your experiences with Universal Credit, its impact on your life and finances and what you think about it as well as what kind of support you have found useful.

In recognition of your time and knowledge, you will receive £10 for undertaking each interview.

Interviews will last about an hour. You do not have to talk about anything you don’t want to discuss and you can withdraw from the research at any time. We will record the interview with your permission, but will take notes if you prefer. Everything you say will be treated in confidence. Your name will not be used in any published reports and we will not pass your details on to anybody else. We will also keep you informed about the research findings.

Want more information?

If you want to ask any questions about the research or want to know more about taking part, then please text, call or email Andrea Gibbons at 07773 948 841 or

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dot

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gibbons

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GMWRAG. Bereft of originality once again.

Pretty much shorthand for “we’ve nicked this from Rightsnet but it’s important so nobody will sue – we hope!”.

The Guardian wants to hear from people who have applied for benefits online

“Public authorities are using robots, algorithms and machine learning to assess welfare and benefit claims, but the systems are often hidden inside a ‘black box’, away from public scrutiny. It matters; not least because the government’s own Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation warned earlier this year “algorithmic bias could lead to greater unfairness” in who gets what from the public purse.

We want to find out more. Have you had difficulties negotiating the computer and IT systems required to apply for welfare payments and benefits? Have you experienced puzzling outcomes, unusual delays or other mysteries? If so please tell us. We are interested to hear from people claiming Universal Credit, housing benefit and council tax benefit among other payments.”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/sep/10/tell-us-if-you-have-applied-for-welfare-and-benefit-payments-online

GMWRAG peeps. You know what to do.

Wonder if the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation would be interested in

https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexspence/boris-johnson-dominic-cummings-voter-data

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/10/no-10-request-user-data-government-website-sparks-alarm

Oh, er, hang on…

Belta UC scam advice from Newcastle.

This information is courtesy of our friend in the NAWRA.

Newcastle City Council has provided advice and information about the UC scam(s) going around. Please use or forward this information if useful.

As you know there’s been quite a bit of press about this. So we thought it would be important to provide simple and straightforward guidance about what it was, how to avoid it and what to do if such a scam was suspected. Hence the following (with links):

This follows discussions with DWP and Trading Standards.

Please let Clive Davis at Newcastle City Council know if you think the webpage information could be improved as they can always change it.

Blatant plagiarism in the name of a good cause.

GMWRAG noted the following posted on Rightsnet. We think this is too important to miss so we’re reprinting it in full below.

CPAG is partway through releasing a series of reports entitled Computer says “No” detailing problems arising in the automated UC system.  These hard-hitting reports wouldn’t be possible without your case studies, so thank you! It’d be great to receive some up-to-date examples which may contribute to the third and final report in the series.

1. Many of you have already seen our first Computer says “No” report detailing issues with UC statements [available here: http://www.cpag.org.uk/sites/default/files/Computer says ‘no!’ Stage one – information provision_2.pdf]

2. Our second report is due to be released next week, and will set out the problems encountered by claimants in challenging UC decisions (i.e. using the MR process). So do keep an eye out for it.

3. The third report will focus on how the DWP implements decisions (other than those concerning initial calculation of entitlement).  We’re interested to hear about recent cases of:
a) DWP delay in implementing Tribunal decision in UC
b) DWP delay or mistake in paying backdated UC entitlement
c) UC statements overwritten with corrected entitlement, not reflecting actual payments made
d) UC claim start date amended and assessment periods changed from start of claim
e) Possession case adjournments/ suspended orders requiring rent arrears payments lower than standard 10-20% deductions made in UC
f) Debt Relief Orders writing off UC Advances, or other debts, being ignored
g) Failure to apply legal judgments effectively e.g. Faulty SDP gateway, High Court Johnson assessment period ruling

The above are all issues that you’ve told us about before, but recent examples would help us ascertain whether they remain unresolved and if so, add to the strength of our report.

Many thanks for any and all contributions!

Best way to submit cases is our online EWS form: https://childpovertyactiongroup.wufoo.com/forms/m1vc0zeg1sr9zgh/
or email ews@cpag.org.uk

Minutes of the GMWRAG GM UC Forum finally available.

GMWRAG has taken our time getting minutes out from the first two very successful meetings of the GMWRAG GM UC Forum. This has largely been because of a need to ensure various parties are happy the minutes accurately reflect their participation and this, to be blunt, has been like herding cats. However, herding cats is not actually impossible (follow that link folks) and so here we finally are.

The minutes for both the January 2019 meeting in Oldham and the May 2019 meeting are now available for download from the GMUCF section of our site and they are of course password protected.

Regular GMWRAG users will be able to take a punt at our password but if not you can always DM us on Twitter or email to the usual address. If you don’t know the usual address then you’re possibly not a GMWRAG member or not paying attention.

The next GMWRAG meeting and GMWRAG GM UC Forum meeting was scheduled for Salford in July. That clearly isn’t going to happen so we’re now aiming for late August or early September. More news on this as we have it.

CPAG looking for test cases.

CPAG is looking for test cases. To be fair, CPAG is always looking for test cases. However…

Do you have a client who would be willing to be part of CPAG’s strategic litigation?

CPAG is looking for clients in the following circumstances:

1.    The date of claim for universal credit claimants who use the Help to Claim service operated by Citizens Advice.
CPAG is looking for a universal credit claimant who has used the Citizens Advice Help to Claim service co-located in a Job Centre and their date of claim is later than the date they requested the Help to Claim service.

2.    Benefit cap
CPAG is looking for a lone parent with a child under 5 who has been subject to the benefit cap in the past few months, hasn’t had the benefit of DHPs throughout and possibly has even had to move home because of the cap.

To refer a client living in England or Wales please complete CPAG’s referral form.

Quiz Knight

Following the NWMHWRAG post with the various documents from their last meeting we have become aware that some people have asked for the answers to the UC True or False quiz. GMWRAG was not sure whether to go along with this tacit admission of failure on the part of welfare rights advisers but in the end we thought it would be at the very least fun to post answers to an quiz when we can’t even remember what the questions were!

So, the answers are as follows:

Doris                      False

Claudette               False

Joe                         True (as long as the landlord agrees for him to stay.)

Davinder                False

Julie                        False

Ahmed                   False

Heather                 True

Viola                      False

If you’re as intrigued/lost/bewildered/bemused as we were then the questions can be found on the Presentations page of our NWMHWRAG section. For our own amusement we weren’t planning on putting the answers there too.

GMWRAG can’t help but think that if you’re going to give out a true or false answer it might be an idea to know why but maybe that’s just us being picky.

GMWRAG is also of the view that all of the above is a secret code and that it’s all really taken from the lyrics of Valerie by the Zutons.

“Did you have to go to jail?” is definitely the question on Julie and her ABH as is “did you get a good lawyer?”

“Put your house on up for sale” well that could be at least 3 of them!

“And the way you like to dress Doris”

“Won’t you come on over Viola Valerie?

We rest our case (and possibly our weary hallucinating head)!

The minutes of the last NWMHWRAG meeting plus associated documents are now available for download.

Long post. Loadsa good stuff.

The minutes of the last meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group are now available for download from here and in due course (give us a minute) from their pages within the GMWRAG site.

GMWRAG was quite upset to discover that since the NWMHWRAG pages migrated to this site in 2011 not one person has noticed that the section was erroneously titled the North West Mental Health Advisers Welfare Rights Group and not the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group. WHO was not paying attention? All of you apparently!

The People’s Front of Judea are most upset. Eats, Shoots and Leaves indeed! Other documents from the meeting can be downloaded from below but also from the now correctly titled section. Anything else you’re not telling us?

GMWRAG sometimes gets asked how one joins such an exclusive club or “old boys clique” as we recently were amused to hear it described. We’re thinking of adopting the passing of a UC quiz as the entry requirement.

Suffice to say we’ll be asking the (mostly female) Principal Officers of Welfare Rights services across GM to withdraw from GMWRAG anyone heard spouting such inanities especially given that attendance at GMWRAG meeting is fairly evenly divided between the sexes but if anything skewed well away from “old boys”.

In the meantime, we have been handed some late-breaking corrections to some of the above and we detail these below, which goes to prove that there is occasionally some value in being tardy!

“On the minutes – slight correction needed to this bit

Note differences to shared accommodation rules for over 35s, under
occupancy (non dependant couples get two rooms, overnight carers not dependant on SDP)

It should say something like this –

Note differences to shared accommodation rules –

  • single over 35s – get one bedroom rate even if chosen to live in shared accommodation
  • single under 35s – exemption from shared accommodation rate not dependent on SDP (just on the disability benefit – ie PIP DL / DLA mid/high care etc)

under occupancy –

  • non dependant couples get two rooms,
  • overnight carers – stricter than HB – person needing care must be getting disability benefit –  PIP DL / DLA mid/high care etc)

Second thing –

When we were discussing the protection on death rules & no bedroom tax for 3 months,  it was asked if – when a non dependant dies – whether the non-dep deduction would still apply.

The speaker said they thought not – but since had a look to see if there are any Regs/guidance to confirm that!

Reg 37

Reg 37 image

 

 

 

 

This is what the guidance says – Guidance image 2

 

 

 

Guidance image 1

 

 

 

It does not make sense to say that a non-dep who has died should still be making their contribution to the tenant (that is the theory of non-dep deductions isn’t it? ie that the non-dep should pay something towards the cost of the roof over their head – unless exempt). There will be no non-dep income.

Also if the exemption was due to non-dep’s PIP daily living etc – that would have stopped.

So we think this is a mistake/omission.”