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Citizens Advice to provide Universal Support from April 2019

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past caring
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Joanna - 03 October 2018 01:39 PM

Also, I think we as advisers are firmly in the bubble. We think that public cares about our impartiality Maybe they do. They would probably tick “yes” in the questionnaire.
But maybe all they care is for their problem to be fixed, period.

I expect that very few, if any, of the men and women on the Clapham omnibus give such issues any thought. Even at the best of times, I imagine that few people consider questions such as “should there be free and readily available advice services and, if so, what should be their guiding principles?” entirely in the abstract . And I think that the current woeful state of mainstream public and political discourse means that, at present, we are very far from being in the best of times.

But when the issue stops being abstract and becomes of immediate practical concern, things change. I’ve yet to meet a member of the public who has become a client who does not see a clear need for advice services to be impartial, confidential and independent when I have explained to them that is how we work. In fact, clients’ questions and concerns about the service we offer are frequently underpinned by a worry that we might not be impartial, confidential and independent.

So I don’t accept trying to argue or campaign for advice services which really are impartial and independent is in any way living in a bubble. Either those principles mean something or they don’t…..

     
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past caring - 03 October 2018 03:49 PM
Joanna - 03 October 2018 01:39 PM

Also, I think we as advisers are firmly in the bubble. We think that public cares about our impartiality Maybe they do. They would probably tick “yes” in the questionnaire.
But maybe all they care is for their problem to be fixed, period.

I expect that very few, if any, of the men and women on the Clapham omnibus give such issues any thought. Even at the best of times, I imagine that few people consider questions such as “should there be free and readily available advice services and, if so, what should be their guiding principles?” entirely in the abstract . And I think that the current woeful state of mainstream public and political discourse means that, at present, we are very far from being in the best of times.

But when the issue stops being abstract and becomes of immediate practical concern, things change. I’ve yet to meet a member of the public who has become a client who does not see a clear need for advice services to be impartial, confidential and independent when I have explained to them that is how we work. In fact, clients’ questions and concerns about the service we offer are frequently underpinned by a worry that we might not be impartial, confidential and independent.

So I don’t accept trying to argue or campaign for advice services which really are impartial and independent is in any way living in a bubble. Either those principles mean something or they don’t…..

Absolutely.  Most of the time, most people give little thought to things like the importance of the rule of law, the right to advocacy, an independent judiciary,etc.  Indeed, many people probably think advisers are wasting their time on the undeserving poor and that we are posturing and being self-serving about this issue.

It’s only when the law collides with peoples’ lives that they then really do want and need an independent advocate who is on their side and to fight without fear or favour for their interests.  That’s why CA taking the DWP’s money for this, risks tainting the entire CA service.

     
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Chrissum - 03 October 2018 11:26 AM

I’m sure there is a plan in place to deliver this service and overcome the possible barriers we are raising. With respect that is their problem and though we can point out potential issues for them to consider, they are free to implement US as they see fit (subject to contract of course), and I am sure they will use their analysis of where things have gone wrong to do so. Much as I wish it were not the case, I’m sure we will all be around to mop up any mess that might occur. Hmmm sounds familiar…

I suggest that is one of the key concerns with CA (or any one else) delivering US however well planned etc. If they cannot deliver on the terms of the contract, for what ever reason it means organisations that are not receiving the funding will still pick up the pieces / cost / clients in addition to the work the contract may not cover such as claim maintenance, MRs etc.

Another possibility is that CA nationally / locally will want to establish partnerships with others to deliver the service. However such partnerships can result in the main provider creaming off the main funding whilst contracting the partner(s) to deliver the ‘difficult stuff’ for a pittance. Potential partners beware!

     
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neilbateman - 03 October 2018 04:13 PM

It’s only when the law collides with peoples’ lives that they then really do want and need an independent advocate who is on their side and to fight without fear or favour for their interests.  That’s why CA taking the DWP’s money for this, risks tainting the entire CA service.

Obviously, I agree, though I’d go further. The profile of CA is such that if our fears turn out to be well founded, any tainting and loss of public confidence is unlikely to be limited to that service…...

     
Jon (CHDCA)
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Paul_Treloar_AgeUK - 02 October 2018 12:31 PM

..As noted above, there’s also a strong chance of a perception of a loss of independence arising and I’m also interested to know whether this contract has the same kind of gagging clause as with Work and Health Programme contractors (as discovered by Disability News Service)?

We don’t have any details yet, but this is from an email sent from national to local CABx today:

“This funding agreement in no way stops us from raising problems with Universal Credit publically and it does not in any way compromise the impartiality or confidentiality of the advice and support we give to people - these are red lines for us when it comes to funding and we’ve been clear with the DWP about that from the start.”

     
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Jon (CHDCA) - 03 October 2018 07:47 PM
Paul_Treloar_AgeUK - 02 October 2018 12:31 PM

..As noted above, there’s also a strong chance of a perception of a loss of independence arising and I’m also interested to know whether this contract has the same kind of gagging clause as with Work and Health Programme contractors (as discovered by Disability News Service)?

We don’t have any details yet, but this is from an email sent from national to local CABx today:

“This funding agreement in no way stops us from raising problems with Universal Credit publically and it does not in any way compromise the impartiality or confidentiality of the advice and support we give to people - these are red lines for us when it comes to funding and we’ve been clear with the DWP about that from the start.”

Bravo, in that case there will be no problem sharing specific details of the contract that enables them to do this (even though they couldn’t be bothered answering my polite tweet asking same). Thanks for sharing Jon, be interested to see how this plays out for sure.

     
Jon (CHDCA)
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Just noticed that the email I quoted is much the same as this public post:
https://wearecitizensadvice.org.uk/helping-people-with-universal-credit-963f0fc480fb

     
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Interesting to see the hbinfo forum discussion also - although I fear you need to be a signed up member to read it :-

https://www.hbinfo.org/forums/topics/cab-deliver-uc-support-next-april#new

     
MartinB
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As the only person who hasn’t worked for Citizens Advice, all I can say is that this presumably makes some sense for both organisations.

So I am guessing….. that as CAB is probably inundated already doing a lot of this support work for free,it makes sense to take this on, and get rewarded….. that way free up resources for other advice work. (?)   

Don’t know. Trying to rationalise what at first sight seems a strange decision….....for CA….

     
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MartinB - 04 October 2018 09:54 AM

As the only person who hasn’t worked for Citizens Advice, all I can say is that this presumably makes some sense for both organisations.

So I am guessing….. that as CAB is probably inundated already doing a lot of this support work for free,it makes sense to take this on, and get rewarded….. that way free up resources for other advice work. (?)   

Don’t know. Trying to rationalise what at first sight seems a strange decision….....for CA….

Some CAB are already receiving funding via the US funding currently received by LA’s. For example, some of our LA’s are paying CAB a fixed fee of £25 for helping a claimant to make their claim.

     
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Paul_Treloar_AgeUK - 02 October 2018 11:17 AM

FOI request seeking details about this contract and associated arrangements ....

I see that the FOI request includes a link to a 2016 ‘Evaluation of the Universal Support delivered locally trials’ which, at section 5.3, says -

Very few trials formally imposed conditions on claimants to attend support. The Islington trial was the only case where claimants were mandated to attend a first appointment with their personal budgeting or digital support provider ...

.... For some delivery providers, particularly Citizens Advice, it was a condition of partnership that claimants were not required to attend support services ...

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/537089/ad-hoc-report-33-evaluation-of-the-universal-support-delivered-locally-trials.pdf

 

 

     
Andyp5 Citizens Advice Bridport & District
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Neil Couling’s letter to LA Supremo’s attached regarding Universal Support.

 

     

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Gareth Morgan
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Interesting that he says “...our Secretary of State has chosen” over the usual “we”.

     
Andrew Dutton
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By, but he’s a cheeky hound!!!!!

DWP provides a poorly-designed,  dismally underfunded scheme to shore up a useless benefit and….ooh, it isn’t working!!!!

Can he not reflect upon the fundamental flaws in the system and think about how to fix them,  rather than just grinding on with a new provider….?


Chief Execs: THANK YOU, Mr Couling!

 

     
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I couldn’t agree more with many of the posts here but mine is in a slightly different direction. Not only have a I never worked or volunteered for CAB but I also live in a local authority area where there is no CAB - does anyone know who is being funded in non-CAB areas to do this work?

     
Andyp5 Citizens Advice Bridport & District
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Peter Turville - 04 October 2018 10:00 AM
MartinB - 04 October 2018 09:54 AM

As the only person who hasn’t worked for Citizens Advice, all I can say is that this presumably makes some sense for both organisations.

So I am guessing….. that as CAB is probably inundated already doing a lot of this support work for free,it makes sense to take this on, and get rewarded….. that way free up resources for other advice work. (?)   

Don’t know. Trying to rationalise what at first sight seems a strange decision….....for CA….

Some CAB are already receiving funding via the US funding currently received by LA’s. For example, some of our LA’s are paying CAB a fixed fee of £25 for helping a claimant to make their claim.

Peter’s correct (invariably so).

We get 7.5 hours and our core funding from the LA concerned.

 

     
shawn
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Some more bits and bobs ... in addition CitA’s blog piece: Helping people with Universal Credit: Independent, tailored support to make an initial claim

From DNS:

A DWP spokeswoman ... appeared to confirm that the contracts signed by the charities includes a clause preventing them from attracting “adverse publicity” to the department or to McVey herself, as in contracts signed by some of the disability charities who have signed up to deliver services as part of DWP’s new Work and Health Programme.

Such a clause is likely to say that Citizens Advice must “pay the utmost regard to the standing and reputation” of McVey and must promise not to do anything that harms the public’s confidence in her or DWP.

Asked whether the contracts do include such a clause, a DWP spokeswoman said this afternoon: “Such paragraphs are typical in DWP grants.

“The grant sets out the relationship with DWP and its grant recipients so that both parties understand how to interact with each other.

“The wording is intended to protect the best interests of both the department and the stakeholders we work with, and it does not stop individuals from acting as whistle-blowers under the provisions of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, nor from raising any concerns directly with the department.”

https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/tory-conference-charitys-silence-on-universal-credit-deaths-hours-after-minister-announces-51m-funding/

From MoneyBox’s Paul Lewis:

CA will not reveal the contract it has with DWP. Nor will DWP - press office told me I would have to put in an FOI, so I have. But CA clear that it will still be able to criticise government policy including on UC. Did not agree that the deal creates conflict of interest.

https://twitter.com/paullewismoney/status/1047742090166382593

From CitA’s Head of Policy (Families, Welfare and Work):

Nothing in the grant agreement we have with the DWP prevents us from continuing to raise our evidence publicly about Universal Credit. Being able to use our evidence in this way is one of the great strengths of Citizens Advice.

https://twitter.com/KayleyHignell/status/1047928026900680705

From CitA’s head of news, public affairs & campaigns:

... very happy to offer some reassurance on this - there’s nothing in the agreement we have with DWP that compromises our independence in any way ...

https://twitter.com/KMartUK/status/1047939463429726208

 

 

 

     
shawn
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From Scottish Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville:

Whilst any additional funding for Citizens Advice Scotland is welcome, this should not be at the expense of local authorities. The UK Government’s proposals will take away funding from local authorities – a move which was not discussed with Cosla, and will exacerbate the funding pressures faced by councils and advice services, ultimately negatively affecting those claiming Universal Credit.

https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/13365/scottish-government-says-dwp-funding-citizen-s-advice-should-not-be-expense-local

     
Mike Hughes
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There are a number of points which perhaps need writing larger right now.

1) I very much doubt CA have any plan in place as to how to make this work. On one level this is an amount of money equivalent to 50% of their income and, as Giles Peaker has astutely observed, it lacks credibility to suggest that nothing changes when that amount of money is at stake.

2) Despite the value of the amount relative to CA income it remains the case that it’s an unchanged amount for US. US was not being delivered by LAs not because they lacked any expertise (limited expertise is needed to get a claim up and running. Arguably not even a WRA is needed) or coverage but because there are fundamental problems with the UC digital process and because the money is simply inadequate. We’ve just gone FS but talking to GM colleagues who’ve been FS for a while it’s obvious that US simply didn’t exist as a thing. It didn’t fall short. It simply doesn’t exist in any meaningful way. 

What are CA going to do? Buy more technology? Magic up more interview rooms? Only co-location can even begin to solve that and, weirdly, most people’s perspective is that co-location has also weakened if not impartiality then certainly the perception of that. Most of us would accept that the damage from the latter is more immediate and irreversible. So, any assertions that CA will somehow be able to take the same pot of money and magic up a different solution seem to me to fall somewhere between aspirational at best and most likely delusional.

3) CA does not appear to have engaged on this issue with their own staff and certainly not with the wider world. The attempts to hunker down and leave it to some front line staff to tweet or blog their way out of it are classic newsspeak. There is literally nothing in those statements which offers reassurance. I have openly challenged those on social media who say that there is to say definitively that this vague “nothing there which compromises independence” and “feeding back evidence on UC” means in practice more than data sharing. That it means appealing to FTT, UT. That it means EA 10 and HRA challenges and referral for JR. The answers which have come back are… total silence. What is it? Do they not know? Don’t think it does or don’t want to put their necks on the line by making a statement which could look very silly indeed? On balance I think the worst bit of that is that they most likely don’t know and if they do then nothing in their response is killing the idea they don’t know.

4) One look at social media will tell you that it isn’t going to take until someone has a real problem for this to become real to the public. They’re out there now. They’re openly challenging CA as to why they should be trusted or used and the silent response means that the verdict for many is effectively in and publicly so. As a bit of PR this has gone badly wrong. 

5) CA dropped a commitment to social policy work but share data and research with DWP and government on a regular basis. This is before we get onto the sticky issue of the fact that CAs don’t offer the coverage that LAs do and that US simply isn’t going to exist after a claim is live. How on earth do you maintain a claim if an organisation effectively commits to “try” and see you between 5 and 28 days? Effectively that first figure adds the abolished waiting days back in and what if they’re then seen by someone who impartially advises that the day they’re seen is actually a bad day to claim because of how their income would then fall in an assessment period? What are they going to do? Make the claim anyway because otherwise there might be a further wait to a more appropriately timed appointment?

     
Chrissum
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“From CitA’s Head of Policy (Families, Welfare and Work):


Nothing in the grant agreement we have with the DWP prevents us from continuing to raise our evidence publicly about Universal Credit. Being able to use our evidence in this way is one of the great strengths of Citizens Advice.”

Just not on how well US works for vulnerable people, eh?

     
Mike Hughes
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Chrissum - 05 October 2018 12:38 PM

“From CitA’s Head of Policy (Families, Welfare and Work):


Nothing in the grant agreement we have with the DWP prevents us from continuing to raise our evidence publicly about Universal Credit. Being able to use our evidence in this way is one of the great strengths of Citizens Advice.”

Just not on how well US works for vulnerable people, eh?

Ah, we cross posted. See my post above. I’ve already commented on that.

     
Chrissum
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Mike Hughes - 05 October 2018 12:42 PM
Chrissum - 05 October 2018 12:38 PM

“From CitA’s Head of Policy (Families, Welfare and Work):


Nothing in the grant agreement we have with the DWP prevents us from continuing to raise our evidence publicly about Universal Credit. Being able to use our evidence in this way is one of the great strengths of Citizens Advice.”

Just not on how well US works for vulnerable people, eh?

Ah, we cross posted. See my post above. I’ve already commented on that.

And much better, too, may I add!

But in all seriousness will we end up in a situation where CA “hire” the rooms and equipment from the LA’s who have this all in place because they had the funding in the first place? This combined with the possible use of volunteers could mean they “trouser” a substantial amount from this deal. Perhaps they have thought this through…
So in terms of business, this makes sense, but in terms of public perception, not necessarily so.
My only hope is that it is the vulnerable who benefit from this service and that CA are able to use all their experience and reputation to reach out to this group, who are often hidden. We already have seen issues with the DWP and their definition (or apparent lack thereof) of vulnerable and can only hope that CA insist on a robust referral protocol rather than take on those who turn up on their / the DWP’s doorstep.

     
Peter Turville
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Perhaps the announcement was ‘thrust’ upon CA before they were ready (or had clear plans on how they will deliver the service) as McVey needed to make a ‘big’ announcment at the conferrence - someone with CA knows the answer to that one!

One must assume CA have some plan of how they will deliver the service inc where, when and by whom? Or perhaps it will be left to individual bureaux to work out? Were individual CA consulted on how they would / could deliver before CA central signed up?

As US is not new money will CA have to ‘squeeze out’ other work in order to meet demand / contract including the need for immediate appointments and, presumably, home / hospital etc visits for clients not able to attend a CA office / outreach?

What (financial) penalty will there be on CA if they cannot deliver a comprehensive service to all who need it? Rr will they have a definition of the service offerred that means it will not be available to all who request it? Or is the contract so vague it will not be possible to get a realistic picture of performance?

We have been FSUC for almost a year. Our most proactive LA has delivered a good claim support service (but only to claimants who can attend the council office in the city centre) but they already claim that demand exceeds their capacity to meet it from the current funding provided by DWP.

     
Jane O-P
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I don’t think the Universal Credit Support funding includes the funding for home visits - DWP visiting service still have that. That’s one of the things that makes the whole package problematic for whoever has the funding, it’s only designed to support people with low level needs, if you need a home visit you’re out of scope and have to get UC to refer to the DWP visiting service.

     
Andyp5 Citizens Advice Bridport & District
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I know this is in Rightsnet resources, but just in case it may be of interest?

See the link below for the current guidance re Universal Supported updated 27/09/2018

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-universal-support-201819-guidance

     
Keith S Adviser
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CHAC Adviser - 02 October 2018 11:51 AM
Paul_Treloar_AgeUK - 02 October 2018 11:17 AM

Also thought this tweet kind of sums up the fundamental contradiction that could arise.

I hadn’t even thought of that side of it. My background, like I guess for many, is from Citizens Advice and I couldn’t imagine any scenario where I (or any of my fellows at my old local Bx) would pass such information onto the DWP even if that’s what the contract says you’re supposed to do. It’s contrary to everything that the Citizens Advice service is about!

Would totally agree, but I will be wearing my Orwell 84 shirt from now on !!

     
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Statement from the Home Secretary today on Windrush includes -

We have also reached an agreement with Citizens Advice to provide bespoke professional advice, including debt advice, to anyone experiencing immediate financial problems.

https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2018-10-11/HCWS993

     
Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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Some starter for ten questions that spring to my mind include:

* How will CA go about identifying vulnerable people local to their services who might be in need of help and assistance?
* How can people who seek to access the CA support do it quickly, simply and cheaply, given the fact they have such a short timescale to take action in?
* If CA help someone to lodge a managed migration UC claim during the 4-week period of invitation and that claim is refused as defective, what will be done with the client who has now lost their potential entitlement to any transitional protection forever?

Last one is slightly spoddy but strikes me as real risk. You?

     
shawn
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On Twitter, CitA’s Head of news, public affairs & campaigns has pointed to today’s Times article where it says -

DWP told the Times that Citizens Advice had not signed a full contract with a publicity clause but instead had signed a grant agreement. These are not routinely published and the DWP would not release it. Gillian Guy, the chief executive of Citizens Advice, said that it had signed no restrictive clauses. She said: “Nothing in the agreement prevents us from continuing to raise our evidence publicly.”

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/charities-gagged-by-ministers-over-universal-credit-rcq6b8g72

 

     
Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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Found out yesterday at the DWP managed migration event that this funding has nothing to do with that i.e. MM, but is about supporting clients who are (1) already claiming UC, or (2) who make new claims for UC.