‘Stoke-on-Line’ is a virtual conference replacing our planned event in Stoke on Trent and building on the success of our recent online COVID-19 special.

We are splitting the June conference over two days to ensure no one experiences ‘screen burn’ or Zoom exhaustion.  The event is open to members only – if you or your organisation are not a NAWRA member you can join here.

For booking purposes, you will receive a link via NAWRA and you may also receive a direct invite if you attended the COVID-19 special event in May. You need to book for the sessions you wish to attend.

Day 1 – Thursday 11th June 2020

Conference session 1 – 1:00 pm to 4:15pm

1.00 pm Welcome and introductions – Alan Markey (NAWRA Chair, Coventry Independent Advice Service)

1.10 pm Guest speaker: Victoria Todd (Low Incomes Tax Reform Group) will look at some of the key new benefit and suport available, as well as some of the pitfalls. This will include the new Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, Coronavirus job retention scheme, HMRC tax changes and relaxations and Tax Credit amendments.

1.50 pm Short break

2.00 pm ‘DWP decision making and the rise in successful benefits appeals at tribunal.’ Workshop led by by Atif Kaudri (NAWRA committee). One of the major reasons for the poor decision making by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) according to Mashaw’s models of administrative justice is to bring in bureaucratic rationality model instead of moral judgement (legal) since 2010 in light of austerity measures. Under this new model the DWP decision making is poor as decisions are taken by low-level officials under pressure to process decisions quickly with few quality controls. This may therefore not be surprising that over 70% of DWP benefits decisions, according to Disability Rights UK, are overturned by the tribunals.

3.00 pm Short break

3.15 pm ‘Tribunal Hearings during COVID’. Scott McInally (Durham County Council Welfare Rights Service) looks at The Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal) (Social Entitlement Chamber) Rules 2008; the recent Practice Directions setting out contingency arrangements in the First-tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic; and at some of the practical issues that representatives, appellants and tribunals may encounter in achieving the overriding objectives. Scott will also suggest solutions to the issues representatives are currently facing.

4.15 pm Wrap up and close (by 4.30pm)

Social evening – 7.00pm to 9.00pm

In the evening all members are welcome to join a virtual NAWRA social evening, featuring a quiz session and other fun activities! Session will be led by NAWRA Chair, Alan Markey.

Day 2 – Friday 12th June 2020

Conference session 2 – 9.30am to 1.00 pm

9.30 am  Welcome and introductions

9.40 am  ‘On the periphery of Universal Credit – but now?’ Session led by Gareth Morgan (Ferret Information Systems) taking a look at some outlying areas of UC rules, including surplus earnings, loss carry-forward and the like. Particularly, but not only, relevant for self-employed claims and some speculation on what might happen next year.

10.45 am  Short break

11.00 am  Martin Coates (Lecturer at Staffordshire University) discusses Neoliberalism and the punishment of social welfare claimants. In this session, the topics covered will include:

  • The myths perpetuated about benefit claimants
  • The use of the mainstream media to denigrate benefit claimants
  • The linking of penal systems methodology to welfare systems – a) surveillance; (b) sanction; (c) deterrence
  • The position of welfare support within neoliberal capitalism systems and the factual position on poverty within the UK

12.00 pm Short break

12.10 pm Information exchange, including a question and answer session plus the chance to share other information and good practice with colleagues from across the UK.

1.00 pm Wrap up and close

Yoga session – Find your inner calm – 2.00pm to 3.00pm

In the afternoon, members are then welcomed to ‘Find your inner calm‘. Has it been a long and full on week? Come and join Daphne Hall (NAWRA Vice-Chair, rightsnet) for an hour of post-conference yoga. Daphne says “Move into your weekend with a sense of inner calm (obviously a phrase that you naturally associate with me 😉). Rest assured you can turn your camera off and no one will see what you’re doing. The class will be aimed at people with not too much, if any, experience – with the odd challenging pose thrown in for those who want – but alternatives for those who don’t! Disclaimer – I am halfway through a teacher training course which is a bit in suspension/virtual due to COVID. Never push into pain into yoga – if it doesn’t feel right don’t do it, go back to a previous pose, rest, or do anything that feels right for you 🙂”


  • Victoria Todd is Head of Low Incomes Tax Reform Group. In 2016, Victoria was appointed to the Social Security Advisory Committee. Previously Victoria worked in various welfare rights roles. Along with Jane Booth, Victoria runs the award-winning revenuebenefits website.
  • Martin Coates is a lecturer in Social Welfare Law, Policy and Advice Practise at Staffordshire University. He specialises in housing law and policy and also teaches Modern Social Policy and Equality and Diversity. He previously worked for National Citizens Advice as a Specialist Adviser in the Expert Advice Team. He specialised in Housing Law and Policy, was a member of the Adviser Editorial team and was Editor of Adviser Magazine from 2014-17.

With thanks to our sponsor, Advice Pro