Right hand. Meet left hand! Wring in despair.

HMCTS have recently upped the ante as regards tribunal modernisation and in particular COR (Continuous Online Resolution). By “upped the ante” we do of course mean that they have finally started to engage with the outside world or at least broadcast to them, which is of course as “consulty” as HMCTS tend to get.

For those of you who have no idea what we’re talking about full (ish) details can be found on an excellent thread on Rightsnet. Why are we writing this now then? Very simple.

First of all a consultation has been launched on the Courts and Tribunals (Online Procedure) Bill.

The Public Bill Committee welcomes views from anyone with relevant expertise and experience or a special interest in the Bill (that would be you GMWRAG members) which has three main effects –

  • it confers regulation-making powers on Ministers, subject to the affirmative procedure – appropriate ministers can designate certain types of court or tribunal proceedings as ones which may or must be conducted by electronic means, subject to the Online Procedure Rules (OPRs);
  • it establishes the Online Procedure Rule Committee (OPRC) and defines that body’s powers to make OPRs; and
  • it determines the membership rules and appointments process for the OPRC.

While the deadline for evidence is expected to be 5pm on Thursday 25 July 2019, the Committee highlights that it is no longer able to receive written evidence once it concludes its consideration of the Bill which may be earlier than that deadline.

Having started in the House of Lords, the Bill was debated and read for the second time in the House of Commons yesterday, during which Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice Paul Maynard – responding to concerns about ‘digitisation by default’ – stated that –

‘I have said at least twice in the debate already that the alternative methods must be protected at all times. People can seek telephone advice, for example. We are also piloting face-to-face advice in at least 25 areas. At any point, people can opt out of the online procedure, and the paper-based alternative will always be available. Either side in a case can opt out of an online procedure to ensure that it does not occur online.’

GMWRAG members can submit evidence via have your say on the Courts and Tribunals (Online Procedure) Bill.

This brings us neatly to the second aspect of this.

The Infrastructure and Projects Authority annual report 2019 has concluded that successful delivery of the HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) Reform Programme is in doubt for the sixth year running. Yes, you really did read that correctly!

The IPA assessed 133 projects included in its GMPP programme this year, including 43 ‘transformation and service delivery projects’, providing each with a ‘Delivery Confidence Assessment’ of green (successful delivery probable) through amber (successful delivery feasible but significant issues exist) to red (successful delivery appears unachievable).

Anyone familiar with the mystery of disappearing online appeals will of course be wondering out loud at this point what realistic chance there is that any of the more complex stuff like COR is ever delivered. On the other hand disappearing online appeals could be described as a fairly efficient way of reducing the backlog which sees people in some areas waiting more than a year for a hearing date.

In relation to the HMCTS Reform Programme, the IPA gives a rating of amber/red – as it has done for the five previous years – defined as –

‘Successful delivery of the project is in doubt, with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas. Urgent action is needed to address these problems and/or assess whether resolution is feasible’

NB – data from the Ministry of Justice to support the IPA report advises that –

‘The programme continues to deliver new services to users and has now launched a new service in every jurisdiction. Over 140,000 users have now used these services and the average satisfaction rate remains high, at above 80 per cent. As part of the business case refresh the programme timeline has been extended by one year and will now expect to close in 2023. Learning from the services that we have already delivered and the feedback received, including from the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office, we have decided to re-order aspects of the programme. This will allow more time to develop some of the shared systems that sit behind our next set of online services.’

Elsewhere, the IPA reports that the DWP’s People and Locations Programme has left the GMPP after successfully delivering savings from a ‘rationalised’ DWP estate (although last year’s annual report rated the Programme as amber/red), the Universal Credit Programme is rated amber (as it was last year) and GOV.UK Verify is rated red (compared to an amber rating last year).

GMWRAG rather thinks these things speak for themselves.

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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.

GMSCG updates.

Busy day for GMWRAG. GMSCG members may be wondering when we’re meeting next and how the group fits into the many other things going at present. We’re hopeful we’ll have news on this soon. In the meantime our friends at Rightsnet have brought to our attention what they rightly describe as a “great report” from PLP that “… that uses their experience in working on the ‘RF’ personal independence payment challenge to highlight key lessons about litigation as a means of addressing discrimination and disadvantage”.

As per Rightsnet we’re going to quote from it verbatim

“The research carried out by Dr Lisa Vanhala and Dr Jacqui Kinghan of UCL identifies strategic lessons for third sector organisations that use public law to challenge unfair systems and highlights the ‘pivotal role’ PLP played in coordinating with a wide network of individuals and organisations.

‘Using the law to address unfair systems’ is based on interviews with some of those most involved in the legal challenge, including PLP Deputy Legal Director Sara Lomri, and gives first-hand insights into how NGOs, funders and litigators won the judicial review brought by PLP’s client, RF.

Co-published by The Baring Foundation and Lankelly Chase, the report also looks at the post-litigation ‘legacy’ phase and raises important questions such as how the Government can be held to account to implement such rulings, and who has responsibility for communicating subsequent policy changes to those affected.”

but we’re going to insert proper links 🙂 and strongly suggest that all GMSCG and GMWRAG members download a copy now in preparation for our next meeting.

You can download a copy right now from https://publiclawproject.org.uk/uncategorized/using-the-law-to-address-unfair-systems/

Leigh Day and their Universal Credit Group Claim.

Leigh Day have now set up a web page plus FAQ & online referral form to make the whole process of signing up to their claim(s) a little more convenient. This can be found at: https://www.leighday.co.uk/Employment-discrimination/Current-cases/Universal-Credit-group-action. They have produced separate referral forms tailored for advisers and for individuals.

For their TP & AR linked claims they now have enough claimants to launch the action. They have identified potential lead claimants and will shortly be sending out client care letters to those who have been referred to them or made their own enquiries.

They are also hoping to generate some media interest in the coming weeks. They could do with much higher numbers to make this litigation really effective and that is why they have set up the website. There are 13,000 people out there who have lost out as a result of the wrongheaded implementation of natural migration.

A lot of service users might not have access to the internet so you can still refer people to them by just emailing a name and telephone number. Ryan Bradshaw (a long-standing friend of GMWRAG and GMSCG) and Niall Byrne are available by phone for any enquiries that you might have.

Feel free to circulate this amongst your contacts and colleagues.

Public Law Project Wales Conference 2019.

GMWRAG is well aware that Wales is not a part of the North West of England or indeed Greater Manchester (albeit that we’re not convinced some in the North West are aware of this).

However, GMWRAG also has a long history of welcoming members from Chester and North East Wales to our meetings and we’ve repeatedly been made aware that advisers in those areas are aware of and do use the site. We’re not about to embark on a round of publicising every event which could be relevant to our North Walian friends but as we have a good relationship with PLP AND we’re also in the throes of organising a half day meeting ourselves focused on Brexit and Benefits so publicising PLP Wales conference seems not unreasonable for all concerned. Numerous of our members have also had nothing but positive things to say about PLP North too.

We could at this point make the argument that much of the agenda below will apply to England but that sounds suspiciously like the reverse argument that Wales is just like England and our Welsh administrator (yes, how did THAT happen?) has banned such talk.

GMWRAG would also like to apologise for the weird set up with links in this post. Normally if we link to a person we link using their name as their link. However, this post decided part way through it wasn’t going to co-operate so we’ve tried to insert long links after their names. After a while, we simply gave up. With apologies to all those who do not have a link the ends didn’t justify the means. In our defence, PLP didn’t provide any links at all 🙂

Anyway… the Public Law Project Wales Conference 2019 is here.

Brexit, access to justice, legal aid, migration and settled status, online courts, strategic legal work.

Cardiff University Glamorgan Building, Thursday the 25th of April 2019.

10.00 Introduction
Jo Hickman, Director, Public Law Project – https://uk.linkedin.com/in/jo-hickman-756b5553

10.10 Opening address
Jane Hutt AM

10.30 Replacing EU law in Wales post-Brexit: Devolution vs delegation
With swathes of EU law being replaced in a post-Brexit UK this session looks at the impact in Wales, across environment, food and agriculture, and issues arising with devolved governance.

Chair: Alison Pickup, Public Law project
Jeremy Miles AM, Counsel General for Wales – http://www.assembly.wales/en/memhome/Pages/MemberProfile.aspx?mid=5021
Alexandra Sinclair, Public Law Project (SIFT project lead) – https://publiclawproject.org.uk/latest/plp-launches-its-latest-project-in-response-to-brexit-the-sift-project/

More speakers TBC

11.30 break (with snacks!)

11.45 Digitalisation and online courts – Threats and opportunities for Wales
With the Government in Westminster already committed to digitalisation, this session looks at the challenges for Wales, including those posed by digital access and literacy, and the opportunities given differences in scale, potential ambitions and devolved tribunals.
Dr Huw Pritchard, Cardiff University – http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/people/view/478900-pritchard-huw
Dr Joe Tomlinson, Public Law Project and Kings College London – https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/joseph.tomlinson.html

12.30 Brexit and Immigration: The EU Settlement Scheme and Vulnerable Communities in Wales

There are around 80 000 EU citizens living in Wales as a function of the free movement rules. These people will need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to secure a new immigration status in the UK before the rights of residence under the free movement framework are extinguished. The EU Settlement Scheme is a challenging administrative undertaking for the UK Government. It requires the processing of millions of applications within a relatively short period of time and relies on individuals making applications to the Scheme. This session will look at the issues being faced by individuals applying to the Scheme from communities in Wales, especially by those likely to face difficulties in making successful applications.

Chair: Byron Karemba, Public Law Project – https://publiclawproject.org.uk/resources/4254/
Hayley Morgan, Travelling Ahead: Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Advice & Advocacy Service
Wiard Sterk, The 3Million – https://uk.linkedin.com/in/wiardsterk
Bethan Bateman, Head of Migration within the Welsh Government EU Transition Team

13.30 Law Commission consultation paper on the Simplification of the Immigration Rules
Lisa Smith and Stephanie Theophanidou Law Commission Public Law Team – https://www.lawcom.gov.uk/about/who-we-are/

13.40 Lunch

14.30 Afternoon session

Access to justice in Wales
Do people in Wales have adequate access to representation and the courts to vindicate their rights and ensure public bodies behave lawfully?  This session will look at access to legal aid, representation and judicial review.
Chair: Polly Brendon, Public Law Project – https://uk.linkedin.com/in/polly-brendon-713bb491
Salli Edwards, Chief Executive, Flintshire Citizen’s Advice – http://flintshirecab.org.uk/team/salli-edwards/
Michael Imperato, Watkins and Gunn – https://www.watkinsandgunn.co.uk/team/michael-imperato/
Jess Mant, Cardiff University – https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/people/view/1223110-mant-jess
Dr Sarah Nason, Bangor University – https://www.bangor.ac.uk/law/staff/sarah-nason/en

15.30 break

15.50 afternoon breakouts – please choose one of three

Legal aid
This will be a workshop for practitioners to discuss the shape of legal aid following the MOJs Post Implementation Review (PIR) of LASPO, and the publication of the MoJ’s “Legal Support Action Plan.” We will particularly be seeking the views and contribution of current legal aid providers in Wales.  Areas to discuss will include:
The accessibility and use of the Exceptional Case Funding scheme
The removal of the mandatory telephone gateway for Discrimination, Education and Debt cases
The promised review of the financial eligibility criteria for legal aid
Polly Brendon, Public Law Project
Carol Storer, Interim Director, Legal Action Group
Joanna Gregson, Equalities and Human Rights Commission

Strategic legal work in Wales
This session looks at strategic use of the law through both casework and campaigning. Case studies will include the criminalisation of women who are council tax debtors and the bedroom tax case.
Chair: Owain Rhys James, Civitas Chambers
Carla Clarke, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)
Sara Lomri, Public Law Project
Naima Sakande, Centre for Criminal Appeal

Public law decision making in Wales
An increasing number of duties on public bodies in Wales require them to ‘take into account’, to ‘have due regard’ to or to ‘take all reasonable steps’ to protect various rights and interests. However, few, if any, of these duties give rise to specific rights of redress for individuals. Our panel discusses whether these duties can really lead to better decision-making in the absence of such individual rights, and how this relates to access to justice in Welsh public law.

Sarah Nason, Bangor University
Rhodri Williams QC, 30 Park Place and Linenhall Chambers
Katrin Shaw, Public Sector Ombudsman for Wales
Emyr Lewis, Blake Morgan

16.50 Update from the Commission on Justice in Wales
Following their consultation on the future of justice in Wales, a Commissioner gives an update prior to their forthcoming report in 2019.

Professor Elwen Evans QC, Swansea University and Commission on Justice in Wales

17.10 finish

Delegate fees:
Standard 120 + VAT
Discounted 80 + VAT
Advisers 60.00 + VAT
Student fee 10 + VAT

Follow this link to select breakout session here.

Download the flyer here.

Big booking form at the bottom of this page here.

Next meeting of the Discrimination Law Association in Manchester.

GMWRAG members who attended and networked at our recent Everyday Equality event will have noticed representation there from the Discrimination Law Association and GMWRAG made a point of encouraging them to attend the next meeting of the GMSCG.

It has since been brought to our attention that their next Manchester meeting is on Monday the 18th March 2019, and is open to all. Registration starts at 5:30pm with the meeting starting at 6pm.The meeting has two main agenda items.

Heather Williams (Senior Associate in Research at the Equality and Human Rights Commission). She will be discussing the Commission’s 2018 report “Is Britain Fairer?”, a comprehensive review of how Britain is performing on equality and human rights.
Michelle Gyimah is the Director of Equality Pays. She will be talking about Gender pay gap reporting – The good, the bad and the ugly.  A discussion about good and bad examples of reporting in terms of data and reputational risk.

Register for the event via Eventbrite here. The venue is Slater and Gordon.

Almost certainly bound to end in tears but…

GMWRAG has been asked to provide an updated version of one of the presentations at our Everyday Equality event. This is the sort of thing which always goes wrong when we inevitably link a file to the wrong presentation but we’re going to give it a go anyway.

So, if you head over to our “Presentations and notes from GMWRAG meetings”   page (which can be found on the sub menu* for “Our meetings”) you will find that clicking on the presentation titled “EHRC presentation on “Strategic work, past, present, future” by Francine Morris.” will now give you a revised version of the presentation which that link served up right up until today. The previous version is no longer available so if you have downloaded it since the 1st of February 2019 (and we know that more than 300 of you have) then please download the new version from the link above.

* “sub menu” – a sub-menu (we know some of you still struggle with using web sites and IT in general) is a menu which only appears when you hover your mouse** over another menu. So, hover your mouse over our meetings menu and a sub menu with 5 items will appear. 1 of those is the Presentations menu. Double click that.

** “hover your mouse” – actually means “hover your mouse pointer”. If you hover your mouse then, weirdly, it stops working and people will generally think you’re an oaf!

Presentations from Everyday Equality are now available for download.

Alan Turing banner at LGBT Foundation in ManchesterGMWRAG is very pleased to say that all of our speakers at the recent Everyday Equality Act have now provided us with their presentations from the event for download. We also have a bonus presentation from Ryan Bradshaw of Leigh Day which was not available on the day.

Please note:

  • there are no minutes available for the January 2019 meeting. There were 14 speakers and the presentations below represent all the content available from the event bar images posted by @GMWRAGTweets and other attendees.
  • a number of presentations have been subsequently updated or revised by speakers. The versions on this site represent the most up to date versions.
  • all presentations are detailed below in this post but will be permanently available on our “Presentations and notes from GMWRAG meetings” page.
  • The minutes which would ordinarily be on our “Minutes” page link to the above page.
  • Some of the presentations have similar titles. Please be assured that all presentations are distinct. No content is repeated.

Jo Chimes, whose magnificent work was pretty much solely responsible for making the whole day happen, has also kindly added her own summary of the take away messages from the event and we’ve added that as well..

Leigh Day looking for examples of claimants adversely affected by the UC Minimum Income Floor to support a JR case.

Tessa Gregory’s team at Leigh Day represent an individual who is self-employed and finds themselves in significant financial hardship due to the application of the Minimum Income Floor (MIF) since they first had to claim Universal Credit. They have brought a claim against the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions challenging the lawfulness of the application of the MIF on the basis that it discriminates against self-employed individuals and is irrational.

They have now reached the stage of the judicial review in which they need to collate and prepare supportive evidence. It would be helpful for the court to be provided with other examples which show the broad and varied range of situations in which individuals are caught by the UC provisions, as well as the different ways in which the application of the MIF has affected peoples’ lives.

If any of your clients are self-employed, have been moved on to UC and have had the MIF recently applied, make the NMW across the year, but experience significant fluctuations in income on a monthly basis, they would be grateful if you could provide a short summary of their situation which sets out how they came to be on UC and how the MIF is affecting them. You may also wish to inform them of this ongoing challenge of the MIF which may be of interest to them. They are happy to consider any queries in relation to this challenge that any of your clients may have.

Please do not hesitate to contact them at universalcreditqueries@leighday.co.uk if you require any further information or if your clients have any questions in relation to the ongoing challenge.