GMWRAG at PLP Conference North on Benefit Sanctions and the rule of law.

GMWRAG members turned out en masse for the PLP Conference North at the BPP Law School in Manchester last week. There was particularly strong representation from the newly formed GM Strategic Casework Group and much work is now being done to assimilate what was learnt through a long day of networking, lectures and workshops.

We have attempted a brief taster below and in due course we hope to present some the key documents from the day which are not already in the public domain. Where we can we have provided links so if you want to know who someone is or what they said then please click away.

Happy reading.

Michael Adler Benefit sanctions and the rule of law – Great Britain is 33rd of 40 OECD countries in terms of severity of work incentives. We are worse than South Korea. The slide did say “Korea”. How sad that someone had to ask which one!

2012 was the first year the number of benefit sanctions exceeded the number of fines for criminal offences (Just let that one sink in!)

Judge Wright UT – How the first tier tribunal deals with sanctions following Reilly – the Government response to Jobseekers (Back To Work Schemes) Act 2013 breaching Article 6 is due in August 2017. Could impact many stayed Reilly cases.

Richard CrellinResearch on the impact of benefit sanctions – Research is being undermined by DWP repeatedly resetting the clock on FoI requests at 19 days by asking for clarifications. They refuse to provide data and then publish it as a response on the day any report with is released.

Alison Pickup – Public Law Workshop – looked at project approaches to systemic issues with organisations i.e. not just using the law. We were especially interested in the idea that challenging an apparent unfairness could involve more than litigation e.g. campaigning; publicity; partnership working and so on.

James Stark – Anti-social behaviour legislation, poverty and discriminationvivid description of the Tour De France being used as a test bed for clearing the street homeless and beggars across the UK. People being imprisoned for 6 months for begging for 50p. Longer than under the Vagrancy Act 1824 (1 month).

Zoe Leventhal – Article 6 in social welfare law – Zoe has history on Article 6 challenges. Currently testing the legality of a refusal by the SoS to extend the right to a late MR so appeal rights are lost. A 3 judge panel has sat on whether denial of appeal is a breach of article 6 and whether JR is a sufficient remedy. Decision due in August 2017.

Joseph Markus and Clare Fowler – Bringing an EA 10 claim in the County Court concerning housing, benefits and education. How to bypass the Civil Legal Aid telephone Gateway issues on discrimination cases.

Charlotte O’Brien – Brexit and benefits – There is significant potential for an “administrative cataclysm” yet this is not even on agenda. Need to understand that even the most innocuous changes to benefits now e.g. definitions of work, will have huge impact on who stays post Brexit.

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CPAG looking for GPoW test cases.

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) have been examining the legal arguments surrounding the “Genuine Prospect of Work” (GPoW) test applied to EEA nationals, which the vast majority are failing to meet resulting in the loss of income based JSA and Housing Benefit.

CPAG have funding from the Strategic Legal Fund to support challenges to the test and are looking for test cases and have a barrister, Tom Royston, in Manchester who has expertise in this area of law.

CPAG are interested in hearing from you regarding cases which feature any of the following;

1. Are currently before the Upper Tribunal or awaiting permission to appeal to the UT;

2. Have been refused at First Tier Tribunal on the basis that the claimant did not have “compelling evidence”

3. Has been allowed by a First Tier Tribunal on the basis that the GPoW is unlawful

4. Has been allowed by the First Tier Tribunal on the basis the claimant has compelling evidence but the DWP have only awarded benefit for a time-limited period of 2 months from date of original decision. If you have a case which fits any of the above please email: testcases@cpag.org.uk with a description of the case (300 words) and if available, copies of the tribunal’s decision notice and statement of reasons.