It’s time for the Public Law Project annual North conference.

This year, the PLP annual North conference, in Manchester, is on the theme of Legal Aid and Society. It takes place on Thursday the 19th of July 2019 and as in 2018 it will take place at BPP Law School, St James’s Building, Oxford Street, Manchester M1 6FQ

As the Government reviews the implementation of LASPO, we look at access to legal aid and the impact of legal aid cuts on society.

The conference presents a unique mix of practical workshops, research, discussion, and informal exchange with leading experts in legal aid, access to justice and advice provision.

Legal Aid and low income

Today the legal aid system only provides for people on the very lowest incomes and even those receiving out of work benefits are often excluded due the value of their homes being taken into account. Millions with low working incomes cannot afford to pay legal costs, whilst the numbers struggling to reach an acceptable standard of living has risen significantly. This talk looks at how austerity and legal aid cuts interact.

Prof Donald Hirsch, Loughborough University

Challenging procurement and grant funding decisions – what you need to know

This session will focus on Legal Aid Agency contracts, bids for grant funding and other public contracts, practice and procedure: the Public Contracts Regulations and judicial review

Polly Brendon, Public Law Project

Jason Coppel QC at 11KBW 

Exceptional Case Funding 

There are Common misconceptions regarding what is out of scope of Exceptional Case Funding (ECF), immigration and housing in particular. This session look at how to apply for ECF, common problems and what we know about success rates.

Joseph Markus and James Stark, Garden Court North 

Katy Watts, Public Law Project

Legal aid and access to justice for modern slavery victims

This session will look at immigration legal aid for modern slavery victims and a recent judicial review of the Legal Aid Agency when legal aid was refused for a victim. It will also look at cases highlighting why legal aid is essential to build the case of leave to remain during the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) process and to challenging unlawful decisions on leave.

Lucy Mair, Garden Court North

Carita Thomas, Anti–Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit (ATLEU)

Preparing evidence for the LASPOA review

This session will seek to help organisations or individuals preparing to feed into the Governments review of LASPOA implementation. It will look at evidence gathering and presentation and how to show insight from your clients or your organisations perspective.

Jess Mant, Cardiff University School of Law and Politics

Carol Storer, Legal Aid Practitioners Group

Emma Marshall, Public Law Project

Top legal aid and access to justice cases of recent years

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (2012) has generated a significant number of cases challenging the legislation and its implementation on behalf of those affected. Alison will look at the impact of the cases and some themes running through them.

Alison Pickup, Legal Director, Public Law Project

The experiences of self-representing litigants
This presentation concerns a three year project interviewing litigants in person (LIPS). Although Jess’s work focuses on the family court, the presentation will consider common problems facing those appearing in court without representation.

Jess Mant, Cardiff University School for Law and Politics

The full agenda can be found on the PLP web site whilst the pdf programme can be found here. Last year GMWRAG members, probably for the first time, attended en masse and were overwhelmed with the sheer quality of what was on offer in terms of the standard of speakers; the quality of the workshops and the intensity of the day. The buffet wasn’t half bad either.

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A further chance to watch our live stream of Lucy Cadd from Leigh Day talking about current public law challenges and the Carmichael judgement.

Lucy Cadd from Leigh Day at the March 2018 GMSCG.Following on from our very recent posts reminding people of our live streams, at https://gmwrag.wordpress.com/2018/03/28/final-chance-for-gmwrag-members-live-streams-from-the-march-meeting-of-the-greater-manchester-strategic-casework-group-are-still-available/ we’ve decided to make this remarkably simple for those of you who don’t know your YouTube from your Periscope; a submarine from an app; a tablet from a stone; arse from elbow!

Before we take down the broadcast of Lucy Cadd from Leigh Day talking current public law concerns and the Carmichael judgement click on the link below and you’ll be taken straight to the video in question. Just click play. Well, it’s also good to remember to turn the volume up too!

You do know that the little triangular thing means “Play” don’t you?

https://www.pscp.tv/w/bYvJhDFtTUVQTWJrZXZOUUd8MW5BS0VSYmdBQmdHTAZrCaJ4EyXF5xBxPhGSK_2C-s1bQfBXv8fE9JIQ1BFT

Please allow us to apologise in advance for the relatively poor quality of the recording. It appears to be as a direct consequence of our failing on this occasion to tick the box marked “HD”. Lesson learned.

Final chance for GMWRAG members – live streams from the March meeting of the Greater Manchester Strategic Casework Group are still available.

Lucy Cadd from Leigh Day at the March 2018 GMSCG.GMWRAG has been in forgetful mode once again.

Those of you who attended the latest meeting of the Greater Manchester Strategic Casework Group at Garden Court North last week will be well aware that GMWRAG live-streamed two elements of the event via Periscope. For those of you ill-equipped for the middle of the 21st century this means we “broadcast”. Worse still we did it from an iPad!

This was done at relatively short notice so the live event largely passed the world of t’internet by at the time. Subsequently the videos of both speakers have been seen respectively by 114 and 69 viewers, which compares very favourably with the final viewing figure of 128 for our live stream of Matt Ahluwalia of the Public Law Project from the Salford GMWRAG meeting. The difference between the two events being that we completely forgot to do any publicity about our latest live streams subsequent to the event itself. So, here it is…

Above you can see a screen shot from our live stream of Lucy Cadd from Leigh Day who kindly agreed to give us a complete update on the public law priorities of Leigh Day. Lucy speaks for approximately 30 minutes with a couple of contributions from the foot and sonorous voice off screen of Tom Royston. The live stream will be available via Periscope until Good Friday when it will be taken down as agreed with Lucy. You can follow Lucy on Twitter via @Lucycadd.

Below you can see Kester Dean of @KesterRights, which is also his Twitter handle (or account name for you oldies/techilliterates), also in action (fairly literally) at the same meeting. Kester speaks for approximately 25 minutes on the use of the Equality Act 2010 against the DWP in the county court.

Kester Dean from @kesterrights at the March 2018 GMSCG meeting.

Kester has kindly agreed that the stream can remain available via Periscope and it will also be uploaded in due course to the GMWRAG YouTube account so it will be easily accessible for those of you incapable of finding Periscope but perfectly okay with cat videos. As soon as the YouTube upload has gone live we will of course post on here to let you know.

All of this broadly translates to the fact that if you want to see and hear Lucy you need to do so ASAP as the stream will be gone by the end of this week bar a 30 second clip we will use for publicity purposes. If you want to see and hear Kester then you have unlimited time to do so. All we ask between now and the end of Good Friday is 30 minutes of your time before we remove the video of Lucy. Please note that, unlike the live stream at the Salford GMWRAG meeting, we currently have no intention of transcribing the contents of either broadcast because we had multiple minute takers at the SCG meeting and are fairly confident we can capture the main points between us.

A quick update on tomorrow’s GMSCG meeting.

Full details if the meeting can be found at https://gmwrag.wordpress.com/2018/03/14/next-meeting-of-the-greater-manchester-strategic-casework-group/ but we just wanted to let members know that we’re planning to live stream Lucy Cadd from Leigh Day during the morning meeting.

If you’re not in the GM area or unable to attend the meeting please keep an eye on the @GMWRAGtweets Twitter account tomorrow for details of the precise time we’ll be going live. As per our first broadcast we’ll be doing this via Periscope and you’ll need either an account with them or to log in using Twitter, Google or Cambridge Analytica Facebook. At this stage we have no indication as to whether we’ll be able to keep a permanent record of the stream via YouTube so please don’t miss the stream and assume you’ll be able to watch it later. It may not happen.

Periscope offers the facility to ask questions during the stream so we’ll happily put these to Lucy if time allows.

if you know of anyone with an interest in the live stream please let them know, RT, etc. We’ll see you there.

Next meeting of the Greater Manchester Strategic Casework Group.

The next meeting of the Greater Manchester Strategic Casework Group will take place on Wednesday the 21st of March 2018. It is a game of two halves and the agenda currently looks as follows:

10:00am to 13:00pm

Garden Court North Chambers, Blackfriars House, Parsonage, Manchester, M3 2JA

Agenda  

1) ‘Rutherford’  and ‘Bedroom Tax’. The case  taken to the Supreme Court.

Sangeeta Enright, formerly caseworker at Ridley and Hall, (solicitors) and Tom Royston of Garden Court Chambers.

2)  Update on ‘ripple-bob’ [working title] – proposal for a share and refer digital platform (and not a discussion on near space astronomical object!).

Jo Chimes, Equality Project Lead at Rossendale Citizens Advice. 

3) Attendees brief activity

Break

4) ‘Small claims courts’ and compensation for claimants, using duties under the  Equality Act 2010 – Kester Dean.

5) Update on some recent JR applications over Universal Credit  and current Court of Appeal stage in the argument regarding applying the Human Rights Act to social security appeals by way of the Carmichael case – Lucy Cadd from Leigh Day solicitors.

6) Cases and issues update, including disputes over reasonableness of home visits for claim assessments.

7) Any other business.

Details of what we’re doing in the afternoon will have already been circulated to the small select group of invitees (that’s got you intrigued :)). More information as we have it.

For those new to the Strategic Casework Group, its purposes are:

  • use a strategic approach to stop wrong and harmful decisions and actions by the DWP,  its agents, and HMRC, alongside revisions and appeals
  • share experience, knowledge and practice as widely as possible
  • use the Equality Act 2010, public law duties and human rights legislation
  • promote the take up of this approach, with advisors and others
  • produce strategic casework materials, provide training, and develop process for referrals to specialist legal advice and representation

O Come All Ye Faithful – the next meeting of the Greater Manchester Strategic Casework Group is upon us.

The next GMSCG meeting takes place on Wednesday the 6th of December 2017 between 9.30am and 11.30am at Garden Court North Chambers, 3rd Floor, Blackfriars House, Parsonage Walk, Manchester, M3 3JA.

Please note that this meeting has been very deliberately scheduled to enable anyone attending the CPAG Universal Credit session in the afternoon at the same venue to come see us also.

The purpose of the meeting remains as ever to
• identify appropriate areas of work for action using the Equality Act 2010 and/or public law
principles
• take an alternative approach to achieve rapidly revised decisions, policy change and financial
recompense by lodging complaints/letters before action and, where appropriate, damages claims or
judicial reviews
• push for systemic change over repeated wrongs by the DWP
• support advisers to take-up this approach, by way of: web pages; training; template letters; case
examples; meetings; a toolkit
• provide an occasional referral mechanism for cases which need to progress beyond a complaint or
letter before action

In public law terms this could be summarised as shifting the focus to the anticipatory duties and responsibilities of DWP and others, rather than the responsibilities of claimants.

The minutes of the last meeting can be downloaded directly from this link but will also be permanently available within the GMSCG pages.  The minutes are on their own password protected page. You can obtain this from any GMSCG member or via a DM to @GMWRAGtweets.

The agenda for the meeting is as follows. It has not been published as a separate item.

Agenda
1) Legal Aid / legal help and the gateway.
Clare Fowler, Howells Solicitors. What is legal help, what are the barriers to obtaining Legal Aid, and what advisers might do to further the case. Issue of extreme low take up of social security discrimination cases though legal aid gateway.
30-40 mins
Reference: Bach Commission, appendix 5, author – Henry Brooke.

2) Public Law Project (PLP) – new guide to exceptional cases funding, (Legal Aid) and welfare rights matters.
Katy Watts or Matt Ahluwalla. New guide in preparation, to support welfare rights advisors to access legal aid by the exceptional cases funding route.
20 mins
Reference: PLP guides

3) DLA to PIP transfers and failures of the DWP to make reasonable adjustments in the process.
Kester Dean. Proposal for possible actions to take to protect vulnerable claimants.
10 mins

4) Anonymous case study & digital exchange and referral tool
Jo Chimes, Project Lead Equality, Rossendale CAB, (& Sian Jordan, Rossendale CAB, & the legal geeks)
Proposal in development: a tool for the exchange and circulation of anonymous case studies, with possible support from legal geeks, ‘Atticus Link’.

The aims of the tool include a means to connect advisors, legal eagles, & organisations, for the progress of cases towards action in the courts, and for exchange of knowledge and practice.
20-25mins

5 ) Case study from a GMSCG member
10 mins

If you would like to attend this or other GMSCG meetings notify please contact Robin Serjeant or DM @GMWRAGtweets and we’ll put you in touch with Robin.

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.

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.