An Equalities Helpline That Works!

by Nimrod Ben-Cnaan, Law Centres Network

An Equalities Helpline That Works!

by Nimrod Ben-Cnaan, Law Centres Network
Law Centres fight poverty by tackling its root causes in disadvantage. They provide free legal advice to people in need, specialising in social welfare law. We are challenging the legality of the tendering process for the national equalities helpline (EASS). We are also asking the Court to quash the new contract awarded to G4S, and to have government choose a new provider with due regard to equalities considerations.
Funded
on 04th October 2016
£6,695
pledged by 204 people
Law Centres fight poverty by tackling its root causes in disadvantage. They provide free legal advice to people in need, specialising in social welfare law. We are challenging the legality of the tendering process for the national equalities helpline (EASS). We are also asking the Court to quash the new contract awarded to G4S, and to have government choose a new provider with due regard to equalities considerations.

Next Steps

Oct. 11, 2016

The day before the G4S contract was due to begin, the Judge refused us permission to Judicial Review. Now that it has begun, it is quite unlikely to be quashed. Going ahead, the most we could expect was an ‘academic’ decision about the lawfulness of government’s selection process. For this reason we have decided not to appeal the Judge's decision.

We are still concerned ab...

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We are seeking a Judicial Review of a government decision-making process and its outcome, concerning who operates the national equalities helpline.

The contract for the Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS) was awarded to G4S - a multi-national corporation with a chequered record in delivering public services. We are asking the Court to declare the decision unlawful and to quash this contract, requiring a new tender.

This Thursday we have a hearing at the High Court, when the judge will decide whether to give us permission to carry out the Judicial Review we seek. On getting permission we would also ask Court to halt the new contract at least until proceedings are done. 

Our solicitor, Daniel Carey from law firm DPG, explains: 

“This case concerns the legal duty on the government to assess the equalities impact of procurement decisions. One would expect a high degree of compliance where the Government Equalities Office was the decision maker and the service being procured was an equalities advice line.”

Yet this was not the case. We argue that government did not properly assess EASS shortcomings with stakeholders to improve it; nor did it properly consider how to reform it with equalities watchdog the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

The problem is not just with the process, but also with the chosen provider.

Our concern is that government failed to properly consider G4S’s equality and human rights record in the many other public services it has delivered. Employing over 45,000 people in the UK, G4S also faces a conflict of interest as its own employees might need to consult EASS.

Recently we joined over 40 organisations in voicing our concerns to Parliament about the choice of G4S to deliver such a sensitive service. In response, the chair of  the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Harriet Harman MP, has written to the Equalities Minister seeking clarifications.

There has also been widespread public concern over the choice of G4S. An online petition against awarding the EASS contract to G4S has attracted over 61,000 signatures so far. 

To us, this legal action is about ensuring access to justice for disadvantaged people, as it is already difficult for people to access appropriate advice on discrimination. 

As a small charity, we do not have dedicated funding for litigation, so we need your support. Meeting the fundraising target we have set, of £6,500, would allow us to take our case forward at this stage. Exceeding it would give us more scope when considering next steps.

We think it is in the public interest that Government chooses a suitable provider to deliver this service effectively!


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Next Steps

Oct. 11, 2016

The day before the G4S contract was due to begin, the Judge refused us permission to Judicial Review. Now that it has begun, it is quite unlikely to be quashed. Going ahead, the most we could expect was an ‘academic’ decision about the lawfulness of government’s selection process. For this reason we have decided not to appeal the Judge's decision.

We are still concerned about EASS and so the fight goes on, and we will continue to press for a parliamentary inquiry into this matter. Please continue this journey with us: if you have not already, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter or sign up to our monthly supporters newsletter. 

Thanks to everyone who backed this case for your support and for making this crowdfunder a success!

Funded

Oct. 4, 2016

We hit our first target!

A frustrating decision

Sept. 30, 2016

Hi everyone, 

After a long two days in court, we are sorry to report that the Judge would not give us permission for Judicial Review.  

Our first reaction to this disappointing result is here: bit.ly/2ddGelm. We will now consider our next steps given this decision and update this page. 

Thanks for your support,

The Law Centres Network team

Quick update

Sept. 29, 2016

Today we have had a busy afternoon in court, where our lawyers were putting forward our arguments for permission for Judicial Review. Still, we will all have to wait until tomorrow (Friday) afternoon for the judge to deliver her decision. Watch this space! 

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