Enough is Enough: Law Centres vs MOJ

by Law Centres Network

Enough is Enough: Law Centres vs MOJ

by Law Centres Network
Law Centres Network
Case Owner
The Law Centres Network (LCN)is the coordinating body and collective voice of Law Centres (LCs) striving for a just and equal society where everyone’s rights are valued and protected.
Funded
on 09th May 2018
£3,841
pledged of £5,000 stretch target from 125 pledges
Law Centres Network
Case Owner
The Law Centres Network (LCN)is the coordinating body and collective voice of Law Centres (LCs) striving for a just and equal society where everyone’s rights are valued and protected.

Latest: June 22, 2018

GREAT NEWS: WE WON!

Hi everyone,

I am writing to update you that this morning Mrs Justice Andrews DBE handed down her judgment, and it is a resounding success for our challenge! 

The judge agreed with all of our ma...

Read more

Who are we? 

The Law Centres Network is the membership body for Law Centres and serves as their collective national voice. Law Centres across the country provide vital legal services to their communities in order to defend the legal rights of local people. Every day, Law Centres help people to save their homes, keep their jobs and protect their loved ones.

We are mounting a legal challenge against the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for planned changes that will destroy the in-person, emergency support Law Centres are able to provide vulnerable people threatened with eviction.

We have been granted permission to proceed with a Judicial Review of the proposed MoJ changes. We need your support to ensure that the proposed changes by the MoJ do not devastate a successful service that prevents homelessness every day. Please contribute and share this page now!


Case background

Five years ago, cuts to civil legal aid have decimated funding for social welfare law, and Law Centres have born the brunt of these cuts. We have put up with these changes despite Law Centre closures. We expected that, when the damage to remaining legal aid became apparent, government would seek to repair it. This would ensure that legal aid runs more effectively and meaningfully upholds legal rights and protections for vulnerable people.

Instead, planned changes now threaten remaining in-person support which Law Centres and others offer vulnerable people threatened with eviction.  We need to stand up and say, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

The housing possession court duty scheme (HPCDS) offers on-the-day face-to-face advice and advocacy at court to people facing possession proceedings.

Anyone in danger of eviction or having their property repossessed can get free legal advice and representation on the day of the hearing, regardless of their financial circumstances.

It is already an effective and timely intervention.

However, against the advice of people delivering the duty scheme, MoJ has decided to make two significant and untested changes to it:

  • To consolidate the number of court duty schemes in order to provide 'larger and more sustainable' contracts despite 48 out of 59 consultation respondents disagreeing with the proposal. This would mean that less than a third of current schemes will remain; each will serve a much larger area, so people at risk of eviction would need to travel much farther and at great expense to get help to defend their homes


  • To introduce price-competitive tendering despite 51 out of 59 objections. This would mean that instead of setting the fee for legal aid work, as government does elsewhere, providers have had to bid against one another. The Law Society has warned that is a race to the bottom, which risks affecting the quality of the service and its viability

We believe that these planned changes are a cut too far, and we are not alone. 

Help us by adding your support to this legal challenge, so we preserve this vital lifeline for the tens of thousands who need it every year.

"'Attending the court duty schemes is important for law centres to advise vulnerable people at a time of real need. These are people who, by nature, do not seek help. This is why they end up in court facing eviction. The new contracting model therefore has a significant impact on access to justice and needs to be challenged.'." - Julie Bishop, Director of the Law Centres Network 

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Update 3

Law Centres Network

June 22, 2018

GREAT NEWS: WE WON!

Hi everyone,

I am writing to update you that this morning Mrs Justice Andrews DBE handed down her judgment, and it is a resounding success for our challenge! 

The judge agreed with all of our main claims and has been very critical of the government's conduct on this issue. You can read highlights in our press release, or see the full judgment here

We could not have got there without your support, and I want to thank you all for pledging it so readily. 

This is really a victory for people's access to justice and, for our part, Law Centres will continue to fight for widening it!

Thanks again,

Julie

Update 2

Law Centres Network

May 24, 2018

We've had our hearing - so now what?

We have now had our hearing at the High Court on Monday and Tuesday, before Mrs Justice Andrews DBE. 

Our legal team - Polly Brendon from the Public Law Project and Jason Coppel QC and Edd Capewell from 11KBW - were brilliant and have done a great job at presenting our case and unpicking government's arguments. 

The judge has decided to defer judgment, meaning that she will take time to consider the case and hand down judgment later on. We will update the page when this happens. 

During the hearing, the judge also said: “Irrespective of the way this goes, I just want to say that the courts, as a whole, acknowledge the value of the work you do in the voluntary sector, and we can`t help but be inspired by the work you do.” She didn't have to say it, but she did and we thank her for this.

And we want to thank you, too. Your support has made this challenge possible. 

Just as importantly, your support - 124 people pledging over £3,800 - shows that this is a matter of wider concern. The government lawyers tried to present it as Law Centres acting in their own interest. However, several other legal aid providers have contributed witness statements, and others have reached out to express support and wish us success. Put plainly, this concerns all of us.

So thanks again, and fingers crossed for our next update! 

 
Update 1

Law Centres Network

May 9, 2018

Initial target met - but wait, there's more!

THANK YOU VERY MUCH to each and every one of you who has pledged your support - we have now met our initial target!

We are cautiously optimistic about the prospects of this case. Firstly, we are instructing the Public Law Project to act for us in this case, and they have a very good track record with such challenges. Secondly, the High Court has listed our Judicial Review for a two-day hearing on 21-22 May, which suggests it thinks there is a case to answer here. 

This challenge is important because the housing duty desk picks up various legal problems at crisis point, and is a key first step in resolving them. Only on Friday, Buzzfeed published an article which accompanied a Law Centre solicitor at the duty desk in Croydon, and showed how Universal Credit is driving people to the brink of eviction. 

We will continue to take pledges for this case, to get us as close as possible to our stretch target. What we raise will go toward pre-permission costs and disbursements. We will only know the full cost at the end of the case, but our estimate is between £2,500 (our initial target) and £5,000 (the stretch target).  

85 people have already backed this challenge. Please help us pass 100 supporters and hit the stretch target! 

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