Friday 20th April: Legal Aid and the Future of Free Access to Justice with Lord Bach, Richard Burgon and YLAL | GMLC are nominated Barrister-Direct’s charity of the year | Volunteer article: Welfare for Social Welfare professionals | Welcoming our new trainee solicitor, Siobhán | Client story: Justice at last | Friday 2nd February: Bolton needs a Law Centre, Public Meeting | Saturday 10th February: Our Ceilidh Fundraiser
Friday 20th April, Legal Aid and the Future of Free Access to Justice with Lord Bach, Richard Burgon and YLAL
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Join us as we discuss the current state of Legal Aid, the impact of the political changes, the challenges faced by the next generation of social welfare lawyers and our hope for the future.
Friday 20th April 2018, 18:00-20:00.
With thanks to the University of Law for their large and accessible venue just off Piccadilly Gardens: 2 New York St, Manchester M1 4HJ.
Lord William Bach was a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Ministry of Justice. Crucially, he chaired the Bach Commission, which published its report on Legal Aid and access to justice in Autumn 2017, which proposes a statutory right to justice and other systemic reforms.
Richard Burgon is the Member of Parliament for Leeds East. He is also the Shadow Secretary of State for Justice. In response to the Bach Commission’s Report he stated that he is “excited by the idea in the report of a new, legally enforceable right to justice to match our rights to healthcare and education”.
Young Legal Aid Lawyers (YLAL) is a group of lawyers who are committed to practising in areas of law that have traditionally been publicly funded. They campaign for a sustainable legal aid system and fight to increase social mobility and diversity within the legal aid sector.
Barrister-Direct pledge £3,000 and nominate GMLC as charity of the year!
“Owing to Barrister-Direct’s commitment to access to justice, we are very proud to be the first law firm to sign up to the Greater Manchester Law Centre’s corporate sponsorship programme. Our firm has pledged to raise £3,000 for the GMLC by 31st December 2018, as we have nominated them as our charity of the year. We hope other law firms will follow in our stead” – Andrew McKie, Director and Barrister
This money will go towards GMLC’s services and campaign for free access to justice. Read the full story here.
Volunteer article: Welfare for Social Welfare Lawyers, Encouraging the next generation of legal aid lawyers
We support our campaign volunteers to create articles on access to justice. Haseeb Khan has contributed this excellent and poignant assessment of the future for legal aid lawyers:
“In the last five years the number (of legal aid providers) has fallen 20% from 2991 and 2393. What is behind the fall, who does it impact, how does it impact them and what can be done about it?
Perhaps a less often discussed topic when it comes to legal aid is the impact of the cuts on up and coming professionals. Legal aid is not as desirable as it once was. Of a survey of 1000 students at the University of Law 68 % replied that publicly funded work was too stressful and 54 % would be deterred by this.”
By Haseeb Khan, GMLC Campaign Volunteer. Read the full article here.
Would you like to contribute an article on access to justice for GMLC? Contact email@example.com and find out about our upcoming Editorial meeting.
Welcoming our new trainee solicitor, Siobhán Taylor-Ward
We are delighted to welcome Siobhán to the team at GMLC. Siobhán not only has an impressive background in social welfare practice but she is a tireless campaigner for access to justice, having worked on the Hillsborough inquest and the Orgreave Justice campaign, and her work as vice-chair of Young Legal Aid Lawyers.
We are able to provide this traineeship thanks to the Legal Education Foundations’ Justice First Fellowship Scheme. The scheme is designed to support the next generation of students committed to public interest and social justice issues.
Client story: Justice at last
Mr S came to GMLC when he was fighting two battles relating to his benefits.
He has long term mental health conditions and was previously in receipt of the Disabled Living Allowance (DLA) Severe Disability Premium, which means that his need for financial assistance was recognised. His DLA payments were stopped.
1. Application for PIP
Mr S applied for Personal Independence Payments (PIP), which replaces DLA. His application was rejected. The consequences of this could have been devastating, particularly because Mr S reported that the mental health services that he used to benefit from were also in sharp decline, meaning that he didn’t have access to the services he was used to.
Our caseworkers Roger and Anne submitted a new PIP claim with Mr S, compiled with their professional expertise and with much more evidence. However, after his assessment, he was still unsuccessful. They requested a Mandatory Reconsideration, which means that the application is considered again. This rarely results in a changed decision, but they submitted arguments against many issues in the case.
Finally, Mr S was awarded the care package for PIP that he deserved.
2. £50 penalty and debt
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is the government body responsible for welfare including benefits. They issued Mr S with a £50 penalty, alleging that he failed to notify them that his DLA payments had stopped. This penalty led to additional debt for Mr S.
However, Mr S and our caseworkers were convinced that the relevant DWP department was already aware of his change in circumstances, so there was no need for him to send notification.
Anne and Roger submitted a Freedom of Information request. They asked the DWP whether the different departments had been in touch with each other, so that they were aware of his change of circumstances. The DWP were forced to admit that they did know about the decision, and therefore the £50 penalty had no basis.
As a result, Mr S’s debt and the penalty were wiped out.
We are pleased to have been able to secure justice for Mr S. However, we are angry that he was forced to fight such a protracted battle for justice. Read more about our casework here.
Friday 2nd February: Bolton needs a Law Centre, Public Meeting.
Friday, 2nd February, 7pm to 8pm, at the Lecture Theatre, Bolton Central Library, Le Mans Cres, Bolton BL1 1SE.
Yasmin Qureshi, MP for Bolton South East
Denise McDowell, Trustee of Greater Manchester Law Centre
“More and more families and individuals are finding themselves in positions where access to the law is being denied them, at precisely the time when they are most in need of it. Universal Credit, the denial of employment rights through zero hours contracts and minimum wage infringements and a hardening of this government’s stance against refugees and asylum seekers all make the [Greater Manchester] Bolton Law Centre urgent and necessary. I welcome and support the initiative whole-heartedly.”
“I know, from the hundreds of people who contact me, how difficult life has become for many in the Greater Manchester area. Many are facing serious debts, or the threat of homelessness, and others can simply not afford to speak to a solicitor. That’s why I’m so pleased to hear about the launch of the Greater Manchester Law Centre, a service that will provide invaluable advice and representation to the people who need it most.”
Yasmin Qureshi MP
You can register for the event on Facebook or please just come along to get involved.
Saturday 10th February: Our Ceilidh Fundraiser
Put on your dancing shoes and join us!
With The Beech Band
Saturday, 10th February, 7pm
Saint Ninian’s United Reformed Church
515 Wilbraham Road, Manchester M21 0UF, Near Chorlton tram station
Entrance fee: £10 waged/£5 unwaged
Please bring your own drinks.
Great music | Great atmosphere | Great raffle | You do the dancing!
Please book your ticket on Eventbrite.
All for a great cause! Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for donation of raffle prices (how about donating any Christmas presents you – secretly – don’t want to keep).