Updated Resources Page

We have updated our Resources page to the new locations of documents on gov.uk. There are a couple of items that we haven’t been able to locate on gov.uk, in which case we have linked to the archive version instead (we would be glad to hear if any of them turn up). Otherwise all links should now be working and directed to the current gov.uk locations. The “guidance” section has been shortened to make it easier to find material, with links that were duplicated in other sections removed.

Suggestions for additions and improvements are, as ever, welcome.

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Legal aid in welfare benefits cases

Our thanks to Nick Whittingham for drawing to our attention a case involving Kirklees Law Centre, which was refused legal aid to appear at an oral hearing of the Upper Tribunal in a welfare benefits case. It continued to represent the appellant pro bono, as did counsel Tom Royston. The decision is reported at JC v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (ESA) (Employment and support allowance : Post 28.3.11. WCA activity 16: coping with social engagement) [2014] UKUT 352 (AAC)

In a three judge decision – the panel including Charles J, the Upper Tribunal president and a First Tier Tribunal president – the Tribunal regretted the refusal of legal aid and set out a series of factors it invited the LAA to take into account when considering future applications (see para 63):

More generally we take this opportunity to invite the Legal Aid Agency in other cases where a three judge panel of the Upper Tribunal (AAC) has been convened to hear an appeal to take account of  the following:

i)                 Paragraph 3(a) of the Senior President’s Practice Direction relating to the composition of that tribunal and thus the reasons why the Senior President or the Chamber President can direct a three judge panel.  They are that: “… the matter involves a question of law of special difficulty or an important point of principle or practice, or that it is otherwise appropriate …” for there to be a three judge panel.

ii)                These directions are not made lightly.  When they are the legal issues involved will be of that nature, the appeals will involve individuals and the Secretary of State and decision making will be greatly assisted by written and oral argument.

iii)               The role of the Upper Tribunal (AAC) in setting precedent and thus consistency of decision making by First-tier Tribunals in respect of claims for benefits, and thus the wide impact of its decisions on cases heard by First-tier Tribunals.

iv)               The great advantage of resolving differences between decisions of single Upper Tribunal judges by a decision of a three judge panel.  This is based on the long standing practice that three judge panel decisions will be followed by both the Upper Tribunal and the First-tier Tribunal.  That practice avoids the need for such differences between single judges to be determined by the Court of Appeal and so greatly reduces the number of appeals to that court.

v)                The fact that the above points indicate that the grant of legal aid in cases to be heard by a three judge panel is likely to be of great assistance to the Upper Tribunal in resolving difficult and important issues of law that, subject to further appeal to the Court of Appeal, will create precedent and thereby assist in the correct determination of a large number of other cases by the Department and First-tier Tribunals.

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Mediation tender announced

In a change from previous statements, yesterday, the LAA published the timetable and initial information for mediation contracts for 2015.

  • Existing contracts will be extended to 31 October 2016 – contract holders will not need to bid
  • Existing contract holders will be able to bid for additional outreach locations
  • New organisations will be able to bid for new contracts to start on 1 February 2015

The tender will run from on 1-31 October 2014.

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Latest exceptional funding statistics released

The MoJ has today released the latest figures on exceptional funding applications, covering the period April to June 2014. They show:

  • 209 applications were made, 61 review requests were lodged, and 211 determinations made
  • 12 applications were made by applicants direct, the remainder by solicitors acting on their behalf
  • 21 applications were granted, of which 14 were for inquests, 4 for family cases and 3 for immigration.
  • 153 were refused, 35 rejected, 2 withdrawn and 59 cases were awaiting a decision at the end of the period.

It is perhaps too early for Gunadaviciene to have any impact on the rate of grants; the continuing low figures for non-inquest cases would suggest as much – perhaps unsurprisingly since judgment was only handed down in mid-June. The figures for the next quarter will be interesting.

We would be glad to hear of any successful applications and are happy to publish details on this site to assist other practitioners with their applications – see here for our report of two recent housing grants.

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Filed under Civil, Family, Immigration, LASPO, Policy, Public Law, Social welfare

Catch LAPG’s conference early bird deal

The LAPG conference will take place in London on 10 October. As usual, it features speakers from the LAA, MOJ, and Law Society amongst others, to bring you the very latest developments in legal aid. In addition, leading practitioners will provide workshops to help you run your legal aid practice successfully. Workshops include; family, social welfare law, recent developments in JR and exceptional funding, best practice in recruitment, working with interns, maxmising costs in civil and crime, Young Legal Aid Lawyers.

There will also be a debate on who and what will survive the unprecedented changes which continue to affect all categories of law. Recent conferences have sold out – can you afford to miss this opportunity to get completely up to speed in just one day? If you can get to London the night before, the pre conference dinner (£66.00 per head) is a good chance to catch up with colleagues and network with new people. LAPG can put you in touch with members who can offer overnight accommodation, so you won’t have hotel expenses.

But hurry – the early bird conference deal (£174 inc VAT for LAPG members and £234 for non members) is only available until 12 September. Book using the conference flyer which can be downloaded here.

 

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More resources

The LAA have issued an “Escape Cases Electronic Handbook” setting out their approach to the assessment of Legal Help and CLR claims for escape fees across all civil categories. A link has been added to our LASPO Resources page, along with links to the Statutory Charge Manual and further guidance on prior authority applications.

Over the next few weeks, the LAA website will migrate to the gov.uk site, rather than being a separate area within the MoJ site. We are told that existing web addresses should re-direct to the new locations, but there may be problems. As much of our Resources page consists of links to the LAA site, some of them may stop working for a while. We will check and update any links that no longer work, but bear with us if it takes a little time – if you notice any broken links please let us know. As always, we also welcome feedback on how the page is used and could be improved.

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Successful exceptional case funding applications

We have been tweeting some useful resources from Carol Storer at LAPG and Tom Royston of Garden Court North to help practitioners making applications for exceptional case funding.

We can now bring you news of some successful applications thanks to the Travellers Advice Team (TAT) at the Community Law Partnership.  They were assisted by Joe Markus and James Stark of Garden Court North.

If at first you don’t succeed

The case concerned a Romani Gypsy client who had been trying to obtain planning permission for her one caravan site. She was barely literate and did not understand the complexities of planning law. Her case had to go to a Public Inquiry and she was not able to represent herself. The TAT applied for exceptional case funding on her behalf.

The LAA argued that the client could represent herself with assistance from a member of her family and refused exceptional case funding. The TAT applied for a judicial review of the decision, which was unsuccessful. However, they lodged a second JR application and shortly thereafter the LAA decided to grant exceptional case funding after all.

Anti social behaviour, demotion of tenancy and loss of home

This client faced demotion of her tenancy due to the anti social behaviour of her son from the age of 7 to 13. The client’s position was that her son suffered from a disability and she could not control him without better medical support. It appeared that demotion of the tenancy was being sought to make it easier for the local authority to evict the client and her family as the local authority would not then need to prove a ground for possession.

The LAA refused legal aid on the basis that demotion of tenancy is out of scope for legal aid. The TAT wrote a judicial review pre-action protocol letter arguing that a) demotion of tenancy would result in loss of home and so the client was within scope but also b) that even if the case was out of scope, the client met the conditions for exceptional case funding. The LAA agreed to grant exceptional case funding but did not provide reasons for its assertion that demotion of tenancy cases are outside scope.

We hope these examples are helpful to other practitioners and would be interested to hear from others about their successful applications (or should we say blow by blow accounts of their successful battles) and share them via the blog.

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Filed under Civil, Housing, LASPO, Public Law, Social welfare