Post by Richard Wilkinson on Nov 17, 2010 8:38:36 GMT
From a publication called Mule. 2 interesting things. 1) there is an implication that another agency is involved, and b) that the full hearing is in January not December. My emphasis bleow
"Law centre campaigners hold protest outside Legal Services Commission
Supporters of the South Manchester Law Centre (SMLC) and Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit (GMIAU) staged a protest outside the Manchester office of the Legal Services Commission (LSC) yesterday, Monday 15 November, calling on them to back down from a legal challenge launched by the SMLC and to restore their full funding.
Both of the centres – which provide free and independent legal advice and representation – face potentially huge cuts in their budgets due to a change in the regime for allocating legal aid funding, as reported by MULE over the past two months. However a victory last week at the High Court in Manchester gave grounds for South Manchester Law Centre to proceed with a full legal challenge of the decision. GMIAU will now attatch itself as part of the claim.
One group of clients who would be particularly hit should SMLC close is Manchester’s Somali community. Community spokesperson Mohammed Ismael, who was at the protest, told MULE:
“I have had ten years of experience with the Law Centre. It is the best I have ever known.
“Around 90% of all Somalis in Manchester are refugees or people seeking asylum. Back in our country there is no civil government and the fighting continues. Many of our people here are still waiting for their cases to be resolved. If South Manchester Law Centre closes then it is possible that their cases will be closed, as the [Greater Manchester] Immigration Aid Unit is losing much of its capacity. This means that they would be left without life, without hope”.
He went on to pay tribute to the links that the centre has forged with the community.
“Many of the Somali community lack language ability in English and so those of us who speak the language work together with the centre to give free translation. They have made us feel very welcome and have always given everybody excellent service.”
Immigration and asylum is just one area of SMLC’s work, with caseworkers also dedicated to housing, welfare and employment law.
At the centre of contention is the competitive tendering process by which contracts for immigration and asylum work were awarded. SMLC claim that the process was arbitrary and irrational as the selection criteria meant that there was a “winner takes all” system for providers with higher-accredited caseworkers, while it had not been made clear to centres, whose caseworkers could have applied for such accreditation, that it would be decisive.
Consequently in Manchester a single national provider won 75% of immigration contracts, leading to fears that the availability of independent services could be compromised. Voices within the legal aid sector have criticised the market-based nature of the regime as failing to look at the qualitative nature of legal casework, while arguing that the criteria in the process does not take into account the standard of services given by providers.
Supporters of the two centres hope that their case will be strengthened by a decision in September which overturned the allocation of family law contracts. They say there are marked similarities between the process for allocation of family and immigration contracts and are now calling on the LSC to back down from the SMLC and GMIAU’s legal challenge and “instead of wasting further public funds on expensive lawyers they should restore funding to make South Manchester Law Centre more sustainable”. The full judicial review is due to take place in early January.
At meeting with LSC today, the issue of JRs to the immigration tender was raised. The LSC refused to talk specifics but were very very adamant that it was highly highly unlikely that the doomsday scenario of the tender being found unlawful would ever occur.
Not sure if this means settlements likely or LSC just extremely confident of success. Who knows?? But LSC appeared to have no contingency plan in place in case they lose - which seems very poor risk management.
Anyway, it all just means more uncertainty for everyone. Let's hope for a quick resolution.
Post by Patrick Torsney on Dec 15, 2010 12:26:36 GMT
However Patrick I not that Colin was able to work out my high speed rambling...
It was a sympathy post. He was just guessing
verification visits are taking place for Imm providers in the Greater Manchester PA on the back of the JR
Yes, looks possible they'll get a contract perhaps. Although, the LSC could be just covering all bases. Don't forget either, the LSC said they were going to 'super verify' most everyone around the supervision standards following the Law Society's call that they should some weeks ago
Is this definitely something different, do you know?
SMLC has a contract already - it is the level of NMS that is the issue as it is insufficient and is threatening their ability to keep their excellent service operating at the same level.
It will be interesting to see if the LSC's 'super-verification' does result in some more NMS being made available. I would have thought that another supplier would need to have their allocation reduced or taken away totally for that result to happen - would that not possibly then precipitate a JR from that supplier??
I can foresee that the LSC is going to get into a right mess with this!! Best of luck to those of you involved!!