Post by Colin Henderson on Jan 8, 2012 16:31:41 GMT
We've covered this elsewhere, so apologies for repetition but the scale of this particular cut needs emphasising, and I have a query on the timing.
NfP advice agencies, law centres and the like have long delivered legal advice, casework and court/tribunal representation for those experiencing discrimination. But the legal aid financial eligibility test, recent restrictions in employment matter starts awards and the long-standing LSC rule disallowing tribunal representation have made this difficult.
In 2009 the Equalities and Human Rights Commission awarded up to 3 years strategic funding for 94 legal projects run by 77 organisations. The funding was part of a £10m pot which allowed grants of up to £150k per year for each agency. The three types of legal projects are Casework, Equality & Human Rights Awareness Raising and Second Tier Support.
The successful agencies were: 1. Advice North Yorkshire 2. Advice Services Alliance 3. Aire Centre (Advice on Individual Rights in Europe) 4. Avon & Bristol Law Centre 5. Barking and Dagenham CAB 6. Bedford Race Equality Council 7. Birmingham Disability Resource Centre (BDRC) 8. Birmingham Law Centre 9. Bradford Law Centre 10. Cambridge & District CAB 11. Castlemilk Law & Money Advice Centre 12. Central London Community Law Centre 13. Central Scotland Racial Equality Council 14. Centre for Rural Childhood (Perth College UHI) 15. Cheshire, Halton & Warrington Race & Equality Centre 16. Chesterfield law Centre 17. Citizens Advice London/South ST 18. Citizens Advice East Sussex (CAES) 19. Citizens Advice Hampshire 20. City of London Citizens Advice Bureau 21. Community Law Centre Carlisle 22. Coventry Law Centre 23. Crawley Citizens Advice Bureau 24. Cross St Law Centre 25. Denbighshire CAB 26. Devon Law Centre 27. Disability Direct 28. Disability Law Service 29. Ealing Racial equality Council 30. Environmental Law Foundation 31. Flintshire CAB Wales 32. Gloucester Law Centre 33. Govan Law Centre 34. Greenwich Community Law Centre 35. Haringey Race & Equality Council 36. Harrow Association of Voluntary Services 37. Hounslow Race & Equalities Council 38. Institute of Social Entrepreneurs Ltd 39. Ipswich & Suffolk Council for Racial Equality 40. Island Advice Centre 41. Kingston Race Equality Council 42. Kirklees Law Centre 43. Law Centre Federation 44. Leicester Community Law Service 45. Liberty 46. Luton Law Centre 47. Maternity Action 48. Merseyside Employment Law 49. Newcastle Law Centre 50. Newport CAB 51. Norfolk Community Law Service Ltd 52. North Kensington Law Centre 53. North West Kent REC 54. Northamptonshire Racial Equality Council 55. Nottingham Law Centre 56. Oxford CAB 57. Press For Change 'Trans Equality' 58. Preston & Western Lancashire REC 59. Public Law Project 60. Race Equality First 61. Rochdale Law Centre 62. Royal Association for Deaf People 63. Sheffield Law Centre 64. Skillnet Group CIC 65. Slough Equalities Commission 66. South West London Law Centres 67. Southwark Law Centre 68. Stevenage Citizens Advice Bureau 69. Stoke on Trent CAB 70. Tameside Racial Equality Council Ltd 71. Tower Hamlets Law Centre 72. Trafford Law Centre 73. Waltham Forest REC 74. Wiltshire Law Centre 75. Wolverhampton CAB 76. Working Families 77. Yare Valley & District CAB (The number will be less now. Sadly not all agencies have survived - Devon Law Centre went under in 2010, City of London CAB and Greenwich Law Centre in 2011)
As we reported, in December the Government Equality Office confirmed that such funding would not be renewed. Instead an outsourced call centre will provide initial telephone advice but not legal work (see the news release from the Disability Law Service for more details: www.dls.org.uk/rights/News/2011/december/15.htm)
The Advice Services Alliance say that the funding ends in March and that: "no arrangements have been made to bring the current grants to an end in an orderly manner and without prejudicing existing clients. There is a risk that if no arrangements are made to allow caseworkers to finish existing cases, clients will be left unrepresented while their cases are ongoing and with no further access to advice. Some of these clients will have tribunal deadlines and hearing dates pending."
Post by Douglas Johnson on Jan 9, 2012 16:20:12 GMT
the legal casework grants from the EHRC are all due to end in March 2012, which is the date that organisations are contracted up to - hence the Government being able to say they are coming to a "natural end".
The original grants were going to be for 3 years because the EHRC realised that short-term year-on-year funding is difficult to plan with. However, at the last minute, they were cut to 18 months, with a view to being extended. they were extended for 12 months and that takes us to March.
60 organisations in the list have casework grants. some of the others have "strategic grants" which are for three years so they haven't ended yet.
It's not just that the EHRC is having funding removed but that their powers to fund voluntary sector organisations to do casework will be taken away.
Post by Colin Henderson on Jan 9, 2012 16:53:14 GMT
Thanks for the clarification Douglas - it makes sense of what I found. And yes I take the point that it's not just the money - the Emasculated Human Rights Commission will never again be able to fund such work. And of course it comes on top of their own massive cuts in casework capacity/office closures announced early last year and reported in our thread here: ilegal.org.uk/index.cgi?action=display&board=news&thread=1693&page=1
Can we calculate roughly how many cases at these 60 casework agencies will be potentially discontinued, and how many advisers are looking at redundancy in March? The DLS say their grant was for £50K and that employed one member of staff with 50 cases open. If that is a typical minimum, then we are looking at losing at least £3m, 60 staff and 3,000 open cases. Does that sound right?
Post by Douglas Johnson on Jan 10, 2012 7:38:46 GMT
It's difficult to estimate but the grant funding for casework was to 60 NFP organisations (roughly one member of staff per org) and totalled £3.2 million. The Government Equality Office had the job of estimating the number of cases in the system and rather coyly decided it couldn't. They admit to 620 cases in a quarter but that's from only 38 of the 60 organisations. Grossed up, that could be 3,916 a year. that doesn't include any of the work on "enquiries", training, legal education and promotion of equality work, all of which was strangely discounted.
Post by Colin Henderson on Feb 1, 2012 7:14:36 GMT
As reported today in our new section, an e-petition has been created to let the government know that funds for equality and human rights casework need to be arranged. If you would like to sign the petition, visit epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/27071
Post by Colin Henderson on Feb 10, 2012 4:11:32 GMT
The case manager at one of the 77, the Suffolk Discrimination Law Service has now posted comment in response to the article on the threats to the independent advice agencies in the Guardian last week (see our news section)
As it's a clear and powerful piece I'll reproduce it separately here:
We encourage settlements and mediation. We negotiate disability reasonable adjustments to work and references to allow people to gain new employment away from discrimination and harassment. We have secured changes to premises like banks and policies such as on school admission.
We also use our local knowledge and contacts to press for wider social policy changes to avoid repetition of problems. So I have advised the local police on the wording of their policies, a local authority on its licences for its Gypsy and Traveller sites and local companies on how to avoid further Employment Tribunal claims. They are happy for the advice but unsurprisingly do not want to pay for it. We just treat it as a side benefit of the funding.
However, the Government Equality Office are ending our funding after March 2012. They claim that a national non legal information telephone helpline (with very limited lay face to face support; and the promise that from 2013 a national legal aid provider will be enough (www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/equalities/government-equality/New-service-further-info/?view=Standard&pubID=968092 ). However this will provide a remote service to those who can dr long mobile phone calls or email and can explain complex documentation over the phone, This service will not be open to most workers or those with any savings (due to the restrictive means test) or who need a Tribunal advocate.
So why is discrimination law any different than any other form of law? Well it is the perfect storm that most cases are very complex, not cost effective and happen to the most disadvantaged. Many of my clients are disabled or have mental health problems. They don't just need information, they need hands on legal expertise and support.
Volunteer based service like ours cost money. We need premises, insurance, supervision to Quality Mark standard, phones, travel costs around our rural region. So I am telling the clients who need my help now and in the next two months, without alternative funding we will just have to stop.
Post by Colin Henderson on Feb 21, 2012 6:06:02 GMT
Some of you may have noticed that Citizens Advice has been very quiet about the loss of this national face-to-face discrimination law advice service and its inadequate replacement by a call-centre. Is this just because it mainly hit law centres and there were only a handful of CAB's in the original 77?
I think not, rather I guess it has something to do with them being in the bidding for the replacement contract - this from our Chief Exec in this month's newsletter:
"Right now we’re waiting for news of our bid to run the Equality and Advisory Support service for the Government Equalities Office. This will replace the helpline currently run by the EHRC and, if we’re successful, it will play a major role in helping us challenge discrimination through advice – a key plank in the new equality and diversity strategy for 2012-15. Our thanks go to the bureaux who talked to us and facilitated conversations with clients in preparation for the bid"
Talking about silences Colin there doesn't seem to have been anything from LCF and LAG on whether they support what appears to be Justice for All's new strategy of concentrating on welfare benefits before other areas of social welfare law. Presume they must be, as they are both members of Justice for All, although whether the policy people have found out whether the actual members of those organisations in Law Centres and non CAB advice centres are happy, if that is the strategy, is also unclear.