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(Late) Summer Newsletter 2018

Directors Update

I know I always say this but the last few months seem to have been busier than ever. Ensuring we are compliant with new data protection regulations has taken up quite a bit of time and also verifying our new Legal Aid contracts, and preparing end of year accounts.

Our major new development has been to begin the work of setting up a new Law Centre in Lewisham, working in partnership with Citizens Advice Lewisham (CAL). We are pleased to have secured a Legal Aid housing contract and 2 housing specialists will be based with CAL at the Leemore Hub from September 2018.

In order to establish the need for a Law Centre we have received pro bono support from international solicitors firm Hogan Lovells, who conducted a research project to identify legal advice needs brought to Lewisham M.P.’s surgeries.

The Hogan Lovell report found that, against the current background of limited affordable legal services in Lewisham, a notable proportion of Lewisham residents who turn to MPs for help do so in relation to legal problems, the main areas being housing and immigration. The final version of the report will be available on our website from September.

We have started putting together our annual review. In the year 2017/18 we took on almost 200 more cases than the previous year, mainly because we have increased staffing in recognition of the support needs of local residents.

Our AGM will take place on 1st November this year, at St Mathews Church at Elephant and Castle. Formal invitations will be sent out in September together with a copy of the annual review but it would be great if you could put the date in your diaries. Speakers will include Sarah Thurman, Head of Community Investment at United St Saviours Charity and Tim Lawrence our senior immigration solicitor.

In the past quarter we have been pleased to recruit an additional Trustee, Oliver Persey, a trainee barrister who lives locally. A full list of our Trustees can be found on our website www.southwarklawcentre.org.uk.

We are aiming to increase the number of Law Centre members so that we are really embedded in our community. If you haven’t joined – please do it’s free (although you can always support our work by donating) and encourage colleagues, friends, and family who live in Southwark or Lewisham to join.

Issues and Trends

Human rights need support


Parliament's influential Joint Committee on Human Rights has published a damning report on the state of human rights' enforcement in the UK. The committee paid special attention to the 'unrecognisable' state of legal aid five years after deep cuts. It named this as the reason for the worrying lack of enforcement, and called for a 'root and branch reform'.

The Law Centres Network (LCN) was invited to give
oral evidence to the committee in February, alongside two written submissions. We were heartened to see the committee adopt several points LCN made in its report. The committee recommended evaluating the broader landscape of legal advice; widening means eligibility for legal aid in line with benefits; and simplifying people's access to legal aid through face-to-face and telephone channels.

Whether or not the
government's current legal aid review would deliver on the committee’s demands is not so clear. What is clear is that the committee's findings and recommendations will serve as a marker, and the government would do well to at least be seen to be addressing the issues raised. We should find out before the year is out.

Migration to Universal Credit (UC):

This is causing major problems for local residents in Southwark and the council’s revenue budget.

Only around 6,000 Southwark council tenants have transferred onto UC but 70% of their rent accounts are in arrears. This illustrates the scale of the problem for the residents and for the Local Authority when more than 2/3rds of claimants are still to migrate.

We are working with Citizens Advice Southwark and Advising Communities to draft an impact report on the effects of Universal Credit for residents in Southwark and Lambeth.  This report will be published in January 2019.

Planning Voice:

Our Planning Voice project was initially funded by United St Saviours Charity United for 1 year beginning in August 2017. We are delighted that the Trustees of United St Saviours have agreed to extend the funding for a further year.

We are very pleased to welcome our new caseworker Flora Walker now that Esther our first planning caseworker has left to become a pupil barrister.

Some of the issues which we are aiming to support local residents and small businesses with include: the demolition of the Elephant and Castle shopping centre, the impact of the building of the Thames ‘super sewer’, and the massive redevelopments planned for the Old Kent Road.

 

My Donate

We now have a link to My Donate on our website and have set up GiftAid for people who would like to support our work.

Please see

http://southwarklawcentre.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=66&Itemid=73 for the MyDonate button.

If you use Twitter please follow us @southwarklawcen

We now have almost 2,000 followers

Thank you for all your support

Sally Causer

Director Southwark Law Centre

Sally.causer@southwarklawcentre.org.uk

 

CONDITIONALITY FOR THOSE ON EMPLOYMENT SUPPORT ALLOWANCE AND UNIVERSAL CREDIT 

BASIC UNIVERSAL CREDIT CONDITIONALITY

Everyone who claims Universal Credit is placed in one of 4 conditionality groups based on their circumstances. These are as follows:

1)No work related requirements

You are placed in this group if you are:

* above your earnings threshold (usually 35 X National Minimum Wage. £7.50 if over 25 rising to £7.83 in April)

*have LCWRA

*are responsible for a child under 1

*have reached PC age but your partner has not

*are pregnant and within 11 weeks of expected week of childbirth

* are an adopter in first year

* are a young person with no parental support in full time non advanced education.

* are a carer with substantial caring responsibilities

2) Work Focussed Interview requirement only

You will be placed in this group if :

* you are responsible for a child over 1 and under 2 ( if you are part of a couple your partner will be placed in their own group)

* you became a friend or family carer within the last 12 months

 3) Work Preparation requirement- this involves getting ready for work by attending training  courses, preparing a cv, attending the Work Programme etc.

You will be placed in this group if:

* you have limited capability for work (LCW)

* you are responsible for a child over 2 and under 3.

4) All work-related requirements

Everyone else is required to look for and be available for work. Normally this is full time work   of 35 hours per week unless you have caring responsibilities or health problems.

SANCTIONS

The latest published DWP statistics show that 6.9% of Universal Credit claimants were being sanctioned in March 2017. JSA and ESA sanctions were at a much lower level 0.4% and 0.3% respectively. 69% of Universal Credit sanctions related to Work Focussed Interviews and   18% to availability for work. (See appendix 1).

I gather 4.7% of Universal Credit claimants were being sanctioned in November 2017, although by then the number of claimants had risen substantially. Some former work coaches have indicated that there is an unofficial 4-5% target within the DWP.

Transitional regulations provide for sanctions to carry over when claimants move to UC from ESA and JSA, but the situation in less clear where there is a move form a live service to full service area.

In February 2017 a Public Accounts Committee report expressed concern about the wide variation in the number of sanctions decisions across the country, and the fact that the DWP did not know how many vulnerable clients were being successfully protected from inappropriate sanctions. A recent study indicated that disabled people were 53% more likely to be sanctioned than non-disabled people.

The latest DWP statistics show that 72% of mandatory reconsideration requests re sanction decisions do not result in a changed decision, but that 81% of appeals are successful!

There are 4 bands of sanctions which apply to different groups

1)High Level Sanctions (UC and JSA only)     Sanction period 91,182 or 1095 days

Failing to apply for or to accept paid work

Ceasing paid work or losing pay for specified reasons

2)Medium Level Sanctions (UC and JSA only) Sanction period 28 or 91 days

       Failing to be available for work or to take all reasonable steps to get paid work

      3)Low Level Sanctions (UC,JSA and ESA) Sanction period until compliance with a requirement plus 7,14 or 28 days

Failing to meet a work focussed interview requirement

Failing to meet a requirement connected to a work related requirement

Failing to meet a work preparation

Failing to take a particular action to get paid work (UC and JSA only

4)Lowest Level Sanctions (UC and ESA only, where claimant is subject to only a WFI requirement) Sanction period until compliance with a requirement

Failing to meet a work focussed interview requirement

Multiple sanctions take effect consecutively. You cannot be sanctioned for more than 3 years but otherwise there is no limit. If you offend again within 2 - 52 weeks the second sanction will normally be for a longer period.

Amount of Sanctions

For Universal Credit the daily reduction is normally the amount of the standard allowance that applies to you (or 50% if you are part of a couple). However it is only 40% of this if during the relevant assessment period you are 16/17, only have to meet a WFI requirement, have a child under 1, are pregnant and within 11 weeks of the expected birth, or had a baby not more than 15 weeks ago.

For JSA and ESA it is 100% of the personal allowance.

You may be able to claim a Hardship Payment representing 60% of the daily deduction rate when you are sanctioned although these are loans and have to be repaid.

See CPAG Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook for more details on sanctions (chapter 48) and hardship payments (chapter 51)

ESA CONDITIONALITY

ESA is subject to two forms of conditionality Work Focussed Interviews (WFI’s) and the Work Preparation requirement.

You are exempt from WFI’s if you are in the ESA support group, are a single parent with a child under 1, or are starting or resuming work and a WFI would be unlikely to assist you.

You are exempt from the Work Preparation requirement if you are in the support group, are a single parent with a child under 3 or are in receipt of carers allowance or the ESA carers premium

MAIN DIFFERENCES BETWEEN UC AND ESA CONDITIONALITY

Once you claimed ESA (IB) you were treated as having limited capability for work until the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) had been completed, providing you submitted medical certificates and had not failed the WCA (and not successfully challenged the decision) within the last 6 months. While the WCA is pending therefore you generally do not have to look for work, although you do have to attend work focussed interviews (WFI’s).

However, the rules are different for Universal Credit.  If you have not been found not to have limited capability for workYou can be sick for two periods of up to 14 days in any rolling 12 month period and work availability requirements have to be removed . After this, whilst you are waiting for the WCA work availability requirements generally do not have to be removed, although there are discretionary powers to do so. On the other hand, if you have been found fit for work before and the medical evidence submitted is substantially the same as provided during the earlier assessment work availability requirements only have to be switched off if you have been referred for another WCA assessment.

There are a number of other situations where it is compulsory to switch off work availability and work related activities requirements, and a number of situations where this is discretionary (see appendix 2)

THE HEALTH AND WORK CONVERSATION (HWC)

The HWC is a compulsory interview which was introduced for new ESA claimants in April 2017 and was extended to UC in the autumn.

It is compulsory because it has been introduced as a Work Focussed Interview (WFI) You can be sanctioned for not attending a WFI without good cause, or not fully participating, but not for failing subsequently to do anything you agreed to do at the meeting.

What you are required to do to participate in a WFI is defined in law for ESA (see reg 57 ESA Regulations 2008 attached) Claimants are not specifically required to divulge their health problems by the legislation.

Claimants will be contacted at around the 4 week stage of their ESA claim by their work coach and asked to turn up 10 minutes before the interview to complete an “About Me” questionnaire, which asks questions such as how does your health affect your life and your ability to work. After this has been discussed with the work coach claimants are asked to complete a “My 4 steps” exercise detailing something they want to do. Some claimants will be asked to complete a “My values” exercise before they do this. This is an indication that the work coach is considering sanctioning you.   Finally claimants will be asked to create a “Labour Market system Action Plan” a list of 2/3 things they can do to move closer to goals that relate to work or health.

Dave Ohlson Southwark Law Centre         dave.ohlson@southwarklawcentre.org.uk

 

January 2018

Leave to remain with ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’

A guide on preparing a 'change of conditions' application for people who are destitute

For individuals, please click here.

You should use this guidance if:

• You have limited leave to remain for 2.5 years

• With no recourse to public funds

• You are facing homelessness or very serious poverty

• You want to apply to the Home Office to get access to mainstream welfare benefits and social housing

 

 For Immigration Advisors, please click here

You should use this guidance if:

You are a registered immigration advisor accredited at OISC Level 1 or above

Your client has limited leave to remain on the basis of their family or private life (except under the 5 year parent or partner route)

• With no recourse to public funds

• They are facing homelessness or very serious poverty

They want to apply to the Home Office to get access to mainstream welfare benefits and social housing 

 

June 2017: Universal Credit FAQs

 Click here for frequently asked questions on Universal Credit.

 

May 2018: London Legal Walk

LLST 22nd may 2017

 

Brexit and EU citizens' rights

Please click here to read Tim Lawrence’s paper for our workshop on Brexit and EU citizens' rights with Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth (part of the London Coalition Against Poverty).

 

Peckham Peculiar - September 2016

Please click here to read the brilliant feature article in the Peckham Peculiar newspaper on the work of Southwark Law Centre. 

 

Southwark Law Centre - Newsletter Autumn 2017

Please click here for a copy of our latest members newsletter.

Autumn 2017

Summer 2017

April 2017 

July 2016

January 2016  

April 2016

 

 AGM 2017

Almost 60 people attended our 2017 AGM on Tuesday 24 October, held at Bells Gardens Community Centre in October 2017.

Representatives of some of our partner agencies spoke about: The  importance of access to justice, How the Law Centres support disadvantaged local residents and Planning.

Speakers included: Councillor Dame Anne Owers, Chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, Steve Hedger, Chair of  of Camberwell East Area Forum and Southwark Tenant Council. John Hobson QC, Planning Voice new project funded by United St Saviours Charity, Esther Drabkin-Reiter, Neighbourhood Planning Caseworker Southwark Law Centre. 

 

We would like to thank the speakers, Peckham Singers, staff and trustees and all those who attended and assisted in organising the AGM.

 

 

AGM 1

 

 Privacy Notice

Any personal data you give to the Law Centre, its staff and Volunteers for the purposes of seeking advice will be confidentially and securely stored in accordance with our data retention policy (a copy of which is available on request).  It will be held by the Law Centre as Data Controller and will only be used for the purposes of considering and where appropriate conducting your case. It will not be disclosed to any third parties and will be securely deleted in accordance with our data retention policy.  You have a right to be told what data we hold about you (though you are likely to have provided us with that data) and to have it corrected if it is wrong.  You may have other rights under the data protection legislation and you can find out more about these rights from the Information Commissioner’s Office at www.ico.org.uk

Presentation to Forum for Equalities and Human Ri