Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Govan Law Centre's evidence to the Economy Committee on the draft Bankruptcy Fees (Scotland) Order 2017

Mike Dailly, David Menzies (ICAS), Alan McIntosh
On Tuesday 21 March 2017, representatives of Govan Law Centre gave evidence to the Scottish parliament's Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee on the draft Bankruptcy Fees (Scotland) Order 2017, along with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland.

We were all in agreement that the proposed regulations were ill-advised, unfair and should be rejected pending a full review of how the Accountant in Bankruptcy is funded, and operates, particularly in relation to duplicate or unnecessary roles, and conflicts of interest.

You can watch a video of the Committee hearing here (which also includes evidence from the AiB, and the Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills). It is understood the Committee has deferred consideration of the draft Order until next week.
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Friday, 17 February 2017

Govan Law Centre's new 'Financial Health Reports' for tenants

The Private Rented Tenants Team at Govan Law Centre, is now offering its clients Financial Health Reports. 

The Team was set up in September 2016 and provides a comprehensive, unique and dedicated service to Tenants of Private landlords in Glasgow.  Along with providing vulnerable tenants with their statutory rights and tackling unmet needs the project has a focus on Financial Inclusion and Financial Capability. 

We have developed the Financial Health Report (click here for an example) as a way to identify and tackle the complex mix of factors that affect tenancy sustainment and create barriers to financial stability. 
The reports will provide tenants with:
·         a breakdown of their income by source and an analysis of their expenditure;
·         an insight into their household fuel use and an indication of whether they are suffering fuel poverty;
·         an analysis of their debts and monthly debt payments as a percentage of their net monthly income;
The reports will provide our clients with an insight into their own financial circumstances, with recommendations on how they can maximise their finances and minimise their expenditure.  It will enable clients to target those areas of expenditures that can produce real savings for them and recommend financial targets they should aim for to create more financially healthier lifestyles.    Key to the success of our work with vulnerable tenants is to provide a holistic model of support which provides easy to understand, practicable and realistic solutions.
Our Financial Health reports analysis helps us to understand the types of issues that private rented sector tenants are struggling with and discover trends, such a higher vulnerability to fuel poverty.   Already, our findings show there are a higher number of our clients who are suffering from fuel poverty.   This means that they are paying more than 10% of their disposable income on their household fuel.   The factors influencing this are usually low income, increased fuel costs, poor insulation, the home not fully wind/watertight and low energy efficiency.   

The Private Rented Tenants Team are offering these new personalised Financial Health Reports to all our clients.    It provides an immediate response to problems private renters experience with managing their finances, and in doing this work we aim to help our clients with; reducing rent arrears, prevent homelessness, improve living conditions, maximise income and achieve financial stability.  

The Team also provides advice to private sector tenants on all other housing related issues, such as rent arrears, dampness, court action, overcrowding, disrepair, benefit entitlements,  appeals and sanctions.
Govan Law Centre’s assertive outreach model helps us engage and connect with private tenants at our city-wide outreach hub’s.    A list of the times and place where advice can be obtained from us, is available here along with the details of how to get an appointment for our specialist advice.

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Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Manifesto for Scottish Local Government

Govan Law Centre (GLC) believes in the following inalienable human rights for Scots and asks that Scottish MSPs and MPs endorse and implement these human rights in Scotland

No one in Scotland will sleep rough.  Local councils must be given the resources and power to ensure that no human being has to ever sleep on our streets.

No one in Scotland will go hungry.  We must empower and resource local government so that no child or adult in Scotland ever suffers from hunger and malnutrition.

Every child in Scotland will have the best education that life offers.  Local councils must be resourced to make this happen. The Scottish Government should enforce and ensure good outcomes for young Scots.

Vulnerable Scots have access to justice. Women fleeing domestic violence shouldn’t become homeless, nor should private rented sector tenants be unlawfully evicted. Councils should be resourced and mandated to protect vulnerable Scots.

 Disabled Scots should not be charged for being disabled. We need to end council fee charging for social care and pay our carers.  

The Scottish Government should lobby to devolve employment law so we can protect workers rights in Scotland. The enforcement of employee rights should be devolved to councils. 

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Saturday, 3 December 2016

Thousands of consumers in Scotland go bust despite "protection" - GLC's Personal Insolvency Law Unit report

Many consumers in Scotland enter into personal insolvency solutions believing that they will resolve their financial difficulties and secure much needed light at the end of a dark tunnel of unmanageable debt.

The aim is to take back control, repay debts as best as possible, and provide financial rehabilitation and a fresh start for those who have generally been through life crises. In many cases insolvency solutions work reasonably well, but there are far too many cases where things go horribly wrong. In our experience, both consumers and creditors lose out.

Govan Law Centre (GLC) was concerned with the high incidence of poor outcomes for extremely vulnerable consumers, which is why we appointed Alan McIntosh to head up the first ever pilot Personal Insolvency Law Unit in Scotland. The project has so far been self-funded by GLC on a pilot basis in order to properly assess the scope, and need, for a dedicated and free specialist service in Scotland.

Our Personal Insolvency Law Unit Unit has been ingathering evidence from casework in Scotland since the summer, and today we publish our interim findings. You can download our report here (opens as PDF).  We provide evidence of widespread mis-selling of protected trust deeds across Scotland. A failure of regulation in Scotland's personal insolvency market which is costing Scottish consumers millions of pounds for virtually no real service.

Our report, written by the Unit’s Project Manager, provides compelling evidence that there is an overwhelming need for a dedicated free specialist service; a service that can provide both second tier support to front line advice agencies but also undertake complex and contentious casework for consumers.  Our report evidences a number of important market and systemic failures, including a high level of failed protected trust deeds and the failure to protect a consumer’s home from repossession. 

We agree with today's editorial in The Herald. The Scottish Government needs to reconsider protection for debtor's homes, and review the licensing and regulatory framework for those who sell trust deeds in Scotland. This is a devolved matter.
  
protected trust deed failure rate of 9 out of 10 must send alarm bells ringing to members of the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament. As The Herald says, the evidence is "disturbing". Behind the statistics are human tragedies. Insolvency can and does happen to anyone.  The prospect of paying thousands of pounds for a service that all to often is doing nothing to help either consumer or creditors in Scotland is unacceptable.

Read further coverage of this story in The Herald here.

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Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Celebrating #BIGScotland funding: GLC's Private Rented Tenants Project


Govan Law Centre (GLC) is delighted that the Big Lottery Fund Investing in Communities Programme is providing a grant over three years to establish our Private Rented Tenants Project, providing vital work on behalf of tenants throughout Glasgow.

The project is made up of dedicated solicitors, housing caseworker/coordinator, financial inclusion and capability caseworkers and a welfare rights worker.  At a time of forthcoming legislative changes and considerable increase in private renting use in Scotland, our project is providing valuable support to individuals and families faced with challenging situations.  

We have developed our service by setting up city-wide ‘Rights Hubs’ as well as a dedicated email box to ensure easy and accessible routes to help for tenants all over Glasgow who are experiencing difficulty with their private tenancy, landlord or letting agency putting them at risk of homelessness.

Tenants who would normally feel powerless, ignored or in a hopeless position are seeking our specialist help to have their voices heard and find long term solutions to their housing situation. Here is one example:   

GLC solicitor and caseworker with a client
Craig’s financial problems meant that his landlord was taking action to evict him.  Our project was able to advocate for him with his landlord and maximise his benefits income to sustain him in the property.   Craig says “I feel that I am really getting the help I need now.   I would normally rely on family to help, but they could not help with this.   I feel my stress levels have gone down and I am getting more money now due to my disabilities. I really appreciate having this support". 

We are continuing to develop and expand our service to ensure more tenants can benefit from our help and learn some key skills for gaining financial stability.

GLC's Principal Solicitor Mike Dailly said: "The grant from the Big Lottery Fund Investing in Communities Programme provides Govan Law Centre with the vital resources to set up our city wide Private Rented Sector (PRS) Tenants Project which will work on behalf of Private Rented Sector Tenants who are at risk of homelessness through the actions of their landlord or letting agency".  

Mike Dailly
"This comes at a time when the private rented sector has doubled since 2001 and where PRS households make up 15% of all households in Scotland.  It is also a time of legislative change with the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016 in the process of being implemented; the new Act has the potential to make PRS tenancies more insecure". 

GLC's Prevention of Homeless Senior Manager Alistair Sharp said: "GLC’s Big Lottery Funded PRS research presented the voice of tenants living in the private rented sector in Glasgow and revealed that many feel Powerless with no expectation, choice or security; a private rented sector where a tenant’s right to a safe, secure, maintained and affordable home are too often ignored by letting agencies and landlords".
Alistair Sharp

"We will fight for tenants’ rights and provide financial inclusion and capability solutions that ensure the tenants voice is heard and that their rights as tenants are not ignored and will ensure tenants are empowered, are secure, are able to choose, can expect to live in a safe, well maintained, secure and affordable home and that Govan Law Centres Private Rented Sector Project dedicated city wide team will fight for them and with them to secure their rights".
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