Friday 29 July 2011

Solicitor of the Year nominee for GLC

Govan Law Centre's Principal Solicitor, Mike Dailly, has been shortlisted for the Solicitor of the Year Award at the Law Awards of Scotland 2011.

The nominees were announced last night at a reception held at 29 Royal Exchange Square in Glasgow. There were three solicitors in total who made the short leet in the category of Solicitor of the Year.

Mike previously won this prestigious award in 2007. The 2011 winner will be announced at an awards dinner in Glasgow's Hilton Hotel on 8 September 2011.


Monday 11 July 2011

Risk of homelessness to private tenants from Scottish housing associations' debt recovery practice

GHA's CEO, Martin Armstrong
Govan Law Centre (GLC) has raised concern over the growing practice of Scottish housing associations using 'arrestments in execution' against private sector tenants in relation to debts owed by their landlords to housing associations, generally in the association's capacity as a property factor.

GLC believes this policy will force private sector tenants to incur rent arrears, exposing them to eviction, the risk of homelessness and unnecessary detriment. Housing association officers typically refer to such arrestments as 'rent arrestments' and use them every month or four weeks, repeatedly, against individual 'innocent' private sector tenants.

GLC's Principal Solicitor has today written to Martin Armstrong, CEO of the Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) to express the law centre's concern that this policy is disproportionate, regressive, and ultimately puts innocent private sector tenants through unnecessary detriment, with the risk of homelessness. Other housing association landlords in Glasgow are using this practice against private tenants, and GLC believes the Scottish Government should intervene to examine the practice and consequences of this policy.

Lindsay Paterson, Solicitor with Govanhill Law Centre said: "We believe this policy causes unnecessary cyclical monthly detriment to innocent private sector tenants, and exposes them to unnecessary potential fines and emotional distress".

"It can be a frightening experience for our clients to have sheriff officers come to their door to serve such documents on a regular basis, and in our experience the service of schedules of arrestment is causing significant distress and inconvenience to ‘innocent’ private sector tenants".

"We hope the GHA and other social landlords will reconsider their policies here and stop using this form of diligence against 'innoncent' private sector tenants".


Monday 4 July 2011

Law centre opposes closure of Glasgow's Bilingual Support Unit following 'flawed' consultation process

Govanhill Law Centre (GhLC) has opposed the proposed closure of Glasgow's Bilingual Support Unit (BSU), presently positioned in Shawlands, between Govanhill and East Pollokshields, two of the most ethnically diverse communities in the City. Its opposition is supported by GLC.

Responding to a Glasgow City Council consultation, GhLC says that in its experience there are severe barriers to education and employment for Roma families in Glasgow. A saving of £186,000 from closing the BSU would represent very poor value in relation to the significant benefits gained from specialist language provision to youngsters in Glasgow's education system, youngsters who often have the lowest educational and employment prospects.

The law centre has identified five key flaws in the current proposed closure process:
(1) No educational benefits evidenced
(2) Financial savings alone seem to be driving force
(3) Flawed consultation process
(4) Failure to meet with needs of children with little or no English
(5) Failure to meet needs of Roma children

With respect to the need to undertake a proper consultation at a meeting on June 9th, 2011, GCC's Director of Education, Maureen McKenna said “this is not a statutory consultation so it is not a public consultation.  It is good practice for service reform”.  However, GhLC believes that GCC has failed to have 'due regard' to its statutory duties under the Equalities Act 2010. 

GhLC Associate Solicitor Lorraine Barrie said: "Glasgow City Council’s public sector duty under the Equality Act 2010 states that an Equality Impact Assessment document should be produced, containing sufficient information to show it has paid ‘due regard’ to equality duties in its decision making. In that regard, we have referred the Council to the recent case of R (W) v. Birmingham City Council [2011] EWHC 1147 where the High Court found that ‘where a decision may affect large numbers of vulnerable people … the due regard necessary is very high’ (at para 151). We believe that is the case here. Further, the court held that ‘consideration of the duty must be an integral part of the formulation of a proposed policy …’.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s guide for decision makers states “whether it is proportionate for an authority to conduct an assessment of a financial decision depends on its relevance to the authority’s particular function and its likely impact”. We would argue that as the proposal is likely to have a significantly adverse impact on the learning of all of the pupils who attend the BSU and future pupils, we believe the ‘due regard’ duty is very high, and accordingly GCC are required to carry out an equality impact assessment.

The only mention in the document of the Equality Act 2010 is as follows: “The proposed Service reconfiguration supports the Council’s responsibilities under the Education (Additional Support for Learning) Scotland Act 2004 (Amended 2009) and the Equality Act 2010”. This bald statement in our view, completely fails to demonstrate whether GCC have given “due regard” to their legal duties to equalities; particularly where the due regard duty is ‘very high’

We would hope GCC will produce an Equality Impact Assessment, and make its consultation public, otherwise it may render itself vulnerable to legal challenge under the 2010 Act".

Govanhill Law Centre's full consultation response is here (opens as PDF).

Friday 1 July 2011

GLC challenge proposed care package cull for severely disabled Glaswegians

GLC has written to Glasgow City Council's (GCC) Director of Social Care challenging the legality of plans to cut funding by up to 40% for care packages for adults with profound learning disabilities, often requiring 24/7 'one to one' care services in the City. 

The proposals follow GCC's adoption of a 'Self Directed Support' (SDS) funding system whereby clients can take charge of their own funding to ensure a more personalised, choice-based service.  However, Govan Law Centre is concerned that the new SDS system is being used to mask an irrational funding cull for some of the most vulnerable adults and children in Glasgow.

The new system is being introduced in phases; the current first phase affecting 1,800 adults with learning disabilities in the City, with future groups including children with learning disabilities and those with mental health disabilities.

GLC's Principal Solicitor, Mike Dailly said: "Govan Law Centre has identified a number of apparent major legal flaws in the new SDS system and its imposition to vulnerable persons via a 'review' of their care needs. We believe the Council needs to urgently rethink its entire process here, and in the interim continue existing funding packages. Otherwise, we believe the Council will be vulnerable to challenges by way of judicial review."

"There is also a fundamental human rights issue at stake with this care package cull: a 40% cut to care services to severely disabled persons who may be unable to communicate or undertake basic tasks, translates into placing human beings at high risk of self-harm, pain, suffering, and ultimately death, due to the fact, for example, no-one will be watching them during the night if they start choking or self-harming. Why would any Scottish public body want to do this?".