Wednesday 30 January 2013

GLC calls for Scottish Government to deploy its powers to mitigate the scourge of payday lending in Scotland

GLC has prepared a Scottish Parliamentary briefing for all MSPs in advance of this afternoon's debate on payday lending in Scotland ('Cost of Living' debate). Our briefing is available here as a PDF.  We believe that the UK payday loan market is predatory, usury, dysfunctional and immoral. 

In our briefing we address the powers that the new Financial Conduct Authority will have, which we think will be central to tackling the undisputed serious consumer detriment caused by payday lending in the UK.  However, the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament have a number of powerful levers at their disposal which we believe are equally central to tackling the scourge of payday lending in Scotland. 

GLC has made the following recommendations to improve consumer protection against payday lending in Scotland: 

> Investment in Scottish credit unions to enable them to offer equivalent products to ‘payday loans’ on a fair and affordable rate of interest.  HM Treasury is currently consulting on raising the 2% per month interest cap on credit unions, and we support an increase to enable credit unions to offer a fairer alternative to payday loans in Scotland.[1]

> Improving our debt relief remedies so that Scots entrapped in a cycle of dysfunctional payday loan interest and charges can be untangled swiftly and fairly – Govan Law Centre has proposed a Fast Track or enhanced Debt Arrangement Scheme for this purpose.[2]  This could be done quickly by Scottish statutory instrument under existing legislative powers.

Education is a key part of the solution, and we believe the Scottish Government should deploy resources to mount an educational campaign to help Scots avoid the pitfalls of payday loans. Such a campaign could be tied in to awareness raising of alternative forms of short-term credit (e.g. through credit union products) and the availability of enhanced forms of debt relief.

 > We would conclude by noting that if no action is taken on these issues in Scotland, then the consumer detriment caused by payday loans will escalate from April 2013 with the introduction of the bedroom tax.  Scottish tenants faced with eviction from the effect of UK Government under-occupancy charges to housing benefit will turn to payday loans, which will exacerbate their problems.  Govan Law Centre has advocated a ‘no eviction for bedroom tax arrears’ policy, with bedroom tax arrears being treated as an ordinary debt. This could be achieved by a minor amendment to the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001.[3]


Tuesday 29 January 2013

New GLC prevention of homelessness report published online

GLC's Prevention of Homelessness Project (POHP) has prevented 1,200 people in the Southside of Glasgow becoming homeless in the last two years. Govan Law Centre has run the Prevention of Homelessness Project in the city's South West based upon the belief that early intervention and holistic multidisciplinary services, tailored to each individual, can help prevent unnecessary evictions.

In our new POHP progress report for the Oak Foundation - which is published online here: 'Download GLC POHP report as PDF' - we explain how our new project has prevented 1,200 people from becoming homeless, saving about £25.5million in public money from December 2010 to December 2012. We believe if the approach of our scheme was extended nationwide it could potentially save the Scottish Government as much as £320m.

Mike Dailly, GLC's principal solicitor, said: "With our project, we show that early intervention works, but also that it has to be co-ordinated. Often people who are in these difficult situations will not go for help early on. We provide not just very fast specialist legal and money advice services, but we can also connect the person with any other services he or she may need."
The project employs a partnership between the centre, Govan Money Matters Advice Centre and Glasgow City Council's Southside Social Work Department, as well as different voluntary organisations, such as the Scottish Association For Mental Health.
It is designed to highlight that eviction and repossession are usually the tip of a whole range of social and associated problems for those who are vulnerable to the risk of homelessness.
The project recognises there are important indicators that could result in problems leading to eviction and homelessness. These could include those in rent arrears or living in poverty, or those with social worries, such as health or mental health problems.
People who look vulnerable are flagged up by the partnership to the Law Centre early on, which can then intervene or refer them to the appropriate support.
Alistair Sharp, GLC's senior project coordinator, said: "We are looking at savings to the public purse and preventing people facing the trauma of eviction and homelessness. Court action can be avoided by early intervention."


Tuesday 22 January 2013

Recruitment: temporary solicitor position at Govan Law Centre

Govan Law Centre has a vacancy for a temporary, qualified solicitor who must hold a full and unrestricted practising certificate from the Law Society of Scotland.

You must have experience in the field of civil litigation and court experience; knowledge of housing or employment law, and social welfare law would be an advantage.

This is a short term, temporary position. Salary negotiable. If you meet our criteria, please apply in writing with an up-to-date CV to Candy Walker, Service Manager at Govan Law Centre by e-mail to CWalker Closing date is 4pm, Friday, 25 January 2013. No applications will be considered after the closing date. No agency applications please.

Tuesday 15 January 2013

Free places for local people to attend Prevention of Homelessness report launch

Two years ago Govan law Centre was awarded three years funding by the Oak Foundation to develop our 'Your Home Your Rights’ Prevention of Homelessness project.  We have produced a bi-annual progress report describing how we have expanded our homelessness prevention work, and stopped people and their families from losing their homes through eviction or repossession. 

Over 1,200 people have received GLC's free, independent and confidential prevention of homelessness services during the last two years in Glasgow, and our report describes –

* how we have achieved this;
* how we have developed our innovative service to be more effective;
* improvements to our early intervention work;
* access to our money and benefits advice services and other support; and
* how we have provided the much needed expert legal advice and representation when people come to us in crisis with their housing problems.
We are holding an event to launch our report on 29th January 2013, 10:30 (with lunch at 12:00) at The Victory Centre, 285 Langlands Road, Govan, Glasgow, G51 4AS.

There are 10 free places available for anyone living or working in the Greater Govan or Pollok areas. 
If you would like to book a free place then please phone Anne-Marie O’Brien at Govan Law Centre on 0141 440 2503. Please apply early as places are limited.  We look forward to seeing you there.


Tuesday 1 January 2013

Scotland lags behind the rest of the UK in protecting consumers against claims management companies

The Claims Management Regulation Unit shut down 209 claims management companies (CMCs) in England and Wales between April and November in 2012. Three more rogue firms were suspended and a further 140 were warned. 

The unit, which is part of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for England and Wales, is also working with the UK's data watchdog to tackle firms who break the law with unsolicited calls and texts. The MoJ has now shut down over 900 CMCs over the last five years, meanwhile CMCs operating in Scotland remain wholly unregulated and free to rip-off Scottish consumers with impunity.

GLC's Principal Solicitor, Mike Dailly said: "Scotland is now seriously lagging behind the rest of the UK when it comes to protecting consumers from the rogue practices of claims management companies. CMCs have a licence to do as they please in Scotland, with no regulation, minimum standards or consumer friendly rights of redress. In short, CMCs can rip off Scottish customers without fear of any sanction. It is troubling indeed that the Justice Secretary in Scotland does not feel it important to give Scottish consumers the same quality of protection that exists in England and Wales".

CMCs frequently engage in high pressured cold-calling or texting, taking up-front fees from customers through credit and debit card payments over the phone. This year CMCs in England and Wales will be obliged to provide written contract in advance of taking fees, with the Legal Ombudsman being empowered to regulate complaints and award compensation where appropriate. 

Claims firm advertise widely on TV, newspapers and the internet and are not solely concerned with PPI (payment protection insurance claims), for example they encourage people to sue for personal injury compensation, and for other losses. Some firms also use improper cold-calling, by phone or text, to procure clients.