Tuesday 26 May 2015

GLC research reveals systemic failure of councils to meet education duties for 'looked after' children in Scotland

Research conducted by Govan Law Centre has revealed widespread failure by Scotland’s local authorities to meet their education law duties for looked after children.
In terms of the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004, every looked after child with additional support needs must be assessed for a Co-ordinated Support Plan (CSP). There is a legal presumption that looked after children do have additional support needs (unless the reverse is proved).
Figures from freedom of information requests sent to all 32 local authorities in Scotland show that:
• Of 12,533 looked after children with additional support needs, only 6,374 have actually been assessed for a CSP, leaving almost half – 5,799 unassessed
• Of the 6374 who have been assessed, only 368 have been deemed as requiring a CSP. This is only 2.9% of looked after children with additional support needs – a drop from 5.1% in 2013
• Despite having a right of appeal, none of the 6,374 cases local authorities claim to have assessed have been appealed, calling into question both the robustness of the process and whether local authorities are respecting the rights of children in their care.
• The number of looked after children after assessment deemed as requiring a co-ordinated support plan varies greatly, from 46.7% of those assessed in Highland to only 0.7% in East Ayrshire.
Iain Nisbet, Head of Education Law at Govan Law Centre said:
“These duties have been in force for nearly 5 years and local authorities are still failing to live up to their legal duties towards looked after children. In fact, we suspect that many of those the authorities claim to have assessed have not been given their full legal rights, illustrated best by the total absence of any appeals.  The system is failing thousands of children right across Scotland, leaving them to the poorer educational outcomes and life chances we know looked after children face.”

“The reason these duties were introduced by the Scottish Parliament is that often looked after children do not have effective parental advocates to stand up for their rights. Govan Law Centre pointed out these failings to Ministers, who have oversight and powers of direction over Councils, in 2013 and we are doing so again now to highlight that little has changed in the intervening years.  Our figures show that too few authorities are respecting the rights of looked after children, and it is now time for the Scottish Ministers to do so instead.  We are calling for an urgent meeting with the Cabinet Secretary and for swift and robust action to tackle the repeated failures of Scottish Councils.”


Thursday 21 May 2015

Recruitment: trainee solicitor vacancy at Govan Law Centre

Govan Law Centre is seeking a new Trainee Solicitor to join its award winning legal team.  

The role will include defending evictions and mortgage repossessions as part of our Prevention of Homelessness Rights Hubs across Glasgow, providing advice and representation on a range of social welfare law, consumer rights and public law issues, along with undertaking work in our Govanhill Law Centre office, working with the Roma community and EU migrant workers.

The new post will also have scope to undertake legal work within our national Education Law Unit, which provides expert advice and representation in the field of Scots education law. There may also be an opportunity to undertake Parliamentary law reform and social justice campaign work. We believe this is a fantastic opportunity for someone who has a demonstrable passion for social justice in Scotland.

Please send a CV, and a relevant covering letter (the covering letter should be no more than 2 pages of A4) to: Mike Dailly, Principal Solicitor at Govan Law Centre, 18-20 Orkney Street, Glasgow, G51 2BZ or m@govanlc.com. The closing date for applications is 4pm, Friday 12 June 2015.

No recruitment agencies necessary thank-you.  The likely interview date for shortlisted candidates is the week commencing Monday 22 June 2015.

Govan Law Centre is a Registered Scottish Charity SC030193 http://www.govanlc.com/ And aims to be an Equal Opportunities Employer. You must hold, or be entitled to hold, a valid Entrance Certificate from the Law Society of Scotland to apply for this post, in relation to a proposed start date of Summer 2015.

Thursday 7 May 2015

Sheriff Principal upholds Ayrshire homeowner's appeal against mortgage repossession

The Sheriff Principal of North Strathclyde has allowed a homeowner's appeal against a decree for mortgage repossession at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court today.

In the case of Clydesdale Bank plc v. S, an order for ejection and possession had been granted earlier this year as the homeowner's mortgage had matured and come to an end. The homeowner had become ill, with a drop in household income, and the bank was unwilling to provide any further lending.

All possible avenues for a solution had been pursued unsuccessfully, however, the Ayrshire Homelessness and Prevention (AHAP) project solicitor, Lynn Fraser of Govan Law Centre (GLC) had pursued a mortgage mis-selling case against Clydesdale Bank plc.

This was on the basis that the bank had sold their customer an interest only 'mortgage' that lasted for three and half years. The customer had purchased a property upon the understanding that a mortgage had been provided on the standard repayment basis, with an initial short term period of three and half years being 'interest only'. In fact, the product actually sold was a short term secured loan, and not a mortgage in the normal understanding of that term.

When the case called before the sheriff, the Clydesdale Bank plc advised the court that the mis-selling complaint had been 'rejected', notwithstanding this had not been intimated to the customer in writing. The sheriff considered that there was no defence, although the homeowner's solicitor advised the mis-selling case was live, and access to the Financial Ombudsman Service's statutory alternative dispute redress scheme might well be pursued given the unusual nature of the mortgage product sold.

In recalling the sheriff's interlocutor (decree for repossession), Sheriff Principal Murray held that the sheriff had erred in law in his application of the statutory tests in section 24(7) of the Conveyancing and Feudal Reform (Scotland) Act 1970, and the identical provisions in section 5A(7) of the Heritable Securities (Scotland) Act 1894. He considered that the mis-selling case was a relevant matter which should have been explored further and that a proof should have been fixed.

The Sheriff Principal allowed answers (defences) to be lodged by the appellant and defender, and fixed an evidential hearing (diet of proof). The appellant and defender was represented by GLC's Mike Dailly; and the respondents and pursuers by McClure Naismith LLP's David Forrester.

The decisions of Sheriff Principals are binding in their Sheriffdoms. The Sheriffdom of North Strathclyde includes the Sheriff Courts of Kilmarnock, Dunoon, Oban, Campbeltown, Greenock, Dumbarton and Paisley.  Scotland has six Sheriffdoms.