Apr 142014
 

Are you interested in challenging the government’s huge increase in court fees?

We need people eligible for legal aid to get in touch with Karen before the 22nd April

Don’t let them get away with it without challenge!

The fee hike – coming in later this month – will affect people bringing a wide range of civil cases, including consumer claims, family cases, personal injury claims, landlord-tenant disputes, and private discrimination cases. It means that only those with deep enough pockets to afford these expensive new fees will be able to take cases to court to uphold and protect their rights.

If you think you might be eligible for Legal Aid and are interested in acting as a claimant in a judicial review challenge to the new fees then please contact me directly karenpassmore@hotmail.com

With your contact details

Thank you, Karen

 

Apr 302013
 

Barnet Alliance for Public Services

PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 29 April 2013

‘One Barnet’ Judicial Review – the fight against undemocratic outsourcing goes on!

Barnet Alliance for Public Services (BAPS) supported Barnet resident Maria Nash’s application for

Judicial Review of Barnet Council’s ‘One Barnet’ outsourcing programme and so, naturally, is disappointed at Mr Justice Nicholas Underhill’s judgment announced today. The Barnet Alliance will support Maria should she decide to appeal.

We understand that Barnet Council has agreed not to go ahead with the NSCSO contract for the short time it takes for the opportunity for appeal to be explored. We welcome this sensible delay.

During this hearing Barnet Council relied on the technical grounds that the JR application had not been made in time. Their defences against the substantive grounds for the application – particularly their failure to consult residents on what is an enormous change to council services and to the way they are governed – were extremely weak and we feel that the arguments aired during the hearing and reflected in the judgment given today vindicate the decision to apply for JR.

The judgment finds that “the Council never set out to consult about its outsourcing programme at all”. He says: “if the application for judicial review had been made in time I would have held that the Council had not complied with its obligations under section 3 (2) of the 1999 Act in respect of the decisions taken in 2010/11 to outsource the performance of its functions and services, covered by the proposed

NSCSO and DRS contracts.”

The legal route is just one way to oppose One Barnet: Barnet Alliance’s campaign has included marches, petitions, lobbies, questions at Council meetings, and more. Despite today’s setback, Barnet Alliance’s campaign against One Barnet will continue. BAPS coordinator Tirza Waisel said:

“The One Barnet programme continues to be a disaster for Barnet. The consultant spend is enormous, there are no discernible savings yet, Council staff morale is rock-bottom, and jobs are hemorrhaging out of the borough  this decision gives the green light for the Council to sign the NSCSO contract with Capita which will see up to 400 local jobs transferred to Capita centres across the UK. In the case of Your Choice Barnet, jobs have been degraded to the detriment of vulnerable service users. This is just the start. If the looked-for savings from One Barnet do not materialise, there will be even more cuts to the vital services that Barnet residents rely on. Barnet residents simply cannot afford the One Barnet programme.

“We are encouraged that the court has agreed with us that Barnet Council have failed to consult residents over measures that add up to the wholesale remodelling of local government. Today’s judgment, although a setback, fundamentally changes very little. We will support Maria Nash if she decides to appeal, but, in any case, our campaign against One Barnet outsourcing and for democratically accountable public services will continue because it has to  our fight is just and goes on!”

[ENDS]

Notes for editors

1.Barnet Council’s One Barnet programme includes the letting of two large contracts: Capita has

Barnet Alliance for Public Services

been chosen to run the New Support and Customer Services Organisation (NSCSO) contract with Barnet Council, worth at least £320 million over 10 years and advertised in the Official Journal of the European Union as worth between £600 and £750 million. A second contract covering Development and Regulatory Services (DRS) worth £275 million over 10 years is being bid for by Capita Symonds and EC Harris.

2.Barnet Alliance for Public Services (BAPS), formed to defend and improve public services, supported Maria Nash’s legal challenge. Maria is not a member of BAPS.

Contact: Barnet Alliance tel: 07534 407703 – http://barnetalliance.org;

Barnetalliance4publicservices@gmail.com; @barnetalliance

Jan 192013
 

In case anyone hasn’t seen this on the MHRN facebook page: 

HOW THE JUDICIAL REVIEW WENT!

The judicial review was scheduled for three days although we thought that it would only last for two. In the event, it lasted for the whole three days and there was a member of the MHRN in court at all times.

The claimants were asking that further medical evidence should be sought by the DWP from a person’s own health care professionals prior to the ESA50 form being sent out for all people with mental health problems (called MHPs in court). We believe that obtaining evidence at this stage will enable some people to be spared the distress of having to attend the face to face WCA interview and, where they do have to attend it, at least the assessor would know something about their condition and how it affects their functionality rather than the claimant being entirely at the mercy of the Atos computer and an unqualified Atos ‘Health Care Professional’. This in turn might spare some people from going through the misery of having to appeal. And, importantly, it would help identify people for whom regulations 29 and 35 apply. These regulations cover where there would be a risk to a person if they were found fit for work or for work related activity even if they had less than the required number of points for ESA.

Obviously this change is only one way that the WCA needs to be improved on. Initially the MHRN was calling for the test to be completely scrapped but we are also realistic about what can be achieved. Who knows, it may be scrapped in a few years time but, in the meantime, we have to survive it.

Now to the court case.

The case was being brought under the Equality Act and was heard by three judges in the Upper Tribunal Court. It began with much debate about how exactly people with MHPs were being disadvantaged in the process of claiming ESA and the case for the claimants was that the self reporting aspect was often, for a variety of reasons, difficult for people with MHPs. In addition, MHPs may not be able to obtain further medical evidence for themselves. The DWP barrister argued that there was already procedures in place to ensure that further medical evidence was sought in appropriate cases.

As well as the claimants’ barristers there was a barrister representing, jointly, National Mind, Rethink and the National Autistic Society, who also argued the claimants’ case and there was evidence written from consultant psychiatrists. It is hard to say, but, on balance, I felt that the existence of disadvantage may have been successfully established in court, but please, don’t rely on my impression!

A lot of time was spent arguing about who the MHP claimants were being disadvantaged in comparison with. This was very much a technical point and an Equality and Human Rights Commission barrister was present to intervene here.

The claimants were asking that reasonable adjustments are made to rectify a disadvantage (the adjustment being that medical evidence be sought by the DWP in all mental health cases) and therefore the ‘reasonableness’ of this adjustment was also up for debate with the DWP unsurprisingly arguing that it was wholly unreasonable, cost being one factor, the burden on doctors being another, and so on.

So is there a disadvantage and in comparison with whom are MHPs disadvantaged? If there is a disadvantage, would the requested adjustment rectify this disadvantage? And is the adjustment ‘reasonable’?

Obviously, as the case was being brought by individuals, there was some argument over whether the individuals concerned had been disadvantaged and whether the adjustments requested would have rectified that disadvantage. The DWP barrister tried every which way to counter the claimants’ arguments.

The feeling among the members of the MHRN who attended the court was that the claimants got a fair hearing. The judges will be meeting with three high court judges and, I think I got this right, it is these high court judges who will be making the final decision. This will undoubtedly take some time to come through and we have no idea how it will go.

So fingers crossed!

Whatever happens, we’ll never give up!

Jan 102013
 

Next week sees 2 disabled people take on the government in a judicial review (1) on the grounds that the process is not accessible for people with mental health conditions.
 
On 15th, 16th & 18th of January lawyers for 2 members of the mental health resistance network
(2) will be in the administrative high court, the division of the royal courts of justice (3) which handles judicial reviews , in London .
The DWP introduced WCAs to assess disabled people for eligibility for disability benefits. Despite criticism from MPs,(4) the British Medical Association (5) and campaigners, this policy rumbles on.
 
Dozens of disabled people are dying every week (6) following assessment. nearly 40% (7) of those who appeal the decision to remove benefits, have the decision overturned, meaning thousands of people are wrongly being put through a traumatic and harrowing experience needlessly. The governments own appointed assessor of the policy has ruled it ‘unfit for purpose’ .
 
This isn’t good enough. This would not be acceptable in any other government contract, yet goes without comment or sanction by this government. No-one is called to account, no-one takes responsibility.
 
DPAC and MHRN call on ALL activists and supporters to join them in a vigil outside the court to show your support for those taking the case, and your disgust at this shameful and harmful policy.
 
Action is :
 
Weds 16th January
@ 12pm
Royal courts of justice, the strand, London wc2a 2ll.
 
Send a strong, clear signal to those who make the decisions.
 
We are NOT going away, we are not backing down. There is no hiding place.
 
We will fight you in parliament, on the streets and in the courts!
 
ENDS
 
p.s send messages of support to Mentalhealthresistance@lists.aktivix.org or mail@dpac.uk.net
 
1.http://atosvictimsgroup.co.uk/2012/07/26/judicial-review-of-work-capability-assessment-granted/
2. mentalhealthresistance.org
3. http://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/rcj-rolls-building/administrative-court
4. http://www.disabilitywales.org/1168/3817
5. http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/gps-vote-to-end-the-atos-farce/
6. http://blogs.mirror.co.uk/investigations/2012/04/32-die-a-week-after-failing-in.html
7. http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/press_20120817

Jun 252012
 

 On Friday 29 June there will be a hearing in the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand, London, where a judge will decide whether to grant permission for a judicial review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) as it affects people with mental health problems. The WCA is being used to harass and remove benefits from people in mental distress, leading many to contemplate suicide: some, we believe, have already taken their own lives.

 The MHRN is supporting the application for judicial review and is organising a vigil outside the court on the day. The vigil will be peaceful and will serve to show our solidarity with all people living with mental health difficulties who are in the firing line of Tory brutality.   

 We won’t know until the day before what time the case will be heard so we are asking people to arrive outside the courts at 11.00am on the 29th. Bring banners if you wish, but the vigil will be conducted in a spirit of respect for the court. 

 Please spread word of the vigil as widely as possible.

 MHRN Vigil

Date: 29 June

Time: 11.00am

Venue: Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London

May 192012
 

An application has been made by members of the Mental Health Resistance Network for permission to have a Judicial Review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and a judge has decided that there should be a hearing to decide whether to grant us the Judicial Review.

The hearing will happen at the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand in London on Friday 29th June. We won’t know until the day before what time it will be heard. 

With thanks to MHRN for letting us publicise this. It is MHRN who have pushed this through, not any big charity -remember most activism is coming from grassroots groups-rather than well funded charities who like to try to claim the credit.

Lets support MHRN as much as we can with this great achievement on 29th June-hopefully the first of many challenges to the corrupt WCA…..

 

 

Dec 232011
 

This is an important and urgent message from the Mental Health Resistance Network.

As you all know, members of the Mental Health Resistance Network have been working with a solicitor towards making a claim for a Judicial Review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) which is the assessment used to determine whether we will be granted Employment Support Allowance or sent back to work (if there is any work to be found!). We are just focussing on people who claim on mental health grounds.    

We are now at a critical stage in this process as we are very close to being able to make the claim for Judicial Review. However, before we can do this, it would help if we could find stories that will show the court what sort of problems the WCA causes. So we are looking for people who have been through the process and would be able to tell us about their experience. If people wish, we can present their cases anonymously when we use their evidence. Although it would be very good if people were prepared for us to give their names to the DWP so that the DWP could check their stories, it is not essential.

There are two types of experience that we are particularly interested in (in the solicitor’s words):

 (i)  Cases where a person claims ESA without producing any medical evidence and is refused benefit, but then wins on appeal when medical evidence is obtained.

(ii)  Cases where a person claims ESA without producing any medical evidence, is refused benefit, does not appeal (perhaps because they can’t face it), and then bad things happen (for example they go into work and become ill, or have a problem, or can’t get work, or whatever). Ideally, the case is recognised down the line as a problem because a CAB or law centre makes a new application with medical evidence and benefit is awarded.

In other words: 

1) you have you claimed and been turned down for ESA but were successful on appeal when you produced additional medical evidence 

 or 

2) were you turned down for ESA and did not appeal but reapplied with medical evidence, and were successful. 

 You can send your stories to: mentalhealthresistancenetwork@gmail.com

 Or you can write to the solicitor whose address is below. 

 This affects us all so please pass on everyone you know who may be able to help. One last point, we need these stories urgently so if you can help, please contact us as quickly as possible.

Ravi Low-Beer

Solicitor

Public Law Project

150 Caledonian Road

London N1 9RD

 Tel: 0845 543 5944

Fax: 0845 345 9254