Tag Archives: legal aid

Tories got HALF A MILLION sickness and disability benefit assessments wrong – in five years

Logical conclusion: The Tory-run DWP’s persecution of benefit claimants has been implicated in the deaths of many thousands of people.

Research has shown that new benefit assessment techniques imposed by the Conservative government have led to more than 500,000 wrong benefit assessments in the last five years.

The evidence also shows that other measures introduced by the Tories have served to hide the facts from the general public.

The research covered benefits including Employment and Support Allowance, Disability Living Allowance and its replacement benefit Personal Independence Payment.

The good news is that appeals against bogus decisions are at their highest success rate yet – the article on Teesside Live (link below) shows an increase in successes in North East England from 41 per cent in 2013 to 63 per cent in 2018. Across the UK, the success rate stands at around 76 per cent.

But the number of appeals reaching tribunals has fallen massively since the Conservatives axed legal aid for such cases – pricing such action out of benefit claimants’ capabilities.

The Labour Party has vowed to restore legal aid if it wins the election on December 12, to restore fairness to the system.

The research made it clear that the main reason for appeals against benefit decisions was “poor decision-making” and “obvious inaccuracies” by the private asessors hired to carry out interviews with claimants.

One way to challenge such issues is to record assessments, but it was recently revealed that the Tories have insisted on PIP claimants buying hugely expensive recording systems in order to do so – in what seems an obvious attempt to make it impossible. What benefit claimant has that kind of money?

Note also:

Daphne Hall, the vice chair of the National Association of Welfare Rights Advisers, said: “… The DWP tend to base their decision purely on these assessments and disregard other evidence sent in by the claimant.”

Yet this evidence is always demanded – and further evidence is always demanded when a claimant appeals.

The DWP’s claim that “appeals represent a small percentage of all benefits claim it handles” is unconvincing because of the obstacles the government has put in the way.

Since 2013, people seeking to overturn a benefits ruling must complete a written challenge within a month, known as a mandatory reconsideration. If unsuccessful, people can then appeal against the decision at tribunal.

The problem is that most people run out of money long before the initial process is concluded and are forced by financial necessity to seek an alternative benefit (usually the nightmare that is Universal Credit), even though it is entirely inappropriate.

The denial of legal aid means most people are left unable to navigate the UK’s labyrinthine legal system. For most sick or disabled claimants, it may be impossible to gather together all the information required by a tribunal without help from a legal professional.

The DWP has claimed that any suggestion of a decline in appeals due to legal aid cuts is “pure speculation”. It would, wouldn’t it?

But its further claim that only four per cent of ESA decisions and five per cent of PIP decisions are overturned at appeal rings hollow in the knowledge that this constituted more than 70 per cent of all appeals.

Doubly hollow, in fact, in the knowledge that the number of appeals fell massively after the axing of legal aid.

This is darkly humorous, too: “It says it expects the ‘highest of standards’ from assessment providers and continually monitors performance, while PIP and ESA assessments are carried out by health professionals ‘who receive a variety of training in physical and mental health conditions and have the right clinical experience’.”

Oh really? And did the PIP assessor who happened to be a physiotherapist but ended up examining a person with multiple sclerosis have “the right clinical experience”? Of course not.

Oh, and: “It says PIP was introduced to ensure mental health conditions were given the same parity as physical conditions.” Oh really? This seems strange, considering the fact the mental health conditions are not mentioned even once in the points-based system on which PIP awards are based.

As This Site has demonstrated many times before, the Tory benefit system is a mockery.

Labour has promised to reform the system, dissolving the DWP altogether and replacing it with a new Department of Social Security.

Labour also intends to pilot a Universal Basic Income scheme, in which everybody receives an amount of money deemed enough to support them – making assessment interviews unnecessary.

People with illnesses and disabilities would receive appropriate top-ups.

Considering the huge number of deaths that have been connected with bogus benefit refusals, this is to be welcomed.

So the choice for people claiming – or dependent on – benefits is between an ever-more-draconian Tory system that penalises those in genuine need – often to death, and a return to justice under Labour.

That isn’t even a choice, is it? It has to be Labour all the way.

Source: DWP: Disabled Teessiders wrongly denied benefits are increasingly beating the government at appeal – Teesside Live

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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Legal aid decision for Shamima Begum allows the Tories to give free rein to their hypocrisy

Hypocrite: Jeremy Hunt.

I can’t say I’m happy that the UK is likely to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money on legal aid for Shamima Begum’s bid to regain her citizenship.

As you know if you read my previous work on this subject, I subscribe to the belief that Ms Begum knew exactly what she was doing when she left the UK to join a terrorist organisation (Islamic State) that wants to end the way of life enjoyed by citizens of this country, and I think her plea to be returned to the UK – at our expense – was motivated only by the fact that IS appeared about to be wiped off the map.

It’s the prevailing belief across the UK but proved controversial in some parts of the Internet, where critics suggested my view was racist and ignored the grooming (wrong word – they meant radicalisation) of innocent people into supporting terrorism.

It seems to me that there’s only one way to find out who’s right – and that is to have all the relevant information aired in a court of law.

So I reluctantly support the provision of legal aid in this single case.

But I object to the Tory hypocrisy about it.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme (April 15), foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt justified the decision to grant legal aid by saying: “We are a country that believes that people with limited means should have access to the resources of the state if they want to challenge the decisions the state has made about them and, for obvious reasons, those decisions are made independent from politicians.”

That’s two falsehoods in one sentence.

The Conservatives certainly do not believe people with limited means should have access to state resources to challenge state decisions.

And they don’t want those decisions to be made independently.

The Conservative Party has cut legal aid to members of the public by 20 per cent – severely restricting access to justice.

The Tories’ Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act of 2012 cut the legal aid budget by £350 million and ended the right to legal representation in large areas of the law on divorce, child custody, clinical negligence, welfare, employment, immigration, housing, debt, benefit and education.

Amnesty International said the cuts had created a “two-tier” system that denied the poorest people access to justice.

Particularly hard-hit have been people with disabilities; the total number of disabled people granted legal aid in welfare cases has plummeted from 29,801 in 2011-12 to just 308 in 2016-17.

And this is exactly as the Tories wanted it.

Back in 2013, I wrote:

“This vindictive government of millionaires intends to make it impossible for the poorest and most vulnerable in society to seek legal redress against cruel and unwarranted decisions that will withdraw from them the money they use to keep themselves a hairs-breadth away from destitution.

“It is a decision to attack the poor for the fun of it.”

So when Jeremy Hunt tells the BBC, in all his hypocrisy, that “we are a country that believes that people with limited means should have access to the resources of the state if they want to challenge the decisions the state has made about them”, then we – the country – know he is excluding his government from that statement.


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Tory legal aid cuts have turned courts into a national shame

Mr Justice Bodey said he had sometimes had to cross-examine witnesses on litigants’ behalf [Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA].

This Writer has published many times on the national scandal that is the Conservatives’ removal of support for legal advocacy in our courts.

It has turned legal debate at hearings from expert discussion into farce, and justice into a thing of the past.

Fair play to judges like Mr Justice Bodey, but it is not their job to act as advocates for either side, let alone both.

How is justice served by this scurrilous and grubby Tory money grab?

One of the most senior family court judges has warned about the impact of legal aid cuts and said it was “shaming” to preside over cases in which individuals are forced to represent themselves.

Speaking at a ceremony to mark his retirement, Mr Justice Bodey explained how he sometimes had to help litigants in person by cross-examining witnesses on their behalf.

His comments highlight dismay among the judiciary about the Ministry of Justice’s slow progress towards reviewing the effect of the 2012 Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (Laspo) Act.

The legislation removed more than £350m from the legal aid budget and ended the right to legal representation in large areas of the law on divorce, child custody, clinical negligence, welfare, employment, immigration, housing, debt, benefit and education.

Last year, Amnesty International said the cuts were far worse than anticipated and had created a “two-tier” system that denied the poorest people access to justice.

The family courts have been the worst-affected part of the justice system. More than a third of family cases involve litigants who are unrepresented on both sides.

Source: Senior judge warns over ‘shaming’ impact of legal aid cuts | Law | The Guardian


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Labour demands the restoration of legal aid and an enforceable right to justice

Legal aid campaigners demonstrating in Westminster in 2013, when the cuts came into effect [Image: Alamy Stock Photo].

Jeremy Corbyn is to be congratulated for his sense of timing.

The day after it was revealed that the Conservative Party has cut legal aid to members of the public by 20 per cent – severely restricting access to justice for the poor – he has released a report demanding justice for all.

And the report has been helmed by Lord Bach, who spoke so eloquently against the Tory policy in a debate This Site reported, years ago.

An additional £400m a year should be spent restoring access to a more generous system of legal aid, according to a Labour-backed report which calls for a legally enforceable right to justice.

The two-year-long review, led by the former justice minister Lord Bach, launches an alternative vision of equality before the law and condemns austerity policies that have imposed a “disproportionate” share of cuts on the legal system.

Commissioned by Jeremy Corbyn and launched on the eve of the Labour party conference, the study focuses criticism on the coalition government’s Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (Laspo) Act 2012, which severely restricted eligibility and the scope of legal support.

Source: Labour-backed report calls for more generous legal aid system | Law | The Guardian


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Tories will be celebrating after figures show they are denying justice to the poor

Blind justice: Now, thanks to the Tories, it is also deaf to the appeals of the poor.

It is exactly as This Writer warned, back in 2013.

In an article in February of that year, I wrote: “This vindictive government of millionaires intends to make it impossible for the poorest and most vulnerable in society to seek legal redress against cruel and unwarranted decisions that will withdraw from them the money they use to keep themselves a hairs-breadth away from destitution.

“It is a decision to attack the poor for the fun of it.”

Would you like to know why?

Because, according to Lord Bach, who was quoted in the article: “This is not likely to be a saving at all in the end.

“The state… will eventually have to pick up the pieces when things get much worse than they need to. How can the Minister or any government justify this either in terms of common decency, which should appeal to this House and normally does, or even under the rule of law?”

The Conservatives must be delighted.

They have succeeded in depriving the poor of access to justice, meaning that they have succeeded in perverting the justice system to serve the whims of the rich, allowing them to exploit the poor and vulnerable without fear of prosecution for it.

British justice is no longer blind; it is deaf and dumb as well.

Ministers have admitted that the number of legal aid providers across England and Wales have been cut by 20% in just five years, removing a lifeline for people facing family break-up, housing problems or challenges with benefits assessments.

The Law Society warned that hidden behind the figures, which were obtained from government by the Labour party, were hundreds of thousands of people missing out on much-needed support.

Justice minister Sam Gyimah published statistics that showed a dramatic decline in legal providers across all regions of the country – with Wales showing the largest drop of 29%. The figures were also high in the south-west (28%), the north-west (27%) and Merseyside (24%).

Shadow justice minister Gloria De Piero, who obtained the figures through a parliamentary written question, said: “How much you earn shouldn’t make a difference to whether you can get legal advice on a bad landlord or a protection order against an abuser, but it’s clear that the government’s cuts to legal aid are making it harder for people to access justice.”

Source: Number of legal aid providers falls 20% in five years, figures show | Law | The Guardian


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Do you know the horrifying facts about your own MP?

150319RogerWilliams

Don’t let the appearance of serious concern fool you – Roger Williams has done more harm than good in the last five years. Can you say that your MP hasn’t?

You can tell there’s an election on the way when the dreaded Liberal Democrat Block Graph appears in your letterbox.

“Only Roger Williams MP and the Lib Dems can stop the Tories here in Brecon & Radnorshire!” today’s leaflet screamed, while the graph pointed to a 10 per cent turnout for Labour (highlighted in orange – isn’t that the Lib Dems’ colour?) from 2010 to illustrate its point.

But 2010 was a long time ago. Since then, Roger has betrayed us all in Parliamentary votes many times.

Are you upset about the funding cuts to local government services? Roger voted for those cuts.

Struggling to pay your council tax? Roger voted strongly to make councils responsible for helping people pay – and for reducing the amount spent on that support.

Are you unemployed, sick or disabled? Roger voted strongly for cuts to welfare benefits, and for the uprating cap that means benefits don’t rise in line with prices.

He voted against investing public money in guaranteed jobs for young people who have spent a long time out of work.

He voted to increase VAT, but not to increase taxes for the immensely rich – and he fully supported cutting the rate of corporation tax, so rich firms became even richer.

Remember the bankers who caused the financial crisis? Roger voted against clawing back money from them. He refused to support the bankers’ bonus tax.

Remember the botched privatisation of the Royal Mail? Roger fully supported it.

He voted very strongly in favour of ending financial support for people aged 16-19 in training and further education.

He voted very strongly in favour of restricting access to justice so that only the rich can get a fair hearing in court, by restricting the scope of Legal Aid – and he voted for the creation of so-called ‘secret courts’.

He is in favour of the waste of money known as Police and Crime Commissioners, against restricting rises in rail fares, very strongly for selling off England’s state-owned forests and against green energy.

Oh – and he voted for the Bedroom Tax too.

He also voted very strongly in favour of the Tories’ creeping privatisation of the National Health Service.

His leaflet states: “The Tories want to cut pay for Llandrindod Wells’ nurses and teachers. Who can stop them?

Not Roger Williams, obviously. His record shows he has been cheering them on.

This writer actually helped vote Roger Williams into his Parliamentary seat, back in 2001. Admittedly it was a tactical choice, to make sure that the constituency did not go to a Conservative candidate.

Now I know that, given the chance, Roger won’t act in the best interest of the people, but in those of whoever gives him his orders that day.

But never mind my MP – how has yours behaved? You can find out on theyworkforyou.com

What you discover may surprise you!

And Llandrindod Wells’ nurses and teachers?

I would rather rip Roger’s throat out with my own teeth than make him responsible for their pay and conditions.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Tory legal aid cuts may have fatally undermined access to justice

legal Aid

Labour’s Sadiq Khan has admitted that he cannot find the cash to reverse the cuts to legal aid inflicted by Conservative Justice Secretary (and legal ignoramus) Chris ‘Failing’ Grayling.

Grayling has forced the legal aid budget down by £600 million, in the face of huge opposition from lawyers, making it much harder for people who don’t have huge amounts of money to defend themselves if accused of a crime. People who do have such funds – the abominably rich and career criminals – will, of course, be able to pay for their defence and escape justice.

In short, Grayling has ensured that criminals will go free while the innocent are jailed.

Sacked: Dominic Grieve's reservations about Legal Aid cuts put him at adds with the Coalition government; it seems his concern over a planned attack on human rights led to his sacking.

Sacked: Dominic Grieve’s reservations about Legal Aid cuts put him at adds with the Coalition government; it seems his concern over a planned attack on human rights led to his sacking.

He has also ensured that a future Labour government will not be able to undo the damage – at least, not immediately. Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan has said Labour could not reinstate the money cut from legal aid by Grayling, but he did say Labour intends to make it easier for victims of domestic violence to obtain support from a lawyer.

“I speak to lawyers who say they have clients who come in to see them, say they have suffered abuse and are told they have to provide evidence,” he told The Guardian.

“The clients often leave the office and never return. That worries me. So I’m looking at what we can do to tackle this. If there was one legal aid change to reverse, this would be the one.”

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‘Failing Grayling’ could cost the Tories hundreds of thousands of votes – Left Foot Forward

Almost where he belongs: But Injustice Minister Chris Grayling should be behind bars - not in front of them.

Almost where he belongs: But Injustice Minister Chris Grayling should be behind bars – not in front of them.

According to Left Foot Forward: 82 per cent of people in the legal sector say they would be less likely to vote Conservative in the general election if justice secretary Chris Grayling is not removed from his post.

The poll was conducted by new social networking site www.mootis.co.uk which focuses on the legal services sector. Many of the 350,000 people working in this sector are traditional Tory voters.

Grayling was defeated at least seven times in the courtroom last year, over policies aimed at reducing compensation for asbestos victims, cutting legal aid and banning books in prison… [his] career has been marked by controversies, including a scandal over expenses claims and a botched set of statistics on violent crime. In 2010 he was named ‘Bigot of the Year’ by gay rights charity Stonewall after he was recorded saying that B&B owners should have the right to bar gay couples.

Grayling is the first Lord Chancellor in 440 years who is not a trained lawyer. Mootis Chairman Bill Braithwaite QC said that it was clear that the vast majority of legal sector workers ‘are fed up of Grayling and are prepared to turn their back on the Conservatives if he remains as Justice secretary’.

Hilary Meredith, CEO of Hilary Meredith Solicitors Ltd in London and Wilmslow said: “It is time for failing Grayling to go. He is the most inept Justice secretary in living memory. The vast majority of lawyers would accept that cuts needed to be made to the legal aid bill but the ham-fisted way in which he has gone about his business has made a mockery of our legal system.”

Meanwhile, former Tory MP Jerry Hayes has also laid into the Justice secretary over his attempts to limit access to judicial review. In an astonishing attack, Hayes described Grayling as “a s*** which will have to be flushed” after the election.

Read the rest of the article on Left Foot Forward.

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Clegg the Innocent – Diary of a Benefit Scrounger

Zliberaldemocrats

Sue Marsh published this last week but it is worth highlighting as it shows up the Liberal Democrats for what they are. You can read the full article on Diary of a Benefit Scrounger but here’s a quick summary:

Never has there been a better example of naive little fishes swimming in a vast, Machiavellian pond than Nick Clegg’s “Orange Bookers”.

It’s easy now to forget just how shocking and incomprehensible we all found even the concept of a Tory/LibDem coalition. To forget those 5 surreal days our democracy was in hiatus, holding it’s breath while just 4 men decided the future of our countries behind a locked door. For 5 days and 5 nights, Cameron, Osborne, Alexander and Clegg hammered out their agreement. A vacuum where one day, history would be.

In fact, Vox Political believes Rob Wilson, Tory MP for Reading East, who reckons the Coalition was in fact agreed in March 2010, two whole months before the general election.

After 29 million, 691 thousand, 380 people had voted, in fact they may as well not have bothered. The manifestos they thought they had voted for were discarded along with student trust and the last drop of belief in our political system. The party of civil liberties was artfully convinced to give them up for the promise of a few tempting beans.

Clegg… came out having ceded to Osborne’s right wing economic strategy, with the promise of a referendum on AV that was dependent on boundary changes that would see the Tories gain an almost indefinite majority in the commons, tripling tuition fees and supporting a welfare reform bill that would throw all but the most fortunate to the wolves.

Almost every policy decision for the next 5 years was decided in that room, by those 4 men. Since then, each time democracy has tried to object, she has been silenced with either bribery, dishonesty or the Whip. From using financial privilege to overturn Lord’s amendments and increasing government surveillance measures, to threatening the BBC and deleting old speeches from the internet.

They ripped up disability living allowance and replaced it with personal independence payments in that room, agreeing to slash a random 20% of people with disabilities from the budget – it was in neither manifesto. They awarded themselves 5 years of power with virtually no possibility of challenge the very day they left the room.

Nothing has demoralised me more than watching previously centre left politicians with apparently, well, Liberal values, file into those lobbies, one by one, in support of slashing payments for disabled children, selling off our NHS in piecemeal chunks and slashing legal aid.

What disgusted me, was being assured through it all that the Lib Dems had somehow stopped the worst excesses of the Tories. I have found myself living in a country that has allowed sick and disabled people to die in hunger and despair and they dare speak to me of mitigation?

Now, we start to see the predictable sight of the little fishes trying to swim like mad away from the shark.

But it’s too late to pretend they’re in the wrong pond now. 

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The lord chancellor is dismantling the rule of law – kittysjones

grayling

“Ministers keep using the mantra that their proposals are to protect the most vulnerable when, quite obviously, they are the exact opposite. If implemented their measures would, far from protecting the most vulnerable, directly harm them. Whatever they do in the end, Her Majesty’s Government should stop this 1984 Orwellian-type misuse of language.”  – Lord Bach, discussing the Legal Aid Bill.Source: Hansard, Column 1557, 19 May, 2011.

Kitty S Jones, who started her article with the quotation above, contined: “Chris Grayling has been caught out again by the high court, this time for trying to protect insurance companies from people who have only a couple of years to live.Tomorrow he will try to scrap legal protections available to British citizens from the European Convention of Human Rights. It is a damning charge sheet. What we are witnessing is a full scale assault against the rights of citizens and an attempt to bolster the powers of the state and private companies. And it is being conducted by the lord chancellor himself.

“These were the victims he picked: mesothelioma sufferers. People who inhaled asbestos, usually through work. It is a horrible disease. From the point of diagnosis you usually have two years to live. That is why the House of Lords exempted them from the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (Laspo).

“This legislation forced people winning compensation to pay up to 25% of it in costs. It’s supposedly intended to address those personal injury claims you see on daytime TV.

“But mesothelioma is not a typical personal injury claim. Sufferers have two years to live, through no fault of their own except for doing their job. So Section 48 of the bill exempted them from the payback requirement until the lord chancellor had conducted a review.

“But he did not conduct a review. He brought in what the Ministry of Justice later pretended was a consultation. It wasn’t.”

You get the idea. Read the rest in the article.

Ms Jones moves on to the Tories proposed Bill of Rights: “Grayling is preparing tomorrow to unveil Tory plans to scrap Britain’s human rights laws. As published here, the plans would repeal the Human Rights Act and break the formal link between the European Court of Human Rights and British law. Its judgement would now be treated as advisory and need to be approved by parliament.

“Let’s be clear what the human rights attack really is. It is not about euroscepticism or common sense or any of the other justifications they are using. It is about scrapping legal protections against the state.

“Grayling has tried to take legal aid from the poorest and most vulnerable, in a move branded contrary to the very principle of equality under the law. He turned legal aid into ‘an instrument of discrimination‘.

“He has tried to dismantle a vital legal protection available to the citizen – judicial review – which has been used to stop him abusing his powers again and again.

“He has tried to restrict legal aid for domestic abuse victims, welfare claimants seeking redress for wrongful state decisions, victims of medical negligence, for example.

“And now he wants to take away citizens’rights to take their case to the European court.

“His every action is intent on tearing up British legal protections for citizens and massively bolstering the powers of the state.”

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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