Friday, 26 June 2015

GLC's Public Interest Litigation Unit gets underway in Scotland

Govan Law Centre has been working to establish a Public Interest Litigation Unit which aims to offer a new service to advice agencies, charities, community groups and campaigners across Scotland. 

We have already identified some significant test cases affecting tens of thousands of vulnerable Scots which we are currently progressing, in partnership with a national charity in Scotland.

Our Public Interest Litigation Unit (PILU) seeks to advance human rights, equality and financial inclusion through the use of strategic public interest litigation in Scotland.

We will have a particular focus on mitigating the impact of the austerity agenda, with its resultant cuts to welfare benefits and essential public services. Public interest litigation is the use of legal action which seeks to advance the cause of minority or disadvantaged groups or individuals, or which seeks to progressively advance issues of significant public concern.

PILU's remit cuts across all areas of unmet legal need (for example, public law and judicial review, disability and welfare rights, social work law, consumer credit and financial services, housing, health and education law, to name just some legal areas).

Where an advice agency, charity, community group or campaigners think they may have a potential issue/case where there is an injustice with a wider public interest we may be able to help.

Our criteria for undertaking research and litigation will include our assessments on whether there is (a) an unmet legal need (b) strategic public interest in Scotland or the UK (c) a stateable legal case and (d) whether we have sufficient funding for litigation.

We will be able to offer access to in-house solicitor advocates and a range of specialist in-house legal experience. Services will include identifying strategic legal arguments supported by case law, producing legal opinions, developing test case strategies, working with solicitor advocates and advocates in the progress of test cases, and developing and supporting wider campaign plans.

To discuss whether our PILU may be able to assist please e-mail in the first instance Deirdre Flanigan on pilu @ The PILU is headed up by our Principal Solicitor, Mike Dailly, with the support of the legal team at Govan and Govanhill Law Centres.

We are also interested to hear from any advocates, and solicitors in private practice, who may be interested in giving up some time to work with our PILU, or any other ideas that you may have to co-operate in the development of more effective strategic public interest litigation in Scotland. Please feel free to e-mail pilu @ as the first point of contact.


Thursday, 25 June 2015

Financial barriers by housing associations puts prevention of homelessness at risk in Scotland

Govan Law Centre (GLC) is concerned that some social landlords in Scotland have now introduced major financial barriers which are stopping homeless people from accessing their statutory rights to permanent accommodation.  See the Evening Times article on this issue here.

For example, it is now common place in Glasgow for a homeless person - legally entitled to an offer of a permanent tenancy from a housing association - to be told he or she will only be granted a lease by the association if they pay the first month's rent 'up-front'.  This is an insurmountable barrier for many homeless people, who are either in receipt of benefits or low wages - both of which are paid in arrears - and trying to cope with the mental and physical stress and anguish of homelessness.

GLC believes that this change in policy by some registered social landlords has and will undermine the Scottish Government and COSLA's progressive strategies to prevent homelessness in Scotland.  The policy change also demonstrates a failure by some housing associations to properly consider the needs of vulnerable people. 

GLC's Prevention of Homelessness Senior Manager, Alasdair Sharp, said: "While it is standard practice in the private rented sector for one month's rent to be required in advance; Scottish housing associations receive significant public subsidy, enjoy charitable status and numerous statutory powers".

"The reason for is, is because the Scottish Government and Parliament recognises the fundamental need for social housing in Scotland - and that fact it has a different role to play than the private sector. Social landlords enjoy a privileged position to ensure that the most vulnerable and less advantaged in our society are treated justly and fairly. GLC believes that demanding advance rent from homeless households is at odds with the ethos and role of social landlords. More worryingly, it undermines prevention of homelessness and financial inclusion strategies in Scotland".

GLC believes the Scottish Government should give consideration to using its delegated powers to issue statutory guidance (under section 5(7) of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001) to clarify that it is not acceptable to require an advance payment of rent as a condition of a person being accommodated as a homeless person; as well as putting the issue beyond any doubt by inserting an appropriate ancillary clause in the forthcoming Housing (Scotland) Bill to amend the 2001 Act accordingly.