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Keep in touch the Centre‘s work during the Covid crisis by reading our latest newsletter May/June 2020 Newsletter and regular news updates here on how we are helping local residents get access to justice.

 

CRAMPED AND UNSAFE IN COVID LOCKDOWN

Let’s face it. Finding suitable accommodation for vulnerable and desperate people is really difficult for Southwark Council. And even more difficult during lockdown when it’s trying to house over 170 street homeless people, many of whom have No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF).

But ‘difficult’ becomes personally impossible if you’re over 70 suffering poor health, or a single mother with three children under 10. Which is why the Law. Centre recently took up their basic housing needs with the hard-pressed Council.

Almost exactly a year ago, Amy Clements at the Law Centre successfully dealt with the case of a 70+ year old suffering with heart disease amongst other issues who had No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF). She had helped him get temporary shared accommodation from the council with a care support package. He was getting help elsewhere with his immigration application. But in early April, just after the COVID lockdown, Amy thought to check back with him. The Council had slightly improved his care package, but the Home Office had still not dealt with his visa application. He was still sharing accommodation with several people, and given his age and health now badly fearing for his safety.

Separately Amy recently advised a single mother of three young children, one with learning difficulties, who had recently had a NRPF restriction removed by the Home Office. They could now get help with their housing costs; but nothing like enough to find a suitable private rental. And impossible during lockdown.

So when Amy spoke to the mother all four were in a single room in a house shared with other families.

In both cases, Amy worked with Sally Causer - the Law Centre’s Director - to try and find a solution by talking to the Council’s NRPF team on behalf of the clients. Not easy when working from home on makeshift desks, and unable to meet clients. But whilst they found some Council understanding, getting even halfway suitable alternative accommodation seemed too difficult.

So Amy resorted to legal action; a pre-action judicial review letter for the 70+ year old, and a S 202 Housing Act (1996) Review for the family. Within the month, this achieved what the clients had found impossible. Both have now been moved into self-contained accommodation by the Council. The family is no longer cramped in one room, and the NRPF client now feels much safer.

The Prime Minister recently told a parliamentary committee that he was unaware of the impact of NRPF on families, subsequently dismissing it as a ‘term of art’. 

 It’s not so easily dismissed by those living in poverty. Nor by Councils. It puts a real strain on their budgets and their officers. Ideally Home Office policies and practice should change. But until they do, these two cases show that with determination we can still make some things possible for people facing some very harsh realities.

 

 Working together for a UK pensioner with a £27,000 NHS bill

The COVID lockdown started just after 'AGE UK - Lewisham and Southwark' referred to us the case of a stroke victim facing a hospital bill totaling £27,000. Aged 82, and a long time UK citizen who came to the UK from Guyana over 50 years ago, the bill was roughly equivalent to 2 years of his disposable income. Income from pensions that he had saved through to his retirement at about age 70. 

His income was nothing like enough to pay the bill, but too high to get any legal aid to challenge the hospital trust's decision. Could the Law Centre help?

Kamla Adiseshiah was determined to fight the Trust's decision. Their view was that the stroke victim was not ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK since he had recently been spending part of each year in Guyana during the colder UK months, to help manage his arthritis.

Without legal aid, Kamla had to find pro bono help in a hurry. With a tight Judicial Review timetable she needed a barrister as well as other lawyers to help take statements and manage the specialist IT required to submit to the court during the COVID lockdown. 

Within days, despite people being away from their offices, she had assembled a team of five lawyers. Nicola Braganza, Barrister, of Garden Court Chambers signed on with no certainty of getting costs; and Olivia Clark, Louisa Soper and Eilidh Moncrieff of DLA Piper offered their services for free. But Kam still had a lot of work to do to make the case for the client still being considered ordinarily resident in the UK. 

Kam's team met the court deadline with less than an hour to spare. Only then did the hospital trust really start to reconsider its decision. After detailed negotiation, it finally accepted that the client was ordinarily resident in the UK, even though he spent part of each year outside of the UK.  The Trust withdrew the bill and paid his legal costs.

This result has saved the family a bill of almost £27,000 and all the worry that goes with such a debt. Above all, it has left them feeling that justice has finally been done in a country which their father made his home over 50 years ago.

 

Brexit  -  https://www.southwark.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/brexit-guidance/southwark-and-brexit

 Southwark Law Centre is running a project to support vulnerable European Economics Area(EEA) nationals and their family members to make complex applications to the EU Settlement Scheme. We offer second tier advice by phone and email 5 days a week to advisers working with vulnerable EEA clients, and we can accept referrals for vulnerable and complex cases. 

Organisations can contact our EU Settlement Project team either:

  • By Phone on 02077322008 - Our lines are open Monday to Friday from 9:30am to 1pm and 2pm to 5:30pm. Please ask to speak to the duty Immigration Solicitor.

 

  • By email: EUSSproject@southwarklawcentre.org.uk  - If you email us please include the client's name, Nationality, How long they have been in the uk? and a brief summary of their vulnerabilities and the complexities of the case.

 

For more information, please visit our Immigration page - http://www.southwarklawcentre.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=50&Itemid=62

 

 If you are an individual in Southwark looking for advice, we apologise that we can only accept clients by referral from other organisations. If you need only basic assistance with online application, Southwark Council has a drop in service for adroid device users. This is available Monday to Thursday 9am to 11am and 1pm to 3pm. The service is located at 34 Peckham Road, London, SE5 8QA.

A number of other organisations are able to help with less complex cases.

These can be found at https://www.gov.uk/goverment/publications/eu-settlement-scheme-community-support-for-vulnerable-citizens/list-of-organisations 

 

More information can also be found on Southwark Councils website https://www.southwark.gov.uk

 

 Southwark Law Centre Newsletters

Please find our current newsletter herewith: May/June 2020

 

Southwark Law Centre - Previous Members' Newsletters

Spring 2020

January 2020

Summer 2019

Winter 2018

Summer 2018

Autumn 2017

Summer 2017

Summer 2016

Spring 2016

Winter 2015/16

 

 

 Privacy Notice

Any personal data you give to the Law Centre, its staff and Volunteers for the purposes of seeking advice will be confidentially and securely stored in accordance with our data retention policy (a copy of which is available on request).  It will be held by the Law Centre as Data Controller and will only be used for the purposes of considering and where appropriate conducting your case. It will not be disclosed to any third parties and will be securely deleted in accordance with our data retention policy.  You have a right to be told what data we hold about you (though you are likely to have provided us with that data) and to have it corrected if it is wrong.  You may have other rights under the data protection legislation and you can find out more about these rights from the Information Commissioner’s Office at www.ico.org.uk

Presentation to Forum for Equalities and Human Ri