Jessica Strode discusses how CPAG’s new project can help advisers use judicial review to challenge decisions.
What is judicial review?
An increasing number of welfare rights decisions and actions are not open to appeal and are likely to be issues that advisers’ clients face regularly. For example:
- inappropriate universal credit conditionality
- refusal of a discretionary housing payment;
- refusal of a local support scheme grant or loan;
- refusal of a universal credit budgeting advance;
- delays in providing mandatory reconsideration (MR) decisions;
- delays in making right to reside decisions;
- refusal to extend the time limit for making a mandatory reconsideration request;
- the decision to recover an overpayment of benefit;
- refusal to pay UC without a national insurance number;
- and more…
How can it help my clients?
Judicial review can be a way of challenging these otherwise unchallengeable decisions and can provide a ‘quick win’ in cases of poor decision making and delays by public bodies. It is also the route to challenge unfair or unjust, and ultimately unlawful, legislation.
CPAG’s Judicial Review Project has been set up to help welfare rights advisers identify when judicial review can help, and give them the tools and support to use it without going to court.
Do I need a lawyer?
A pre-action letter (or ‘letter before claim’) is often enough to produce a result as public authorities want to avoid ending up in court, particularly in cases where there is a clear error or failure on their part, to avoid potentially high costs or setting precedents that will bind decision making in the future. If you are challenging a delay or failure to follow the law, the legal team acting for the relevant decision maker is likely to revise the original decision/make a decision where there has been a delay or
failure rather than let it get to court, where they risk losing. It is not uncommon for the DWP response to state ‘judicial review is not an appropriate remedy in this case’, then go on to say ‘but on this occasion, we have changed the decision’, which achieves the desired outcome for your client.
How can CPAG help?
There is a collection of template pre-action letters available from the CPAG website covering issues that advisers report come up frequently. These are free to download and use.
Using letter templates, the letter before claim is straightforward and support is available from CPAG throughout the pre-action stage – ie, before the matter goes to court. CPAG can review your letters, discuss grounds with you, and advise on the merits of your case. Please also contact us if the issue your client is facing is not covered and we’ll see if we can help on an individual basis, or produce a relevant template to add to the website.
Is there a cost?
The pre-action stage is cost free – it just takes the time of you writing the pre-action letter. If the decision is not changed at the pre-action stage, your client can choose not to proceed any further with her/his claim and will have lost nothing. If your client wants to proceed with her/his claim, you will need to refer to a solicitor. Legal aid is available for judicial review and a map showing a network of solicitors who have confirmed they can take referrals is available on the CPAG website.
Please get in touch for help using the templates, if you would like to know more, or if you would like us to come and talk to your organisation about using judicial review to help your clients: [email protected]
Who can access the service?
CPAG is promoting judicial review as a tool for welfare rights advisers to support their clients. You can access the service if you are an adviser or support worker providing free advice and assistance to benefit or tax credit claimants living in England or Wales.
Please be aware that welfare rights law and guidance change frequently. Older Bulletin articles may be out of date. Use keywords or the search function to find more recent material on this topic.