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End of mandatory gateway for face-to-face discrimination advice

From 15th of May 2020 the mandatory telephone gateway for discrimination advice will be removed.

This is great news as it will allow those who require advice and assistance with discrimination matters to approach Hodge Jones & Allen directly for advice without first having to access the mandatory gateway.

Why is this great news?

Prospective clients will no longer be required to first contact the Civil Legal Advice telephone gateway service, a national advice line for England & Wales and paid for by Legal Aid, before they can obtain face to face advice about their case.

The Civil Legal Advice assess if the client is financially eligible for advice, that the problem can be covered by legal aid and then determine if the advice will be delivered remotely or face-to-face.

The service is available for all aspects of civil legal advice, but it has been mandatory for discrimination case, unless the client is an “exempt person”.

The telephone gateway has been difficult for clients to use, particularly for those who are disabled and have communication difficulties and they have often been deterred from seeking advice as the process has been so laborious and off-putting. This middle-man assessor has now been removed making the process of accessing advice much simpler and easier.

Why the change?

The changes brought about in by Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 were comprehensively reviewed by the Government and evidence was collected from stakeholders. In light of this, the Ministry of Justice published the Legal Support Plan, where they agreed to remove the mandatory telephone gateway for discrimination cases and reinstate face-to-face advice.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission were one of the key stakeholders to provide evidence about the mandatory gateway. Their report found that people were facing unnecessary barriers to justice and vulnerable individuals were not being supported to bring discrimination claims. It also examined the effectiveness of the mandatory telephone gateway and made recommendations to government.

Shockingly, the report found the following:

  • initial legal aid for discrimination cases dropped by nearly 60% after the telephone service was introduced
  • despite the telephone service dealing with over 18,000 discrimination cases since 2013, only 16 people were referred for face-to-face advice between 2013 and 2016
  • no-one was referred for face-to-face advice between 2016 and 2017
  • the telephone service may not always be accessible for disabled people and those with limited English language skills
  • despite over 6,000 calls to the service in 2013 to 2014, only four cases were recorded as receiving an award from a court or tribunal
  • very few cases receive legal aid to go to court

If you believe that you have been discriminated against based on age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation, please do contact one of our specialists at Hodge Jones & Allen on 0330 822 3451 or request to call back.