With limited resources and defined aims and objectives, it is important for PLP to identify as closely as possible the criteria we use to decide which cases to take on. We use our casework strategy and current casework priorities to decide in each case.
The cases that PLP brings fall within two categories – cases which we bring as representatives, and cases that we bring as an organisation, sometimes as a claimant, and sometimes as an intervener (in proceedings which raise important points concerning access to justice where the court grants us permission to be heard).
All our casework seeks primarily to advocate for the interests of those we represent, and also – where possible – to develop the law in accordance with our remit. Cases which affect the rights and duties of people other than the parties are sometimes called 'test' cases. PLP is particularly interested to become involved in 'test' cases where the legal merits of the case and the likely consequences of a successful outcome further our charitable aims. We have knowledge and experience of legal aid and alternative mechanisms for funding public interest litigation to enable 'test' case litigation to be brought where appropriate.
To maximise the good use of our limited resources in accordance with our aims and objectives, it is helpful for PLP to develop a casework strategy from time to time, against which we can take decisions about whether to accept instructions in a particular case. Our casework strategy does not prevent us from taking on cases that fall outside it, but is an indication of where our particular interests are at any time.
One of our current focuses is on minimising the detrimental impact of public sector cuts and unfair administrative decision-making on socially disadvantaged people, in light of the Government’s sweeping series of public sector reforms, many of which are likely to impact significantly on the disadvantaged groups that are PLP’s constituency base. Of particular concern to PLP is the decision to take large areas of social welfare law out of the scope of civil legal aid altogether, subject to the operation of an ‘exceptional funding’ scheme in cases where legal aid is necessary for a fair hearing. This will restrict access to legal advice and to the courts, and make it more difficult for disadvantaged groups to access the legal protections they may be entitled to. We have a project on exceptional funding and helping people get access to funding through it, details of which are here. Our How to get advice section of the website may also be helfpul.
Other areas where we have an active interest include welfare benefits (including the processes by which the DWP assess ESA claimants’ fitness to work) and support for migrant families. We are also looking carefully at legal issues arising out of the introduction of Universal Credit.
You can read about our current and recent cases here.
Nick Hildyard, Corner House Research
PLP has been in the vanguard of constructing the system of public law that now exists in Britain and opening the way for citizens and non-governmental organisations to use the administrative courts. Wrongs have been righted decision-making improved. Without PLP, justice in Britain would be much the poorer.