Category: News

Liverpool law firm Astraea Linskills secures apology from Google to MP at the High Court

Astraea Linskills director James Roochove has secured a High Court apology from Google on behalf of his client Lee Anderson, MP for Ashfield.
Google Ireland Limited (“Google”) today issued a formal apology in the High Court to Lee Anderson the MP for Ashfield, his family and his constituents for an advert displayed on its Adsense platform.

Mr Anderson became aware through a colleague in Parliament that an advert was appearing on the Guido Fawkes website that linked to a fringe campaign group which featured a picture of Mr Anderson next to the headline ‘MP Office protect paedophile’. Mr Anderson instructed Astraea Linskills and Google has accepted that the advert was untrue and has apologised to Mr Anderson for the distress it has caused him and his family.

Lee Anderson MP said after the Court hearing:

“I am pleased that Google has publicly apologised in Court and put an end to this very difficult and distressing time for me and my family. I do however think it is a real shame that it has taken so long for this to happen and that I had to get lawyers involved and threaten Google with legal action to get here.

I remain concerned that Google’s services have been used by my desperate political opponents to smear my good name to thousands of people. I understand there are people who will sink to the lowest levels to undermine me and my work, but to see them being able to use a company like Google to amplify their bile to a massive audience is difficult to comprehend.

The regulation of internet advertising is a really important issue that needs further consideration in Parliament. Whether it’s defamatory adverts or bitcoin scams, we need to make it clear to the big Internet companies making millions in profits from advertising online that they are responsible for the content they choose to display.

I’m really glad Google decided to apologise and acknowledge its failings, but I’m an MP and that took many months and the involvement of specialist lawyers. My constituents and many others will not be in such a fortunate position, but they need to be protected.

Internet companies are happy to take money to display adverts, we need to make it clear they take full legal responsibility for the content of those adverts as well.

I would like to thank my legal team, James Roochove and Amanda Kearsley at the law firm Astraea Linskills and William Bennett QC and Felicity McMahon from 5RB chambers. They have been amazing and I would not have got this unprecedented apology in the High Court without them.

The terms of settlement are confidential, but include the payment of Mr Anderson’s reasonable legal costs and a joint statement in open court, in which Google accepted that the Ad was untrue, that it should not have been displayed as it did not comply with the Google Ads policies, and that Mr Anderson suffered distress.

Google apologised for the distress caused to Mr Anderson, his family, and for any loss of confidence his constituents have suffered in him as a result of seeing the advert.

James Roochove, Director of Astraea Linskills, said :-

“It’s not every day that Google apologises to someone in the High Court or admits it got something wrong, but Lee Anderson is not a person who tends to back down, even when facing off against one of the world’s largest companies. This case touches on huge questions about internet advertising and I am sure it will focus minds in Parliament, not least as any MP could be the next politician on the receiving end of what happened to Lee. The last thing our democracy needs is for false and defamatory adverts to be displayed to thousands of people online. It can give fringe groups access to huge audiences and taking legal action against those fringe groups can be an unedifying prospect. Internet advertising companies need to do more. In my opinion, if it is crystal clear to these companies that they are legally responsible for each and every advert they decide to display it would be a very good start.”

John Paul

Astraea Linskills relocates to Castle Street

Boutique Law firm acquires prestigious offices in the heart of the commercial district 
One of Liverpool’s fastest growing  Law firms, Astraea Linskills, has relocated to prestigious new offices at 14 Castle Street, right in the heart of the city’s commercial district.   The boutique law firm have purchased the first-floor offices giving them 1,850 sq ft of prime location space and more than doubles the previous offices they occupied at Avenue HQ, St. Paul’s Square.
The stunning new offices are set amongst some of the city’s most architecturally impressive buildings and are a stones throw from the neighbouring historic Town Hall.   Newly refurbished, with state of the art, cutting edge technology and comfortably housing 24 staff desks with room to grow, as well as  a large  well-equipped private board room that can seat up to 10 people , the premises are the next step in the progressive law firms expansion plans.
The Legal 500 practice has seen caseloads across all departments increase in excess of 100% over the past 18 months and the move will allow them to better serve their local, national and international client base.  Astraea Linskills offer an expansive range of services ranging from all aspects of regulatory investigations, criminal, civil and commercial litigation as well as commercial property law, family, private client, electoral, welfare benefit, motoring and licencing law.
John-Paul Dennis, Chief Executive, said “This move is the next stage of strategic growth for Astraea Linskills and allows the company to build on the solid foundations that the Directors have laid to this point.  It will provide our talented team with a welcoming, comfortable and productive workspace.  We look forward to becoming part of the bustling Castle Street community as we execute the next phase in the companies expansion plans”
Astraea Linskills have offices in Liverpool and London.
www.a-l.law
Liverpool Office:  2nd Floor, 4 St. Paul’s Square, Liverpool.  L3 9SJ –  Telephone 0151 236 2224
London Office:     8 St James’s Square, London, SW1Y 4JU – Telephone  0330 128 1660

Matt Reynolds

“Totting up”, penalty points disqualification from driving and exceptional hardship

When you accept fixed penalties or are convicted of road traffic offences such as speeding, using a mobile phone while driving or contravening a red light, you are aware that penalty points are endorsed on your driving licence.
Once you commit an offence which would take the total of points for offences committed within a three-year period to twelve, you are classed as a “totter” and will lead to you falling for consideration of a six-month disqualification from driving (if you have not been disqualified for 56 days or more within the preceding 3 years.)
The consequences of a driving ban can of course be catastrophic and life changing, as many of us rely on our ability to drive to manage our day-to-day activities, family life, businesses, and employment.
However, a totting ban in those circumstances can be avoided if the Magistrates were to accept that losing your licence would cause exceptional hardship to you or those around you. This is a legal argument that is made to the Court, and it is for the defence to prove such an argument on the balance of probabilities i.e., “so it is more likely than not” that exceptional hardship would be caused.
Parliament has not defined what “exceptional” hardship is. The Courts acknowledge that some hardship will be caused to all drivers who receive a disqualification. A driving ban can for example make necessary travel logistically more complex, time consuming or more expensive. The approach of the Courts is that this is simply an inevitable part of the punishment for a driver who has committed a series of offences,
To be successful, the driver must show something more than that – it must be a disproportionate level of hardship and we have to demonstrate that there are no measures that could be put in place that would mitigate that hardship. The key element here is to corroborate anything that we assert, as the prosecution will have the opportunity to question you on what we have asserted. Unless we raise a watertight argument, the prosecutor will seek to suggest to the court that the difficulties a ban would cause are surmountable.
Experience has taught me that the Magistrates are impressed if you can support what you are saying with for example diaries/schedules that demonstrate the frequency and location of the journeys that you maintain require you to have a driving licence and with supporting letters from other parties involved who can corroborate what you say.   Just think of it in terms of this – the court won’t just take your word for it that exceptional hardship will be caused.  We need to make it absolutely clear and compelling.   If we can do that then in my experience, the prosecution and magistrates will often have no questions for you in cross examination.
Exceptional hardship examples include:
– a driving ban would cause you to lose your job and then you would not be able to pay your bills and support your family.
– your driving licence allows you to provide necessary support and care to elderly or infirm relatives and no one else is available to perform those duties if you are disqualified.
– you are a business owner and wouldn’t be able to travel to win new contracts and visit clients at short notice, often in multiple locations in one day.
This is by no means an exhaustive list and what can be described as “exceptional” hardship is often relative to the individual. I will be able to provide advice that is tailored to you during our first conversation.
Exceptional hardship arguments are easily the most common type of motoring case I have undertaken over 20 years.   I am always happy to have a free initial consultation with you to assess whether there would be any merit in making this argument and will advise you on my view of the prospects of success. Integrity and reputation are fundamental and if I believe that you have no chance of avoiding a driving ban, I will tell you at the out-set, before you incur unnecessary legal fees.

Astraea Linskills appoint Chief Executive & Head of Private Clients

One of Liverpool’s fastest growing legal firms, Astraea Linskills, has appointed John Paul Dennis as Chief Executive and Head of Private Client.   The legal practice, which also has offices in London,  founded in 2016 by Nama Zarroug,  acquired leading criminal law firm, Linskills,  in February 2020.
John Paul, 42,  brings with him a vast wealth of experience with over 17 years specialising in all areas of tax planning, trust, Wills and probate matters, providing guidance to business owners and high net worth individuals on succession planning, lifetime and post-death tax planning. Formerly head of the Liverpool Wills Trusts and Estates team at Weightmans LLP and previously a partner at Kirwans Liverpool.
On his appointment John Paul said “As Chief Executive I am looking forward to driving the strategic direction of the firm, working with the board to ensure organic and sustainable growth as well as focussing on compliance and regulatory outcomes.  As Head of Private Client, I will be looking to introduce a new service to the firm, it’s clients and contacts and to develop an efficient cutting edge Private Client and Wealth advisory service to protect clients, their families and successive generations.  I am delighted to join such a dynamic team and excited at the challenges which lie ahead and and I am looking forward to growing the business and expanding our portfolio”
Founding Director, Nama Zarroug said “We are delighted to welcome John Paul  as Chief Executive and Head of Private Client at this exciting time for Astraea Linskills.  As a Board of Directors we have grown the business substantially, acquired one of Liverpool’s leading criminal practices and more than doubled the number of employees in recent years.  John Paul joins us as we plan to relocate our practice to bigger premises on Castle Street in the heart of the city centre and we could not be more thrilled to welcome him to our talented team.”
John Paul lives in Wavertree with his partner, has one son and is also Chair of Trustees at Nugent Care, one of the regions oldest and most diverse charities.
Matt Reynolds

A festive tipple can cost you more than a hangover

Leading motoring specialist warns ‘Don’t drink and drive’
Leading motoring specialist Matthew Reynolds, from Astraea Linskills warns drivers of the catastrophic consequences a festive tipple can cause.  As winter approaches and Police Forces across the country implement their Christmas campaigns, stepping up patrols to detect those who drink and drive,  Matthew has a stark warning for those who drive whilst over the legal limit.
Since the late 70’s various drink drive initiatives have driven the casualty figures down. However, the statistics are still worryingly high.   Figures released by the Department for Transport in 2020 estimate that 240 people were killed in accidents where at least one driver/rider was over the drink drive limit and that the number of drink driving casualties of all severities was nearly 9000 people. By some margin, the majority of both perpetrators and casualties are men and most of those casualties are between 25 and 59, with young adults between 16 and 24 over-represented in the figures.
Whilst Matthew’s advice is “never drink and drive”, he is also keen to highlight some situations where people may unwittingly create a danger on the road, risk their driving licence and even their livelihood.”
‘The morning after the night before’ – DFT figures for 2020 show that 421 drivers/riders failed a breath test or refused to provide a specimen between in the morning (between 6am-12pm).   These “morning after” drink drivers account for 12% of the total of drink drivers detected at any time of the day.  A very heavy drinking session can take 24 hours for the alcohol to be eliminated to a level when it is legal to drive. Even a bottle of wine can take over 12 hours to dissipate to a level when driving is safe. In reality, the alcohol that we consume is eliminated from our bodies at varying rates dependant on various factors such as age, gender, weight and height and whether or not you have eaten or taken medication.
Pouring your own measures can make it difficult to calculate units and volume consumed due to the generous nature of the home style free pour!  Social situations can be difficult to police in terms of alcoholic units consumed, as friends and colleagues top up glasses and any calculation becomes virtually impossible to monitor.
The pressure of the school run – getting the kids to school before work, is an area where sometimes common sense can go out of the window.  it might be a short journey with time of the essence but often insufficient hours will have passed to allow last night’s celebratory drinks to dissipate from your system.
It goes without saying that the Police will also be watching closely for people driving whilst under the influence of or illegal drugs and prescribed drugs.  While driving the day after a boozy night out can mean you are breaking the law, drugs could stay in your system at a level that puts you over the legal limit for several days.
Lack of available taxis – During the Christmas period it is notoriously more difficult to get taxis.   Post covid, with taxi driver numbers seriously depleted making hailing a cab much more difficult,  this can often be the deciding factor for people who “think they should be OK” to drive.  Plan ahead, check out your public transport routes and times or arrange for a family member or friend to collect you.  Or better still, if you plan to go out after work, don’t take your car at all and avoid the temptation
My advice is that it is practically impossible for an individual to calculate when they will be under the limit and that it safest not to drive after drinking any amount. If you are planning to enjoy a tipple or two during the festive period, don’t take a chance and risk the potential consequences.  Leave your car and use a cab or public transport. Any minimal inconvenience is far preferable to you losing your licence, your job or injuring of killing yourself or innocent third parties. It is simply not worth it.
Nama Zarroug

Leading Criminal Lawyer celebrates Black History Month

Leading Crime Lawyer and founder of Astraea Linskills, Nama Zarroug is celebrating Black History Month by reflecting and sharing her views and experiences of being a black lawyer in the modern world. 
Nama began her career at 20 in Manchester, in 2016, whilst on maternity leave with her daughter Layla, who is now 5,  Nama set up leading Legal 500 law firm Astraea Linskills.   The Criminal and Commercial litigation specialists then acquired legendary Liverpool law firm Linskills in October 2020, doubling the size of the business and marked the start of a rapid expansion programme for the progressive law firm who have offices in Liverpool and London.  The married mother of two, has an international portfolio of clients and has a reputation as one of the leading, most respected crime lawyers in the country with a defence success record to match the accolades. Nama shares her experiences in recognition of Black History Month.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
It is a time to celebrate the often marginalised success of black people and the many, many, contributions of black people.  It is also a time for reflection and to remember the sacrifices, struggles and suffering of our ancestors without whom we would not have the hard worn liberties we enjoy today.   I also like to use it as a time to remember non-black people who have been such incredible allies because they were anti-racist and who have made huge sacrifices of their own in the name of unity.
What are the challenges facing black people in the legal field?
The big one is nepotism, or not having grown up in certain circles which get you the necessary contacts to either a job or access to key individuals with the power to launch your career.  Also, forever being mistaken for the defendant at Court, even at Courts that virtually never have a black defendant!
What challenges have you faced in the industry?
Being asked to step away from a case because the client wanted a white lawyer!  This often shocks people when I tell them, but this still happens in 2021.   Also, being made to work alongside someone who openly and overtly held racist views and the failure of senior managers to properly challenge these attitudes.
What changes would you like to see made?
I would like to see a real effort amongst small and medium sized law firms to recruit on merit from communities which are grossly under-represented in the legal profession.  Currently large firms appear to be genuinely engaging on this issue, but  efforts amongst smaller firms is still not good enough in my view!
Who do you most admire?
Baroness Scotland, the first black woman QC, whom I was lucky enough to meet as a student many years ago.  She was friendly but fierce, a genuinely fearless woman, totally not intimidated by anyone or anything.   She spoke from the heart with clarity, dignity and precision – attributes I have endeavoured to replicate throughout my career.  Not only did she have a distinguished career as a lawyer and politician, but she genuinely worked hard to ensure that people like me could have a smoother ride on our own journey in the legal profession.  I will be forever grateful for her tenacity and commitment.
What is your greatest professional achievement?
Astraea Linskills!  Starting my law firm in Liverpool is something I never believed I would be brave enough to do.  I still pinch myself some days.  I cannot believe what my colleagues and I have managed to achieve in just 5 years.  I am beyond proud of where we are today and beyond excited for what lies ahead.
Jonathan McMaster

Astraea Legal Helping Landlords And Tenants Plan Post Pandemic Recovery

Ban on tenant business evictions extended until 25 March 2022
When Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Stephen Barclay, recently extended the moratorium on evicting commercial tenants for non-payment of rent until 25 March 2022, the legislation was hailed as a further lifeline to tenant businesses struggling due to the pandemic.
Since the beginning of lockdown restrictions the government have sought to protect tenant businesses adversely impacted by Coronavirus, particularly those hardest hit in sectors such as hospitality.  With the current Furlough scheme due to end in September, many businesses are struggling to plan and fund their recovery, while acknowledging and dealing with rent arrears and landlord disagreements.
Jonathan McMaster, Head of Commercial Property at Astraea Legal is advising landlord and tenant businesses who need legal advice and guidance due to the implications of the latest moratorium.
Jonathan, who specialises in landlord and tenant issues, development work, property finance and property investment said “By the time the moratorium comes to an end, it will be two years since the beginning of the pandemic.  What landlords and tenants considered reasonable at the start of the pandemic and two years down the line are two very different things.  The key for all parties is to have initial and ongoing discussions in a timely manner in order to deal with issues such as the current rent level and any rent arrears.”
Jonathan has given an insight into some of the most frequently asked questions and guidance on finding a mutually agreeable solution for landlords and tenants.
1. Can a landlord force a tenant to pay rent before the end of the moratorium?
A tenant should continue to pay its rent if it is capable of doing so.  The contractual arrangement between the landlord and the tenant continues to exist and therefore so does the requirement to pay rent under the lease.  Just because there is a moratorium currently in place on evicting a tenant does not mean that a tenant should act any differently if it is capable of doing so.  If a tenant is not able to pay its rent in full then a landlord and a tenant may wish to consider what its options are.
2. We are a tenant who is struggling to pay its rent. What options do we have?
Speak to your landlord as soon as possible. Do not avoid the issue and create problems for yourself further down the line.  A solicitor can assist you with your discussions with the landlord if required.
In the course of the pandemic we have seen landlords and tenants working with each other at this unique time.  There is the advantage for the landlord of revenue continuing to come in and certainty for the tenant on where they stand going forward.
It has been common for agreements to be made to reschedule a tenant’s rent payments or extend the length of the lease.  Whatever is agreed between the parties, be sure to document the agreement properly using legal advice.  I have seen a number of “informal” agreements which were agreed at the beginning of the pandemic unfortunately now turn into costly disputes.
3. What other restrictions are currently in place which landlords and tenants should be aware of?
In addition to the moratorium on forfeiting a lease for non-payment of rent, two other options normally available to a landlord in the event of a tenant not paying its rent are also restricted:
– The Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery (CRAR) process used by landlords will be extended also until 25 March 2022. CRAR can only be used where tenants owe at least 544 days’ principal rent; and
– The temporary ban on the use of winding-up petitions and statutory demands where the inability to pay debts is caused by COVID-19, has been extended until 30 September 2021.
4. What options remain available to a landlord with the moratorium in place?
With the above restrictions currently in place, a landlord may wish to consider one of the following options:
– Forfeiting the lease for breaches of covenant other than non-payment of rent
– Exercising a landlord break clause
– Suing the tenant
– Pursuing any guarantors
– Recourse under a Rent Deposit Deed
5. Our lease has a tenant break clause in it. We can just exercise that can’t we?
This can be a useful mechanism to assist a tenant but particular attention must be paid to the conditions in the break clause.  For example, if basic rent needs to be paid up to date and the tenant has a concession in place about the amount of rent to be paid, care must be taken to ensure that the condition has been adequately satisfied.
6. I have premises in both England and Wales. I have heard they have differing approaches.
This is correct.  The moratorium in England is scheduled to last until 25 March 2022 at present.  The moratorium in Wales is scheduled to last until 30 September 2021 at the time of writing.
If you would like expert advice to resolve any commercial property related issue, please contact Jonathan McMaster by email at JonathanMcMaster@astraealegal.com or by telephone on 0330 128 1660
Astraea Legal Team

Boutique Law Firm Astraea Legal Doubles Case Load and Triples Team During Pandemic

When boutique law firm, criminal and commercial litigation specialists, Astraea Legal acquired legendary long-established law firm Linskills in October last year, the purchase marked the start of a rapid expansion programme for the progressive law firm which has seen them grow from 7 to 24 members of staff in just over 7 months.  The new generation law firm has seen case loads across all departments increase in excess of 100% over the past seven months, whilst readapting the business operationally to cope with pandemic restrictions and lockdown guidelines, investing in technology and COVID safe operational practices to ensure business interruption was minimised and client confidence, representation and delivery services were maximised.
Astraea Legal was founded in 2016 by Nama Zarroug who was quickly joined by  fellow Director Matt Reynolds in 2017 and latterly welcomed James Roochove and Sara Perischine to the Board, along with a hand-picked team of highly experienced professionals.  Astraea Legal service clients locally, nationally, and internationally and their combined areas of expertise span services ranging from all aspects of regulatory investigations, criminal, civil and commercial litigation as well as commercial property law, family, electoral, welfare benefit and motoring and licencing law.
Nama Zarroug, Founding Director said “When we acquired Linskills last year, little could we have anticipated the extent of the rapid business growth we were about to navigate.  To triple your team and more than double your  local, regional  and international case load across our offices in Liverpool and London with  many new operational practices in place with teams who, due to COVID restrictions, were working remotely, is something myself and my fellow Directors are really proud of”.
The stresses associated with multiple lockdowns have seen huge increases in couples resorting to resolutions via the Family Courts.  Sara Perischine, Family Law Expert at Astraea Legal said “The past year has proved to be unprecedented in terms of case load with the financial pressures of lockdown having a knock on effect on divorces and separations, disruption between separated families and sadly a rise in domestic violence.   We have worked tirelessly to ensure that our clients have had the best advice and the best representation to help them navigate domestic disputes exacerbated by the pandemic.
Matt Reynolds, Director “Whilst every department has worked tirelessly in difficult circumstances we are delighted that our commercial litigation team has won a legal industry  award for ‘One to Watch’  in commercial litigation.   James Roochove, Director,  has also navigated a very busy period covering the various election processes as well as taking on a landmark case with international fashion brand Hugo Boss.  We have an exciting year ahead with an office move planned and further expansion plans in place.  We are looking to capitalise on our recent successes and continue to provide outstanding service and results for our clients”.
The future is a very bright one for Astraea Legal!
Matt Reynolds

As lockdown eases will the Astraea team be returning to the office?

…Or will working from home be an option for staff and how has our technology evolved during the past year?
Astraea Legal was already an agile, digital business prior to the pandemic. We utilised IT to allow flexible working between our office, home, court, police stations and client’s businesses.   So when the first lockdown hit, albeit things quietened down for a while, it was effectively business as usual.  However, when we acquired Linskills in October 2020, we faced the challenge of taking over a 40-year-old practice, still reliant on paper files and that didn’t have the ability for fee earners to work remotely.
It was obvious that more lockdowns were imminent and although classed as essential workers, it was imperative that we protected both our staff, our clients  and the business itself from the effects of Covid and mandatory self-isolation, while still providing an excellent level of service to our clients.  To that end, we invested heavily in IT hardware for the new team and implemented training and new systems to allow all fee earning staff to work remotely. This allowed us to conduct a great deal of court advocacy, client conferences and representation at the police station via video conferencing. That also meant that those support staff who we required to be in the office could be adequately socially distanced within that space, while able to communicate seamlessly with the rest of the team.
The use of cloud-based case management systems meant that we were able to repurpose secretarial staff to fee earning and administrative roles based from home, creating greater efficiencies. In the last 6 months we have taken on 19 new staff members, expanded into the areas of commercial and commercial property, moved offices and managed two external audits, all while increasing productivity.   Furthermore, our staff tell us that they are much happier with the current working model, that is more family friendly and cuts out unnecessary commuting.
As the lockdown eases, I expect that this mixed model of working will continue to an extent. We are extremely fortunate to have an experienced, resilient and hard-working team who have responded rapidly and positively to change.  The team  have demonstrated that they can work to a very high standard and fully service our clients, whether working from home or in the office.   I expect that subject to the needs of the business,  flexible working and in some cases, full home working will continue.
I can only imagine that if this dreadful pandemic had not happened and we had had to put in place plans to go from a paper to digital practice, invest in the IT infrastructure, repurpose staff and make changes to the firm’s culture, systems and working practices, it would have been maybe a year or two to get to  the position that we have done within a relatively short space of time in the face of Covid.  We have managed to grow our team, streamline our practices and provide what appears to be a very happy, healthy, work life balance for our team – which for Astraea Legal has to be a Covid success story.
Steven Lunt

Leading Liverpool welfare lawyer warns of mental health crisis

Steven Lunt, welfare lawyer with Astraea Legal is urging those facing welfare challenges to seek specialist assistance.
Anxiety levels among people claiming benefits are soaring with the Government still resisting claims despite the devastating effects of the pandemic, a leading Liverpool lawyer says.
Steven Lunt, a specialist lawyer at fast-growing Liverpool law firm Astraea Legal, says he and his team are dealing with not just the legal fallout from the COVID crisis, but also the massive impact on peoples’ mental health as they struggle to meet basic needs.
“We have seen people who have worked all their lives suddenly thrust into the benefits system because their job has been swept away by the pandemic,” said Steven. “That itself is a massive psychological blow. Then they have to deal with a welfare system that is geared up to resist claims. It’s no wonder anxiety levels are through the roof.”
A welfare specialist for 25 years, Steven says he has never known things to be this bad, not even following the financial crisis of more than a decade ago.   He added:  “We may get back to some form of normality this summer, but many people will face hardship for a long time to come.”
He and his Welfare Benefit Specialist Team at Astraea Legal offers expertise in a wide range of welfare issues. These include:
– Personal Independence Payment
– Employment and Support Allowance
– Disability Living Allowance
– Attendance Allowance
– Housing Benefit
– Council Tax Support
– Universal Credit
– Benefit Fraud
– Interview Under Cautions
– Pension Credit
– Child Tax Credits
– Representation at HM Court & Tribunal Service
One year on from the first COVID-19 lockdown, Steven and his colleagues at Astraea are dealing with a growing number of clients who find themselves lost in a benefits system that is designed to frustrate rather than help.
A study from the British Academy, set up last year by the Government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, has just published its initial findings and they make stark reading.   It brings together hundreds of research projects and more than 200 experts.
It warns that a failure to understand the scale of the challenges the UK faces as it looks to recover from the pandemic could lead to a significant rise in poor health and widening inequality. It urges a major investment in public services to repair the “profound social damage” caused to the economy and to people’s mental, physical and financial wellbeing.
Steven urges people in Merseyside who find they are struggling to get the help they need from the welfare system to get in touch. He explained: “We are here to help. When you are struggling to feed yourself, your family and keep a roof over your head, having to then fight the welfare system just to meet your basic needs is exhausting and demoralising.
“In March 2020, the Government did introduce a safety net for existing claimants of benefits in severe financial difficulties. But the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) continued to send claim forms to claimants to be reassessed resulting in benefits being disallowed.   It creates a climate of hopelessness.
“In the past two years, the DWP has spent more than £120m to fight disability benefit claims. However, it lost three quarters of those tribunal appeals.   With the right representation, people can extract what they need from the system.
“During the past decade of austerity we have seen sharp rises in homelessness, in child poverty, in the numbers of people using foodbanks.   The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the problem.   The British Academy report is right on the money.   We need a massive investment into not just infrastructure, but into the wellbeing of millions of people.
“In the meantime, our message to the people of Merseyside is please don’t despair.   If you find yourself bewildered by the morass of regulation of the benefits system then do reach out. We are ready and willing to offer the help you need.”