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EHRC policy to bar disabled university students from litigation funding support

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Dear Equality and Human Rights Commission,

CONTEXT: A previous FOI response has evidenced that in 2017 the EHRC informed Universities UK and other key stakeholders that it would provide litigation funding for university students making claims for disability discrimination against their universities for those cases that met the EHRC's legal criteria.

It is evidenced from documents already secured from the EHRC that access to such litigation funding support for university students was covertly withdrawn circa 2018 without any notification or consultation with Universities UK or other key stakeholders. Indeed, Universities UK, the Office of the Independent Adjudicator, and the Office for Students are still under the impression that university students suffering disability discrimination may receive litigation funding support from the EHRC. For its part, the DfE still erroneously maintains that the OIA can provide legal resolution for disability discrimination claims brought by university students, despite having received written confirmation from the OIA to the contrary. In turn, all of the involved public bodies have confirmed that they have no means of collecting statistics related to disability discrimination suffered by university students and therefore are completely unaware not just of the significant increases of discrimination but also the increase in universities abusing their own internal complaints procedures. To all intents and purposes university students have been left entirely unprotected from disability discrimination perpetrated by their universities within a complete void of regulatory scrutiny and governance.

REQUEST: Please provide sight of minutes, memoranda, policies, procedures, and any other documents that evidence the development, delivery and consultation of the EHRC's policy to focus EHRC disability discrimination litigation funding support on school children, to include any reference that directly or indirectly implies the exclusion of university students from any litigation funding support, as well as any instructions issued to reviewing lawyers or other EHRC staff members to disqualify any applications from litigation funding because of that policy even after they had met the EHRC's legal criteria, to include statistics on the volume of university students who have been denied funding because of the referenced EHRC policy.

Yours faithfully,

David Gale

Information Governance team, Equality and Human Rights Commission

Information request
Our reference: 2578544

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Dear David Gale
 
Your Freedom of Information Request
 
Thank you for your request, detailed below, which we received on 6 May
2021.
 
 "Please provide sight of minutes, memoranda, policies, procedures, and
any other documents that evidence the development, delivery and
consultation of the EHRC's policy to focus EHRC disability discrimination
litigation funding support on school children, to include any reference
that directly or indirectly implies the exclusion of university students
from any litigation funding support, as well as any instructions issued to
reviewing lawyers or other EHRC staff members to disqualify any
applications from litigation funding because of that policy even after
they had met the EHRC's legal criteria, to include statistics on the
volume of university students who have been denied funding because of the
referenced EHRC policy." 
 
We are dealing with your request under the Freedom of Information Act
2000. We aim to respond promptly and in any event no later than 20 working
days following the date of receipt of the request; a response should
therefore be with you no later than 4 June 2021. 
 
If you have any queries please contact us using the details below.
 
Yours sincerely
 
‎Information Governance team‏
Equality and Human Rights Commission
 
[EHRC request email]

Fleetbank House, 2-6 Salisbury Square
London, EC4Y 8JX

[1]www.equalityhumanrights.com
 
[2]EHRC GB logo

 
 
NOTE: Please do not edit the subject line when replying to this email.

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Information Governance team, Equality and Human Rights Commission

Information request
Our reference: 2578544

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Dear David Gale
 
Your Freedom of Information Request
 
Under section 1(3) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 ("the Act") we
reasonably require further information in order to identify and locate the
information that you require. 
 
To help us identify and locate the requested information please can you
clarify whether you are seeking:
a) information relating to the development of Goal 2 within our strategic
plan relating to the education system, and if so, what specific records
you are seeking
b) a list of applications for funding support for litigation relating to
university students
c) the Commission's criteria for litigating funding support
 
In order to assist, you may be interested in the following documents:
Our strategic plan:
https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/w...

Our recent research report on human rights education in Great Britain:
https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/site...
 
We will not be able to take this matter further without this extra
information from you. If we do not receive appropriate clarification by 8
July 2021; we will deem this request to be closed.
 
We look forward to hearing from you shortly.
 
If you need assistance, please contact us using the details provided
below.
 
Yours sincerely
 
‎Information Governance team‏
Equality and Human Rights Commission
 
[EHRC request email]

Fleetbank House, 2-6 Salisbury Square
London, EC4Y 8JX

[1]www.equalityhumanrights.com
 
[2]EHRC GB logo

 
 
NOTE: Please do not edit the subject line when replying to this email.

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Dear Information Governance team,

You have asked:

"To help us identify and locate the requested information please can you
clarify whether you are seeking:
a) information relating to the development of Goal 2 within our strategic
plan relating to the education system, and if so, what specific records
you are seeking
b) a list of applications for funding support for litigation relating to
university students
c) the Commission's criteria for litigating funding support"

I believe that the original request is explicit and obvious to a reasonable person:

"Please provide sight of minutes, memoranda, policies, procedures, and
any other documents that evidence the development, delivery and
consultation of the EHRC's policy to focus EHRC disability discrimination
litigation funding support on school children, to include any reference
that directly or indirectly implies the exclusion of university students
from any litigation funding support, as well as any instructions issued to
reviewing lawyers or other EHRC staff members to disqualify any
applications from litigation funding because of that policy even after
they had met the EHRC's legal criteria, to include statistics on the
volume of university students who have been denied funding because of the
referenced EHRC policy."

However, I can confirm that nowhere in my original request is there anything that resembles paragraphs a, b, or c of your request for clarification.

To clarify: I do not want an internalised view of EHRC policy but instead an audit trail view of the policy decision process that excluded university students from litigation funding support; I do not want a list of funding applications for university student cases, just those which met the legal criteria for funding support but fell foul of the age-based policy decision in favour of school children that overrides the EHRC's legal criteria for support; I do not need a view of the legal criteria for litigation funding support as they are already known.

I can clarify that the response should focus on information that evidences the consequential denial of litigation funding support for university students. Other sources have already documented multiple cases. For the avoidance of doubt, I believe that the EHRC's policy as enunciated in its own communications to applicants is unlawful per R (on the application of UNISON) (Appellant) v Lord Chancellor (Respondent) [2017] UKSC 51.

Lastly, as a reminder, any SRA registered solicitor providing advice on this request should be aware of the requirement to report to the SRA any suspected 'fraud, dishonesty, or serious misconduct', to include other solicitors and their employees. This would equally apply to the EHRC's former CEO, who was the recipient of my earlier letter outlining the unlawfulness of the EHRC's policy, prior to her resignation.

Yours sincerely,

David Gale

Information Governance team, Equality and Human Rights Commission

Dear David Gale,
 
Thank you for your email of 18 May 2021. 
 
In accordance with the requirements of Section 10 of the Freedom of
Information Act 2000, we aim to respond promptly and no later than 20
working days following receipt of your clarification. In this instance a
response should be with you no later than 16 June 2021. 
 
However, please be advised that this may not be possible, owing to the
disruption caused during the pandemic period. If for any reason we are not
able to meet this deadline, we will notify you and give you an indication
of when we will be able to send a full response. 
 
If you have any queries please respond to this email. 
 

EHRC Information Governance Team
Equality and Human Rights Commission

[EHRC request email]

Arndale House, The Arndale Centre, 
Manchester, M4 3AQ

[1]equalityhumanrights.com

 

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Dear Information Governance team,

You have asked:

"To help us identify and locate the requested information please can you
clarify whether you are seeking:
a) information relating to the development of Goal 2 within our strategic
plan relating to the education system, and if so, what specific records
you are seeking
b) a list of applications for funding support for litigation relating to
university students
c) the Commission's criteria for litigating funding support"

I believe that the original request is explicit and obvious to a
reasonable person:

"Please provide sight of minutes, memoranda, policies, procedures, and
any other documents that evidence the development, delivery and
consultation of the EHRC's policy to focus EHRC disability discrimination
litigation funding support on school children, to include any reference
that directly or indirectly implies the exclusion of university students
from any litigation funding support, as well as any instructions issued to
reviewing lawyers or other EHRC staff members to disqualify any
applications from litigation funding because of that policy even after
they had met the EHRC's legal criteria, to include statistics on the
volume of university students who have been denied funding because of the
referenced EHRC policy."

However, I can confirm that nowhere in my original request is there
anything that resembles paragraphs a, b, or c of your request for
clarification.

To clarify: I do not want an internalised view of EHRC policy but instead
an audit trail view of the policy decision process that excluded
university students from litigation funding support; I do not want a list
of funding applications for university student cases, just those which met
the legal criteria for funding support but fell foul of the age-based
policy decision in favour of school children that overrides the EHRC's
legal criteria for support; I do not need a view of the legal criteria for
litigation funding support as they are already known.

I can clarify that the response should focus on information that evidences
the consequential denial of litigation funding support for university
students. Other sources have already documented multiple cases. For the
avoidance of doubt, I believe that the EHRC's policy as enunciated in its
own communications to applicants is unlawful per R (on the application of
UNISON) (Appellant) v Lord Chancellor (Respondent) [2017] UKSC 51.

Lastly, as a reminder, any SRA registered solicitor providing advice on
this request should be aware of the requirement to report to the SRA any
suspected 'fraud, dishonesty, or serious misconduct', to include other
solicitors and their employees. This would equally apply to the EHRC's
former CEO, who was the recipient of my earlier letter outlining the
unlawfulness of the EHRC's policy, prior to her resignation.

Yours sincerely,

David Gale

show quoted sections

Information Governance team, Equality and Human Rights Commission

1 Attachment

Information request
Our reference: 2578544

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Dear David Gale
 
Please find attached our response to your recent Freedom of Information
request.
 
Yours sincerely
 
‎Information Governance team‏
Equality and Human Rights Commission
 
[EHRC request email]

Arndale House, The Arndale Centre
Manchester, M4 3AQ

[1]www.equalityhumanrights.com
 
[2]EHRC GB logo

 
 
NOTE: Please do not edit the subject line when replying to this email.

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1. http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/

Dear Information Governance team,

Your recent response has included the following statement: "We would not disqualify a case based on the fact that it related to a university. We cannot take on all cases referred to us and decisions are made using the criteria set out in our Litigation and Enforcement Policy. "

I have documentary evidence in the form of an email and recorded telephone call that demonstrate the above statement to be false or that my application for litigation funding assistance was denied in error. A major London-based law firm that was awaiting the funding of my case also confirmed the EHRC policy not to support university students' litigation funding requests, even when they met all of the EHRC's legal criteria. In addition, a senior barrister has also confirmed that her client's application for funding was rejected on the same grounds.

If it is the case that there has been consistent miscommunication within the EHRC to effect a policy that was in error, there must still have been internal communications to cause and propagate that error which would be subject to my FOI request. There must also have been records generated in the attempt to correct the error.

Whilst I appreciate the sensitivities of the EHRC having been caught breaching the Equality Act, it would now be wilfully negligent if the EHRC did not urgently review my case.

Given my additional disability now evidenced as being caused by the Defendant university's prolonged, persistent, and abusive disability discrimination, I request a reasonable adjustment of a telephone call (you have my number) from the EHRC to confirm its corrective endeavours.

Yours sincerely

David Gale

Correspondence Team, Equality and Human Rights Commission

Dear David 
 
Correspondence 3005876
 
Thank you for your Correspondence to the Information Governance Team
asking for a telephoned call as a reasonable adjustment. 
 
Could you please provide us with your contact number and the best time to
call you?
 
Please respond by clicking on the link below:
[1]Submit your response
 
Kind regards
 
‎Correspondence Team‏
‎[email address]‏ 
Equality and Human Rights Commission
Fleetbank House, 2-6 Salisbury Square
London, EC4Y 8JX

equalityhumanrights.com
 
[2]EHRC GB logo

 
 
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1. Submit your response
https://ehrcportal.icasework.com/servlet...

Dear Correspondence Team,

The EHRC already has my full contact details, including telephone number.

Yours sincerely,

David Gale

Correspondence Team, Equality and Human Rights Commission

Dear David 
 
Correspondence 3005876
 
Thank you for your email. We have tried to contact you on the number we
have on your file but we kept on getting a constant engaged tone. Do you
have an alternative number we can contact you on?
 
Kind regards
 
‎Correspondence Team‏
‎[email address]‏ 
Equality and Human Rights Commission
Fleetbank House, 2-6 Salisbury Square
London, EC4Y 8JX

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Dear Correspondence Team,

The EHRC already has my full contact details, including telephone number.

Yours sincerely,

David Gale

show quoted sections

Dear Correspondence Team

I have not received any calls from the EHRC. If my line were engaged, I would still get notification of a call with an option to answer. If I chose not to answer, the EHRC would be prompted to leave a voicemail.

Might it be the case that the EHRC has suffered a catastrophic data loss and that it no longer has records of the detailed communications over a period in excess of two years in which my telephone contact details were provided and used? If that is the case, please provide a designated, legally qualified contact name with telephone number (non-general) on which I can contact the EHRC.

Yours sincerely,

David Gale

Correspondence Team, Equality and Human Rights Commission

Dear David

Thank you for your email in which you now ask for a designated, legally
qualified contact name with a telephone number (non-general) on which you
can contact the EHRC.

As you may be aware, the Correspondence Team is the first point of contact
for external queries.

The Information Governance Team has asked that the Correspondence Team
should, in the first instance, contact you to discuss your request for a
review. If, following the discussion, the Correspondence team member
requires specialist input/response the matter will be passed on to the
relevant team within the Commission.

We would be happy to provide you with a designated contact person and
number from the Correspondence Team if you would still like to discuss the
matter.

Kind regards
 
‎Correspondence Team‏
Equality and Human Rights Commission
Fleetbank House, 2-6 Salisbury Square
London, EC4Y 8JX

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Dear Correspondence Team

I have not received any calls from the EHRC. If my line were engaged, I
would still get notification of a call with an option to answer. If I
chose not to answer, the EHRC would be prompted to leave a voicemail.

Might it be the case that the EHRC has suffered a catastrophic data loss
and that it no longer has records of the detailed communications over a
period in excess of two years in which my telephone contact details were
provided and used? If that is the case, please provide a designated,
legally qualified contact name with telephone number (non-general) on
which I can contact the EHRC.

Yours sincerely,

David Gale

show quoted sections

Dear Correspondence Team,

Can I suggest that the EHRC refrains from its persistent abusive and discriminatory obfuscation and instead digests communications and requests for reasonable adjustments sent in respect of this FOI request?

Your last chance - thereafter I will bounce it to the ICO and consider this escapade a further Equality Act breach.

Yours sincerely,

David Gale

Information Governance team, Equality and Human Rights Commission

Information request
Our reference: 2578544

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dear David Gale,
 
I have been passed your email by the Correspondence team. 
 
Your email of 17 June 2021 appeared to be asking for a review of our
decision not to provide funding for your legal case rather than a review
of our FOI response. I therefore asked the Correspondence team to give you
a call to explain that a request for a review by the legal team would need
to be made by a legal representative. We would suggest the representative
who made the request for funding. However we would usually only consider
reassessing a claim if the request is made within one calendar month of
the decision. It would be advisable therefore to discuss this further with
your legal advisor. 
The Correspondence team did not have a number for you on record and I
provided them with a number on 21 June from a previous FOI request . As
you then emailed to state that you wanted the number of someone legally
qualified, that is why they came back to you to check you would be happy
with a call from them. 
 
I tried to call you on the number we have (ending 360) this evening
however the tone suggested this number may be out of use. If you would
still like a phone call to discuss the above, perhaps you would like to
provide your number through an alternative email address so that it is not
in the public domain. To do so, please just copy the title of this email
into the subject heading and it will be received straight on to your
case. 
Alternatively you can call our Manchester switchboard number 0161 829 8100
and ask to be put through to Cara Taylor. I am free between meetings
tomorrow 9:30 - 10:30 and 11 - 12. If these times are not convenient you
can leave your return number with switchboard and I will give you a call
as soon as I can. 
 
Yours sincerely
 
Cara Taylor
‎Information Governance team‏
Equality and Human Rights Commission
 
[EHRC request email]

Arndale House, The Arndale Centre
Manchester, M4 3AQ

[1]www.equalityhumanrights.com
 
[2]EHRC GB logo

 
 
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Dear Information Governance team,

I will call the number provided.

However, the FOI request still stands, both in its original form and in the revised format sent in response to the EHRC's claim that it had never had a policy of barring disabled university students from litigation funding support by limiting discrimination case funding to school children.

That claim by the EHRC is confirmed as demonstrably false by multiple legal professionals. As previously stated, if such a policy had been applied in error, there must be internal records concerning the correction of that error. Those records are subject to my FOI request.

Clearly, the EHRC is experiencing some form of meltdown but that does not excuse attempts to mitigate blame by obfuscation.

Yours sincerely

David Gale

Information Governance team, Equality and Human Rights Commission

Information request
Our reference: 2578544

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Dear David Gale
 
Thank you for your request for a review received on 29 June 2021. We are
sorry that you are dissatisfied with our attempts to handle your request
under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
 
We can confirm that we are considering your concerns and will aim to
provide you with a response by 27 July 2021.
 
Yours sincerely
 
‎Information Governance team‏
Equality and Human Rights Commission
 
[EHRC request email]

Arndale House, The Arndale Centre
Manchester, M4 3AQ

[1]www.equalityhumanrights.com
 
[2]EHRC GB logo

 
 
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Information Governance team, Equality and Human Rights Commission

Information request
Our reference: 2578544

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dear David Gale
 
Internal review
 
We are writing to let you know that we will need some additional time to
respond to your review request. The person conducting the review is
currently on annual leave and will need time to complete the review on
their return. We will aim to provide you with a response by 6 August 2021.
 
Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience caused.
 
Yours sincerely
 
‎Information Governance team‏
Equality and Human Rights Commission
 
[EHRC request email]

Arndale House, The Arndale Centre
Manchester, M4 3AQ

[1]www.equalityhumanrights.com
 
[2]EHRC GB logo

 
 
NOTE: Please do not edit the subject line when replying to this email.

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We don't know whether the most recent response to this request contains information or not – if you are David Gale please sign in and let everyone know.