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Charity launches crowdfund to challenge G4S helpline contract

Charity launches crowdfund to challenge G4S helpline contract


Outsourcing giant would jeopardise critical advice services for vulnerable people, says Law Centres Network

The Law Centres Network's (LCN) legal challenge of a government tendering process has received crowd funder backing as the charity tries to overturn the award of the national equalities helpline (EASS) contract to G4S, the controversial multi-national corporation.

The charity for pro bono law centres is aiming to crowdfund £10,000 to challenge the decision-making process that awarded the national discrimination advice helpline to G4S, which has a chequered record in delivering public services.

The outsourcing firm was awarded the contract in July but the decision has faced heavy criticism. Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union, told BuzzFeed News that G4S's track record ought to 'disqualify it from taking on such a sensitive contract'.

As a large employer, the LCN claims, G4S faces a conflict of interest in providing a service that its own employees might want to consult. The national charity also claims G4S's management of the EASS would jeopardise critical advice services for vulnerable people.

A House of Lords committee report from March recommended the helpline be returned to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. A High Court hearing is scheduled for 29 September to determine whether to grant permission for the judicial review.

More than 40 organisations, including Liberty and Tell MAMA, alongside the Law Centres Network, have already written to Harriet Harman, chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, to call for an urgent investigation into the government's decision.

In the letter, Liberty said the tendering process 'lacked openness' while 'the procurement specification'¦ appears to have been seriously flawed'. The campaign group has also produced a dossier of the global security firm's reported failings on human rights and equality in the UK.

An online petition against awarding the EASS contract to G4S has attracted over 61,000 signatures. Consumer site has also been raising funds to support this legal action.

Nimrod Ben-Cnaan, head of policy at the LCN, explained that the network took issue with the process and the chosen provider: 'Our concern is that government failed to properly consider equalities aspects of this public contract in general, as well as G4S's equality and human rights record in particular, drawn from the many other public services it has delivered.

'As Private Eye magazine reminds, G4S also faces a conflict of interest, as its own employees, some 45,000 in the UK, might need to consult EASS,' he continued. 'To us, this legal action is about ensuring access to justice for disadvantaged people, as it is already difficult for people to access appropriate advice on discrimination.'

Daniel Carey, an associate at Deighton Pierce Glynn representing LCN, said: 'This case concerns the legal duty on the government to assess the equalities impact of procurement decisions. One would expect a high degree of compliance where the Government Equalities Office was the decision maker and the service being procured was an equalities advice line.'

CrowdJustice, the UK's crowdfunding platform for litigation, announced the launch of the case. Its CEO, Julia Salasky, said: 'Getting financial and public support through crowdfunding will enable the LCN to take a case that gives voice to a large number of vulnerable people who they serve on a day-to-day basis. This is a great example of the way that individuals can come together to support their communities.'