Legal Aid cuts – Gazette November 2011

Legal Aid is facing a potentially disastrous level of cuts if the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill goes through Parliament in its current form.

The Bill proposes to remove legal aid completely for welfare, benefit and employment matters (non-discrimination), creating a huge advice and support desert for people who cannot afford to pay for a solicitor to help fight for their rights to the support they are entitled to.

Legal aid will no longer be available for disability appeals and can only be used for debt issues or housing issues where people are in crisis and about to lose their home, creating huge stress and upheaval for families.

Legal aid won’t be available for immigration issues unless a person is in a detention centre and there will be no legal aid help for education apart from Special Educational Needs.

People who are already vulnerable and in difficult circumstances where they need the support of free services such as legal aid, could now be trapped in desperate situations without the help they require. My office sees numerous cases every year of people needing help who are able to benefit from free legal advice offered by CABx and Law Centres this free support will no longer be available. Across all of Wales nearly 18,000 families or individuals will be prevented from accessing Justice and legal advice. This is dangerous and unacceptable.

The cuts are proposed to save £350 million for the Ministry of Justice, yet instead of saving money, the cuts will place higher costs onto health services, social services and housing departments which are already overstretched. More information on the ‘Sound off for Justice’ campaign can be found on the Law Society website.