Lord Willy Bach: Shocking proposals that threaten access to justice for the poorest

Comment

By the end of this week, we’ll know the fate of shocking proposals that threaten to radically reduce access to justice for the poorest and most vulnerable in England and Wales.

750,000 citizens a year will no longer get free advice on everyday problems – like debt, employment or housing – that can be fiendishly tricky in legal terms. This isn’t about opposing cuts. What Peers from across the House oppose is a misguided policy that will end up costing society and the state more than the Treasury saves.

At the moment Legal Aid funds advice on debt, housing, benefits, employment law, and education rights. This advice is primarily delivered through Citizens Advice Bureaux, Law Centres, and other charities. No lawyer doing this work is a “fat cat”.

The benefits can be critical in people’s lives. Clients generally come forward with multiple problems. Their marriage broke down, they became depressed, lost their job, were wrongly refused benefits, got into debt and are can’t pay rent. It doesn’t take much to imagine a year in which everything just goes wrong – it just spirals. If you can quickly help that person to access the benefits safety net, resolve their debt issues, sort out the landlord by taking advantage of protections in the law, then you can stop that spiral. One that ends in mental and physical health problems, homelessness and the State having to step in, at high cost, to resolve far more serious issues right at the end.  The Government know this; they admit in their Impact Assessment that this legislation if passed will lead to “reduced social cohesion, increased criminality…[and] increased costs for other Departments.”

So why do it? It won’t save money. We spend £64m a year on these areas of law but this will be swamped by the extra cost to other state agencies – local authorities, Work and Pensions, Health, and even the MoJ – that will have to pick up the pieces. Independent econometric analyses by Citizens Advice and Kings College confirm this. It is economically foolish to make 53% cuts to Social Welfare and only 8% to Criminal Legal Aid. Not to mention unconstitutional and just plain immoral to deny the poorest the means to assert their rights.

This should not be a Party issue.  Tories, Labour and Liberals have always supported Social Welfare law. It’s not too late for the Government to pull back. But if it will not, then the House of Lords must make it think again.

Lord Willy Bach, Shadow Justice Minister

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Technical Software Consultant (Excel, VBA, SQL, JAVA, Oracle)

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: You will not be expected to hav...

Technical Sales Manager

£45000 - £53000 Per Annum plus bonus plus package: The Green Recruitment Compa...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor