Lord Willy Bach: Shocking proposals that threaten access to justice for the poorest
Monday 05 March 2012
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
- 2 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 3 US? China? India? The 10 biggest economies in 2030 will be...
- 4 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
General Election 2015: David Cameron catching up in polls – but he badly needs a clear lead
Alan Rickman admits editing 'terrible' script with friends in Pizza Hut behind backs of writers on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
South Africa xenophobic attacks: Shops looted and violence on streets of Johannesburg as foreigners are forced to hide in police stations
18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...
£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...
£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...