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
- 1 Thailand deaths: Pair's bloodied bodies found naked on Koh Tao beach
- 2 Scottish independence: Ireland since 1919 is a lesson for Scotland in what a Yes vote means
- 4 John Travolta addresses former pilot's gay romance allegations publicly for the first time
Thailand deaths: Pair's bloodied bodies found naked on Koh Tao beach
Scottish independence: Police will be on high alert on Friday whatever the result
John Travolta addresses former pilot's gay romance allegations publicly for the first time
QS university world rankings: Imperial College London leapfrogs Oxford to join Cambridge as best British university
Scottish independence exclusive: Millions of banknotes sent to Scotland in case Yes vote sparks run on ATMs
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
£23m Birmingham cycle scheme is attacked by Tory councillor for not catering to the elderly
£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...
£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...
£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...
£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...