Not sure Jman, but thanks for picking it up as I hadn't seen this. I think that what you get is MP's always towing the party line when it comes to media releases, but otherwise I've always found there to be a very constructive dialogue. Plus there's always an element of media distortion. My motto: 'trust no-one, suspect everyone'!
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After a fair amount of posting activity on Ilegal, the news was broken today of the collapse of the Immigration Advisory Service.
"Immigration Advisory Service goes bust"
11th July 2011 | from Freemovement
The Immigration Advisory Service has gone into administration, the organisation announced this morning.
Immigration Advisory Service announce their decision to go into administration
LSC Press Release, 11 July 2011
"LSC to secure alternative provision as soon as possible"
IAS is a not for profit charity and the largest provider of legal aid services in the asylum and immigration market. It has 14 offices across England and Scotland and operates outreach in a number of different locations nationwide.
The organisation Freemovement says it has been unable to contact any offices of IAS to get a statement from IAS as to whether IAS will continue to represent clients.
Anyone who is a client of IAS, need as a matter of severe urgency, to contact/visit their IAS office, said Freemovement: "Make sure that they get copies/original documents of their case, do not leave the IAS office without them. Get a written statement form them if as to whether they will continue to represent you (which may be unlikely) and if not, they are making arrangements to hand your case over to another NGO/solicitor."
This is a sign of what's to come unless the injustice of all this is one that strikes a chord with the public. It's to early to speculate on a public forum as to the reasons for the collapse but it's very clear that helping immigrants is not on this government's agenda. One can only hope that the clients of this service can get help and the advisers can find themselves alternative employment or that the administrators can work out a recovery package for all those affected.
It's a sad day in the world of legal aid, let's hope this isn't the sign of things to come.
Sadly it seems the last round of cuts news at the beginning of the year has not abated as we hoped. This article reports on how precarious things are in Paddington:
No lottery cash for the few skeleton staff left at Paddington, hard working passionate staff will become redundant as people are left to sort out their own problems.
"Three years ago, the Wood&Vale reported the Paddington Law Centre, on Harrow Road, was having to cut salaries with staff taking voluntary redundancies after funding was taken away.
The centre managed to raise £30,000 to stay afloat and continue its work, albeit with fewer staff. But another funding loss which has seen the centre miss out on £45,000 has again put the service at real risk of closure.
Supervising solicitor Anne McNicholas said: “We have been able to survive by cutting our costs but the funding climate has become worse. As in 2007, our application for National Lottery funding has been rejected but this time we are worse off because we also face the end of funding from London councils.
“We are in real danger of closing. In 2007 we could manage to limp on but even with fewer staff we wouldn’t be able to carry on now. We urgently need some emergency funding to see us to the end of the year.”
Let's hope Westminster council steps in to save this law centre from joining the growing list of those we have lost. If it's local to you, why not do your bit by writing to them? « Last Edit: Today at 12:58pm by Patrick Torsney »
Sorry to keep the grim news coming but agencies expiring quietly without a fuss would be worse. It's best to spread the word now to help the fight for survival. This time it's Barnet Council you need to lobby. « Last Edit: Today at 4:14pm by Colin Henderson »
"Legal aid firm Law For All in administrationThursday 28 July 2011 by Catherine Baksi
A sign that no-one wants to see when they're desperate for much needed help
London and regional not-for-profit advice service Law For All went in administration today, the Gazette can confirm.
The organisation provides legal services in the London boroughs of Ealing, Hillingdon, Hounslow and Richmond, as well as in East Anglia and the Midlands.
Law For All advises on debt, social security, housing, employment and family law. The majority of its work is funded by the Legal Services Commission.
It also receives funding from the London Borough of Ealing and support from other groups and individuals, including City firm Clifford Chance.
Bob Nightingale, chief executive of the London Legal Support Trust, confirmed the news to the Gazette: ‘This is just the latest in a line of orgnisations that have found themselves unable to continue anymore, on account on the current level of funding, and that is before the impending 10% cuts.’........"
"10,000 Liverpool legal cases to lose funding as part of government cuts by Marc Waddington, Liverpool Daily Post Jul 28 2011
UP TO 10,000 Liverpool residents who claim Legal Aid-funded advice to resolve disputes and court cases will have the support withdrawn through government spending cuts.
Liverpool was where Prime Minister David Cameron championed the big society, along with Phil Redmond and Eric Pickles
But it's all gone downhill ever since, Redmond has given it the thumbs down and local councilors are bewildered at how legal aid funding cuts will affect people
One year later - "Councilors surprised at knock on effects"
Representatives from Liverpool Law Society's ("LLS") General Committee met with leading councilors from Liverpool, Widnes, Halton and Knowsley Councils on Monday 11 July 2011 for a 8.30am breakfast meeting in the LLS offices. The meeting was an "open forum" which discussed a number of issues relevant to both Councils and LLS members.
The issue of cuts to legal aid and the impact that this will have on councils and the people that councilors represent within the North West was a significant discussion point which took up most of the meeting. The councillors asked for more information on the cuts and seemed to be surprised about the inevitable "knock-on" effect that the legal aid cuts would have on Councils and on their own councillors workloads.
A mention was made about the impact court closures are having to the poorest and most deprived members of our society and the consequences.
Also discussed was the fact that a number of local firms could provide the services that some council legal officers still instruct London lawyers to advise upon. One councillor commented on his experience that for every £1 paid to a local firm (not necessarily a law firm because in case he was discussing an example of a construction company) £8 of benefits accrued to the local economy as a whole.
The councillors and LLS members present commented on how useful the meeting had been for both sides. The councillors stated they would be discussing the issues raised with their council officers and fellow councillors. They also were happy to continue the dialogue, now it had been established, and to continue attending meetings with the LLS in the future.
"Liverpool stands to be the hardest hit area in the country when the aid is withdrawn, with 9,795 cases out of 12,320 losing their funding next year.
The city is ranked number one in terms of the financial impact the cuts will have – losing up to £1,751,190 – research by the Legal Action Group reveals.
The government claims the current spending on subsidised legal advice is too much, and the taxpayer should not be bearing the burden.
But local experts and MPs warned the cuts will represent a double blow for the city, as more people will require expert help to deal with disputes arising as a consequence of government cuts to benefits and mounting household debts.
Some city lawyers warned that the cuts were a “false economy”, and that when people are victims of unjust withdrawals of benefits such as housing benefit or council tax benefit, they will be less likely to be able to lodge appeals.
Also likely to be hard hit by the move are people who are currently claiming long-term sickness benefits and being re-assessed for their eligibility to claim.........."
Details are emerging of the story behind this latest closure.
This is Cheshire reports:
"A CHARITY offering free legal advice has closed after funding was withdrawn by Warrington Borough Council. The Community Law Centre, on Winwick Street, shut its doors earlier this month after failing to win a council contract.
For 26 years it offered free advice on a range of issues including debt, disability rights, housing, welfare and education. Around £170,000 a year was provided by the council to help run the centre, but that money has now been awarded to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.
The council previously funded both the CAB and CLC but as services were renewed in January, only one contract was offered, which the CAB won. Funding was also given to the CLC by the Legal Services Commission, which contributed around £60,000 a year, but it has been unable to stay open.
John Mulhall, a former management committee member at the CLC, blamed bad management for the closure. He says that a lack of monitoring by the council and Legal Services Commission meant that mistakes with finances were made. “It was one of the most valuable institutions that Warrington has had, but it has been managed incompetently,” he said. “The Law Centre used to be an excellent service that people will not be able to access any more.”
Cases files and employees are due to be transferred to the CAB, but only two members of staff have made the switch so far."
But it's not clear that the LSC contract work will also transfer. Can anyone locally tell us or want to come back on the mismanagement allegations?
Here's some news on the savage extent of cuts on the voluntary sector; - as posted by Jman on Ilegal.
£3 Billion pounds worth of cuts is just absurd in our current economic climate.
More on the Big Society catastrophe-Independent and other papers reporting further on the loss of funding to the nfp sector coming from government policies-£3 billion loss over 5 years.
"Charities 'to face £3bn in cuts' says report
By Andrew Woodcock, PA
Monday, 8 August 2011
Charities are facing cuts totalling nearly £3 billion over the coming five years due to government spending reductions, according to a report released today.
The National Council for Voluntary Organisations used figures on the Government's spending plans produced by the Office for Budget Responsibility to calculate what they believe is the first authoritative figure for the impact of the austerity programme on charities.
They found that the voluntary sector will lose around £911 million a year in public funding by 2015/16, with a cumulative loss of £2.8 billion over the five years 2011-16.
Karl Wilding, head of policy and research at NCVO, said: "Putting an authoritative figure on the extent of the cuts to date has been like trying to pin jelly to the wall.
"Estimates have varied widely and this report provides a solid baseline figure based on the Government's own figures.
"Many charities are unwilling to speak out for fear they will jeopardise other funding streams, but we currently face the perfect storm of an increase in demand and nearly £3 billion public sector cuts - this is a significant cause for concern because it will significantly hamper the ability of charities to support those most in need."
NCVO said that the impact of the cuts will be felt unevenly across the charitable sector, with funding from certain government departments shrinking more dramatically than others.
It is possible that the total reduction will be "much higher" than the £2.8 billion estimate, said NCVO.
Today's report comes a week after research by the anti-cuts campaign False Economy suggested that more than 2,000 charities are being forced to close services and sack staff as local authorities slash their funding.
Shadow Cabinet Office minister Tessa Jowell said: "What is becoming apparent is the scale of the cuts that charities are facing across the country, which are beginning to undermine the very building blocks of community life......................"
Articles in Independent and Guardian on the disastrous affects cuts are having on CAB and other charities. Government is claiming it's local government's fault. Now is the time for a big media and campaigning push to ask why the government is making a 77% cut to the nfp sector through legal aid cuts and where is the strategy to provide alternative funding? Independent article, Guardian and BBC ones below.
"Threat to Cameron's Big Society as cuts take toll on charities
Citizens Advice Bureaux face closure as funding withdrawn
By Oliver Wright, Whitehall Editor
Tuesday, 2 August 2011
Prime Minister David Cameron has said the Big Society initiative would get all his 'passion'
In a blow to David Cameron's flagship 'Big Society' policy, Citizens Advice Bureaux across England are facing closure after budget cuts, the charity warned last night.
CAB, which provides advice and support to more than 2 million people, said that the situation in some parts of the country was now "desperate".
On average the charity has seen budget cuts of 10 per cent to its 394 bureaux this year on top of 5 per cent cuts last year.
But the figures mask huge regional variations. Some CABs have had more than 50 per cent of their public funding withdrawn and are already cutting opening hours and services. Several have had their funding cut entirely.
CAB is also facing further cuts of around 18 per cent as a result of changes to the legal aid system. Under government proposals, social welfare and housing cases will no longer be eligible for legal aid – a key source of income for CAB. These cuts would deprive the CAB of around £20m a year. Recent cuts by local authorities include:
* Leicestershire County Council reduced the amount it provides the CAB by £99,470;
* Birmingham, Corby, South Gloucester, Rotherham and Thurrock have had their subsidies cut by 50 per cent;
* Southwark reduced its subsidy from £84,194 to £31,573;
* Oldham cut its grant from £149,879 to £97,876.
It comes as the number of clients seeking help with debts, benefits and homelessness has as much as doubled, the charity says. Because CAB bureaux are all individual charities and the funding cuts are disproportionate in some parts of the country its umbrella organisation has warned that many may go out of business.
"In some parts of England the situation is now desperate," said Citizens Advice chief executive, Gillian Guy. "Overall this year we are looking at local authority cuts of around 10 per cent on top of the cuts last year.
"And the worst is yet to come. We're facing the triple whammy of local authority cuts, the end of the Financial Inclusion Fund and cuts to legal aid – and you don't get very much notice of these things.
"Some Bureaux look like they may be forced to close and in other cases it will be a question of just trying to keep going by whatever means they can."
The figures emerged from a survey of local authorities carried out by the union-backed pressure group False Economy.
It found that charities working in the public sector are facing net funding reductions of more than £110m this year, although the final figure is likely to be higher as some large authorities, such as Manchester, Leeds and Sunderland, refused to provide details of their cuts. Of the charities affected 382 worked with children and young people, 142 with the elderly and 151 with disabled people.
Birmingham City Council alone has cut funding to 191 charities while the cross-council organisation London Councils, has cut funding to 174 groups.
False Economy's campaign director Clifford Singer said the cuts would have a direct effect on the ability of charities to play an active role in the Government's Big Society drive.
"These cuts are not just to 'nice to have' groups but organisations providing services for older people trying to maintain independent lives, vulnerable children and abused women."
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills which has overall responsibility for CAB, said: "Core funding for Citizens Advice Bureaux typically comes from local authorities, and we very much hope they share our view that the Bureaux are important and should be supported. It's also vitally important that everyone has access to free debt advice, which is why the Department for Business has provided £27m to maintain the programme of face-to-face debt advice."
Newcastle Law Centre and the legal aid cuts. Article in Newcastle Chronicle.
Legal aid cuts to hit Newcastle Law Centre by Rachel Wearmouth, Evening Chronicle Aug 19 2011
Mia Sevonius, manager of Newcastle Law CentreA LAW centre serving some of Tyneside’s most vulnerable people faces closure if proposed cuts to legal aid go ahead.
She said it will be “justice for the rich and not the poor” as the charity faces a 10% cut in its finances.
The centre acts as the last port of call for those in the region who don’t qualify for legal aid, but its future will be under threat if cuts to legal aid are made in 2012.
The Ministry of Justice is to slash £300m from the £2.1bn legal aid Bill.
Under the Government proposals, ministers plans to end legal aid for private family law cases, like divorce and custody battles; clinical negligence claims; employment and education law; immigration, other than where someone is detained; and some debt, housing and benefit issues.
The centres, set up nationally around 30 years ago, are supported by local and central Government cash.
Mia said: “We help people who miss the legal aid threshold, often by a few pounds.
“We’re a not-for-profit organisation – all the money that we get goes back into the service that we provide.
“The amount of money we get from legal aid work is very, very low. There really is nowhere we can get extra money and we take the cases that nowhere else will.
“They are also complex and time consuming cases.
“We help people who have nowhere else to go, so we look harder for merit in a case than other private practices will.
“There is a limit you can cut here.”
Mia said cuts to their budget will have a devastating impact following the news the Immigration Advisory Centre, which had a base in Middlesbrough, was placed in administration last month. The centre plays a vital role fighting immigration cases other practices refuse.
Justice secretary Ken Clarke has said legal aid is funding unnecessary litigation.
In response to the proposals, The Law Society has launched the Sound Off For Justice campaign.
Mia added: “Many of the two in three people who are deemed not poor enough for legal aid cannot afford to pay for legal advice and representation. The new Bill will exclude even more people from legal aid, leaving them unable to enforce their rights relating to fair treatment at work, immigration and human rights, safe shelter, decent education and health care and to manage their debts and bring or keep their families together.
“Many people think that these cuts will not affect them, but if they were actually aware of what is being proposed, most would find that they have a relative or friend who will be directly impacted by this.”
Far too little is being said in the national media about the devastating impact these cuts will have on advice agencies like this one in Newcastle. They are not fancy plush offices, just essential down to earth outlets where people can turn to in times of need when faced with a crisis
Guardian has article today (22.08.11) on the fear that more law centres will close as a result of the 10 % cut. Extract and link to article below
Legal aid: plan for 10% cut raises fears of more law centre closuresProposal due before parliament as Law for All charity blames planned legal aid cuts for pushing it into liquidation
Share reddit this Owen Bowcott, legal affairs correspondent guardian.co.uk, Monday 22 August 2011 15.47 BST Article history A legal aid campaigner outside the Ministry of Justice in London. Photograph: www.justice-for-all.org.uk A fresh wave of law centre closures and redundancies is feared as the government introduces plans this week for an additional 10% cut in legal aid fees.
The proposal is being laid before parliament by the Ministry of Justice to cut costs in what it alleges is the "most expensive legal aid system in the world".
The move comes as another legal advice charity, Law for All, based in Ealing, west London, went into liquidation, blaming the anticipated reduction in fees.
The MoJ's latest 10% cut comes on top of the 12.5% imposed by Labour in the final days of the last government. The ministry is expecting political opposition once parliament resumes – a debate in the Commons and possibly a judicial review challenge in the courts.
Law for All employed 70 lawyers and other staff. It provided advice and legal support to around 15,000 clients a year in several west London boroughs as well as parts of East Anglia and Staffordshire.
In a farewell statement, the charity said: "Changes to the administration of publicly funded legal work have resulted in an unsustainable administrative burden … not to mention reduced payments in real terms.
"These factors – combined with current plans by the government to cut legal aid payments by a further 10% this autumn and to almost completely end legal aid in October 2012 – have led the trustees, reluctantly, to conclude that there is no hope of a viable, long-term future for Law For All."
The closure of Law for All follows the collapse of two other legal advice charities – the Immigration Advisory Service and Refugee Migrant Justice – in the past year. Both blamed cuts in legal aid for their difficulties.
As well as reducing legal aid fees, the government's Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill proposes to save a further £350m by withdrawing legal aid from across a wide range of cases involving welfare, medical negligence, housing and family issues. It is expected to meet stiff resistance in the Lords this autumn.
The government's intention to impose the additional 10% cut had been signalled previously. It will come into force in October for criminal and civil cases and next February for family cases unless it is voted down by MPs................"
Nottingham Post covers Nottingham Law Centre under threat
"Fears for future of legal aid centre" .
September 10, 2011 - Nottingham Post
ALMOST 3,000 people in Nottingham will be left without legal support and advice if Government cuts to legal aid go ahead, it is feared.
Under the plans, people who are unemployed or on low incomes will lose free legal aid for debt, benefits, employment and some housing grievances.
'Vital work': Cheryl Watson, left, of the Nottingham Law Centre in Hyson Green, Councillor Nick McDonald, second left, and service users Judith Duncan, of Hyson Green, Elizabeth Ross, of Sneinton, and Paul Ross, after a meeting to discuss proposed government cuts.
Fears have been raised that the Nottingham Law Centre, which helps hundreds of people every year and relies on legal aid funding, will be forced to close if the cuts go ahead.
Cheryl Weston, manager of the centre, in Radford Road, Hyson Green, said: "They're targeting the most vulnerable people.
"We'll see illegal evictions rise, we won't be able to challenge landlords if they're not maintaining the property.
"It's a real concern whether we'll still be viable. We have huge building costs, if our income goes down you can't maintain a large building."
People turn up to the centre in crisis every day – some are facing repossession, or have been unfairly dismissed or refused benefits – and for many it is a last resort.
Paul Ross turned to the centre after he lost his business, his wife Elizabeth was made redundant and they faced losing their house.
That was 18 months ago. Today Mr Ross feels back in control of his life.
The 53 year-old said: "We got tremendous support, we got a worker who's gone out of her way – way beyond the remit of her job, to rectify the situation as best she could.
"I can't express in words the gratitude that has occurred in taking away that stress. We're not worried about what drops through the letterbox now, it's a new lease of life and this place has provided that."
And Sharon Wilson, 43, of Top Valley, described the centre as a "lifeline".
Ms Wilson struggled to come to terms with the death of her mother after caring for her for eight years and the debts piled up. "I'd not paid anything, I'd lost the will to live," she said.
"This place had me back on my feet. I was getting bailiffs turn up to my house trying to bully me. If you don't know your rights you've not get a leg to stand on."
Councillor Nick McDonald, who represents the Bulwell Forest ward, said: "This cut is an example of the Government using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
"The Nottingham Law Centre is a vital part of the support structure we have in the city, it helps people at their most vulnerable. With this funding cut the likelihood is that the Nottingham Law Centre will not survive."
Mr McDonald will be raising the matter at a full city council meeting on Monday and will lobby the Government over its plans to cut more than £350 million from its annual legal aid funding.
The Government pays organisations like the Nottingham Law Centre £200 per debt case, £174 per housing case, £167 per welfare benefits case and £230 per employment case it takes on.
This money will be cut by 10 per cent from October and then scrapped if the plans go ahead. Legal aid will still be available for people who are at risk of losing their house.
Legal aid is currently means-tested and often covers lengthy cases – as a set fee is paid regardless of how complicated a case may be.
The Nottingham Law Centre makes up its shortfall through a grant from Nottingham City Council and fundraising.
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "The Government recognises the important role that not-for-profit organisations, such as law centres, play in delivering advice services at a local level.
"We are working with the sector and across government to ensure that the implementation of government reforms help to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of advice services available to the public.
"We will be providing additional funding of up to £20m in this financial year to help achieve this."
It looks like Patrick and Nat Matthews' tweeting on "no justice" in different areas of the country might be paying off. Shropshire Star is using the LAG breakdown to cover the effect of the legal aid cuts in their area. We need this in every local paper in the country-send the LAG breakdown to yours.
"Shropshire to be badly hit by planned legal aid cuts Thursday 8th September 2011, 6:00PM BST.
Shropshire will be the second worst-hit of 132 areas in England and Wales under the Government’s proposed cuts to legal aid, a charity claimed today.
The Legal Action Group’s new report claims the number of Shropshire cases eligible for legal aid will be cut by 77 per cent due to Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke’s major overhaul of the judicial system.
The Government is aiming to save £350m from its £2.15bn legal aid bill by making reforms to the system, with a particular focus on reforming social welfare law.
But Steve Hynes, director of the Legal Action Group, said the proposed £392,000 cut in Shropshire’s legal aid budget would have “disastrous” effects."
LAG has summarised its key point on legal aid. An investment of £49 million ( the sum spent on legal help principally in social welfare cases) can save other government departments £286.2 million. Djanogly and Clarke are increasing not cutting the deficit. Let's get those figures out there to the media, MP's and Lords. Won't post the article as the story is brief but link below
News & StarNews3,000 Cumbrians could lose access to legal aid By Julian Whittle
Last updated at 11:36, Thursday, 15 September 2011
More than 3,000 people in Cumbria are at risk of losing access to legal aid, Cumbria Law Centre claims.
It argues that government proposals would hit those who need legal advice to deal with employment, welfare, housing or debt problems.
The Law Centre, in Spencer Street, Carlisle, is lobbying against the Government’s White Paper and is calling on Carlisle MP John Stevenson to vote against the proposals.
Lorraine Usher, chairwoman of the Law Centre trustees, said: “More than 3,000 people in Cumbria, including 1,000 in Carlisle, will be left without any way of enforcing their rights. More than 5,000 organisations responded to the consultation on these proposals. Not one was in favour. ”
Senior Law Centre solicitor Paul Im Thurn added: “These proposals are economic madness.
“If legal problems are not resolved, other public services like the NHS, local authorities and the court service will have to pick up the pieces at a higher cost to the taxpayer.
“Early advice, often costing well under £200 in legal aid, can nip problems in the bud.”
He says the social cost of evicting a family is estimated at up to £34,000.
The legal aid fee for resolving a housing problem, so avoiding eviction, is £174.The letter to Mr Stevenson says: “At best, we would be forced to severely reduce our services and the number of people we will be able to help. This would leave thousands of vulnerable people in your constituency with nowhere to go.”
The White Paper, Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, is being scrutinised by Parliament’s public bill committee.
Article on 'Justrights' website on the effect of legal aid cuts on children.....
"Legal aid cuts storing up social problems for tomorrow"
Submitted by James on Mon, 09/12/2011 - 22:39 in News
13 September 2011
"Legal aid cuts storing up social problems for tomorrow"
Law Society and JustRights report indicates government is storing up problems for tomorrow’s youth rather than resolving them today.
Children’s Commissioner and children’s charities unite to condemn plans.
Children and young people in the UK will be hit hard by the government’s plans to cut the legal aid budget by £350million, according to findings from a new report released today.
Figures from the ‘Not Seen and Not Heard’ report reveal the government’s planned legal aid cuts will remove direct free legal aid advice and support services for 6,000 under 18 year olds and 69,000 young Britons aged between 18-24 who want to resolve issues relating to employment, education, homelessness, welfare and debt. In addition, tens of thousands of children will be affected when their parents lose access to legal aid.
Launched by legal aid campaign group Sound Off For Justice and JustRights, the campaign for access to advice for young people, the report reveals the bleak future awaiting Britain’s youth. Analysis reveals over one-third (36%) of the UK population classified as homeless in March 2011 were aged between 16-24. This is coupled with the latest unemployment figures from the Department of Work & Pensions showing over one-fifth (21%) of 16-24 year olds is currently out of work.
The report’s figures also highlight how an additional 140,000 children will be affected by legal aid support being removed for their parents. 68,000 will be affected by family contact and finance disputes, whilst another 36,700 will be impacted by legal aid being removed for welfare benefit cases. In addition, thousands more children will be adversely affected by the removal or reduction in the scope of legal aid for other categories such as education, clinical negligence and housing.
Along with this removal of legal aid services and support, the government is proceeding with further cuts to other areas that will impact the UK’s youth. 45,000 young people will lose access to voluntary youth sector advice services this year, whilst funding for the Connexions advice service for 13-19 year olds is being cut by nearly 40% (£180 million).
In the wake of England’s recent riots, the ‘Not Seen and Not Heard’ report reveals the link between civil legal problems and crime rates, in addition to emotional and mental health problems.
55% of 16-24 year olds who had recently been arrested reported experiencing at least one ‘difficult to solve’ civil justice problem, whilst 34% of 18-24 year olds not in education, training or employment reported stress-related illness as a result; with more than a third going on to use NHS services.
The report warns these legal aid cuts could cost the government more in the long run if crucial free support and assistance is taken away from Britain’s youth. Research from the Citizens Advice Bureaux shows the benefit of dealing with issues such as employment and welfare benefits immediately, as every £1 spent on legal aid support saves the government £8 further down the line.
As the Bill is debated in Parliament, children’s advocates are lining up to condemn the impact of the changes on children and young people.
Sue Berelowitz, Deputy Children’s Commissioner for England, said:
“The proposed changes to legal aid will significantly disadvantage tens of thousands of children and young people who will be left to fight legal problems without proper professional representation. This will include children who suffer an injury, children with special educational needs or subject to deportation or those facing problems with employment or welfare benefits. These are just some of the many children and young people who seek assistance or support through legal aid to help them with a problem that requires a legal resolution.
"We have raised our concerns with the Ministry of Justice about the impact of the proposed changes to legal aid on children's lives. The removal of legal aid will mean that these children are left to navigate alone a legal system that is designed for adults. Denying them professional representation is a denial of justice. All children must be helped to have their voice heard in accordance with Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The UK Government is a signatory to the Convention, therefore any proposals to reform the legal aid system should take account of the child’s perspective in compliance with the Convention."
Alison Garnham. CEO of the Child Poverty Action Group added:
“The report makes a powerful case against the legal aid cuts which will adversely affect an estimated 200,000 children, leaving them "alone in a legal system designed for adults"; facing exploitation in employment, exclusion from schools, deprivation from benefit entitlement, deportation from the UK, all without advice and representation, and leaving juvenile victims of crime without compensation. This isn't justice, and the government is storing up trouble for the future by depriving children and young people of advice on their rights.”
Des Hudson, Chief Executive of the Law Society, comments:
“This reports highlights how a large portion of our youth, who may already feel marginalised and isolated, will be punished further if the government’s planned £350 million cuts to legal aid go ahead. Young people with problems such as employment and welfare should be given the correct legal aid advice and support today. If not, we will only be storing problem and further costs, that the government will have to pick up tomorrow.”
Mandy Wilkins from the Law Centres Federation, and James Kenrick, from Youth Access, co-ordinators of the JustRights campaign, said:
“It would cost just £10m to protect all children in the legal system, and only an additional £40m to protect young people up to age 25. Government can afford to secure access to justice for children and young people. It can't afford not to."
Sound Off For Justice and JustRights are proposing amendments to the Legal Aid, Punishment and Sentencing of Offenders Bill, currently in Committee Stage in the House of Commons that would protect access to justice for children and young people. Sound Off for Justice have also proposed alternative reforms that will protect key areas such as employment, education, private family, clinical negligence, welfare and housing civil legal aid cases from being taken out of scope, ensuring 725,000 Britons can still access justice and are not silenced in court.
6,000 children under 18 and 69,000 Britons aged between 18-24 years of age will no longer be able to access free legal advice and support for cases involving employment, homelessness and welfare under government plans.
36% of those classified as homeless in the most recent figures were aged between 16 and 24.
21% of people aged between 16-24 years of age are unemployed
55% of 16 – 24 year olds who have recently been arrested have reported experiencing at least one ‘difficult’ to solve civil justice problem
Connexions advice and support services for 13-19 year olds are being cut by 40%
45,000 young Britons will lose access to voluntary sector youth advice services
68,000 children will be affected by legal aid being removed for family contact and finance disputes
36,000 children will be affected by legal aid being removed for welfare benefit cases
The Law Centres Federation estimates the government’s planned legal aid cuts could result in 18 of the 56 UK Law Centres closing
Sound Off For Justice is a public campaign promoting alternative reforms to Legal Aid. Visit www.soundoffforjustice.org for more details.
JustRights is a coalition of over 30 organisations, co-ordinated by the Law Centres Federation and Youth Access, which campaigns for fair access to legal advice and representation children and young people within the legal system."Find out more at www.soundoffforjustice.org
JustRights is a coalition of over 30 organisations, co-ordinated by the Law Centres Federation and Youth Access. It is working to provide a legal system that provides rare and ready access to high quality independent legal advice, and representation for all children and young people whenever they need it, alongside recognition of children and young people’s distinct needs for support in exercising their legal rights. More information is at www.justrights.org.uk"
Post from Colin Henderson on ilegal-Greenwich law centre to close
Greenwich Law Centre to close « Thread Started Today at 10:02am »
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I'm sad to see there is another victim of local authority cuts this week following confirmation of loss of funding from Greenwich Council.
"A law advice centre with 738 open cases is set to close after Greenwich Council axed its funding. Greenwich Community Law Centre has been running for 27 years in Trafalgar Road and claims to be the only one in the borough offering immigration law advice, but that has not stopped it falling victim to budget cuts.
The centre set up a petition and wrote to Greenwich and Woolwich MP Nick Raynsford, highlighting the work they do. ... Director Sabelo Siwela said after the meeting: "It's a very sad day for the service. We'll try to challenge this decision but we're looking at a centre which has lost a huge amount of money."
And there's another, earlier, local report here that gives more detail of the services to be lost:
"Greenwich Community Law Centre has seven legally trained, paid members of staff, including an employment lawyer, an immigration lawyer, a housing solicitor and an equalities case worker, as well as relying on the help of up to 15 volunteers.
A spokeswoman for the centre said: “We see 40 people a week - which is 2,080 people helped over a year - and we also help around 60 people each week over the phone. Our grant is going down to nil and we have 750 open cases.”
Terry Wheeler, a member of the management committee, told The Mercury that the Deptford and Lewisham law centres closed some time ago and the closing of the Greenwich one would mean local people would have to travel to the Plumstead Community Law Centre instead.
He said: “It will mean the whole area from West Greenwich down to lower Charlton will be completely without easy access to any free legal advice. We deal with the most vulnerable people, many of them disabled or not fluent in English, and our advisers have built up a report with our clientele.”
Mr Wheeler said the Greenwich Community Law Centre had not received the £60,000 for running costs that some of the other law centres had received in addition to the council grant."
Jon Robins with another great article-why not send it to your MP. Extract and link to full article below.
"Why nearly a third of us could soon be living in a legal advice desertPublic funds left for social welfare law won't be enough for not-for-profits to hire one full-time caseworker in 30% of areas
Jon Robins guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 25 October 2011 10.31 BST Article history
Justice minister Jonathan Djanogly claims he is 'committed to a future role for NfP agencies'.
It doesn't take much to destabilise the precarious funding ecosystem of the legal not-for-profit (NFP) sector. I wrote recently that some 18 of 56 law centres could close as a result of legal aid cuts that propose to remove £350m from the £2.2bn total budget. Ministers want to scrap the legal services most needed by the poor and vulnerable and which are at the heart of a threadbare network of advice agencies. The idea is to remove social welfare law from the legal aid scheme: that comprises advice on welfare benefits, employment, debt, immigration, plus most housing except where there is homelessness.
The campaign group Justice for All has done some number crunching. It reckons that public funds left for social welfare law would not be enough for not-for-profits to employ one full-time caseworker in 30% of areas. If you want to find out whether you're unlucky enough to live in one of those potential legal advice deserts, there is a handy-colour coded map of the UK.
The Legal Services Commission, which runs the legal aid scheme in England and Wales, reckons full-time advisers need to have between 250 and 300 cases each year to justify the expense of taking on an adviser.
The government says that in 40 of 133 of the Commission's "procurement" areas the total number of face-to-face debt and housing cases would come to less than 300 cases a year as a result of the cuts. This, according to Justice for All, would make a fulltime post of an advice worker barely or completely unsustainable in those areas post cuts.
The somewhat beseiged justice minister Jonathan Djanogly told delegates at this month's Legal Aid Practitioners Group conference that he was "committed to a future role for NfP agencies" and "personally committed" to "defining a new, general advice provision delivered by NfP bodies outside of the redrawn legal aid scheme". In light of the scale of the cuts and the obvious financial vulnerability of the sector, it's hard to see what he means. Djanogly pointed to a £107m transition fund from the Office for Civil Society, of which he said "more than £5m will go to citizens advice bureaux and law centres". Ken Clarke has also announced a further £20m for this financial year, albeit "transitional".
The homeless charity Shelter claims that this "sudden slashing" of legal aid funding means that "it's simply not viable" for housing advice providers to continue to deliver quality advice services. Shelter has a network of around 40 local support services across England and Wales, helps over 25,000 under legal aid contracts and employs over 200 advisers and 40 solicitors.
I spoke to Simon Pugh, head of legal services at the charity and Tracy Guy, service manager for Shelter North East last week. Legal aid accounts for around 60% of the non-charitable income and was "the largest funding stream for our advice work", Pugh explained; pointing out that the charity doesn't just do housing but debt and benefits advice as well.
To understand the vulnerability of the legal NfP sector, the Law Centre Federation reckons that approximately 46% of its members' total funding came from legal aid and 40% from local authorities and centres either had lost or were about to lose 53% of their local authority funding.
Like most local centres, Tracy Guy explains that the legal aid contract in Newcastle makes up around 60% of Newcastle Shelter's funding (putting to one side a new prison law contract Shelter has just won in the North East). "If the proposals go through, funding would drop dramatically and – worse case scenario – we'd be reliant upon other funding streams to keep us afloat plus a substantial amount of money from Shelter to plug the gaps." Those other funding streams are not, in Guy's words, "long term" funding streams.
Pugh says: "Fundamental to what we are about is helping people find a home, secure and keep that home. A significant part of that is legal advice." To break down those numbers further, Guy reckons half of their 2,000 clients in Newcastle last year were LSC funded and, if the cuts go through, there would be "a reduction in 62% of the work we can do". And how is life at Newcastle Shelter? Phenomenally busy, replies Guy. If you want housing advice you already face a six-week waiting list (unless it is an emergency) and if your problem relates to debt or welfare benefits, a two to three week wait........................."
Article in Solicitors Journal today 25.10.11 on the effect of legal aid cuts on victims of human trafficking. Extract and link to full article
"Legal aid cuts 'will force victims of human trafficking to claim asylum' 25 October 2011
Victims of human trafficking who end up in the UK could be forced to claim asylum to stay in the country, the general secretary of the Immigration Law Practitioners Group has warned.
Alison Harvey said asylum claims would continue to be publicly funded under the legal aid bill, but other immigration cases would not, apart from those involving detention or questions of national security.
“If you say you cannot go back because you will be persecuted, your case will stay in scope,” Harvey said. “If you say there is no danger to me but I do not want to go back because I have a relationship here, your case will not be covered.
“An example would be many of the domestic worker cases, where very few are in danger of persecution in their countries of origin.”
Harvey said legal aid was also being removed from appeals before the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board.
She said victims of human trafficking had been getting compensation for injuries and abuse inflicted by convicted traffickers.
“Without legal advice they would not know about compensation,” Harvey said. “It’s often a very lengthy process. They are going to struggle.”................."
The effect of legal aid cuts in Djanogly's back yard-numbers losing out in Cambridgeshire
October 25 2011 Latest News:
"Advice services to be slashed in Cambridgeshire under Government legal aid plans Tuesday, October 25, 2011 1:36 PM
GOVERNMENT cuts to funding for the Citizens Advice Bureau show that 3,453 people in Cambridgeshire will no longer have access to legal aid.
Law centres and advice agencies across the country use legal aid to provide help on issues such as debt, employment or benefits.
However, Government plans to cut much of the funding, in a bill that is being debated in Parliament this week.
Gail Emerson, a Justice for All campaign spokesman, said: “In Cambridgeshire - as in the rest of the country, residents will be hit hard by these cuts to such a vital service.
“The total saving for cutting legal aid on social welfare issues like these only comes to £50million each year. The Government spends almost three times more just on administering the legal aid system............"
This is Gloucester on legal aid cuts there (looks like you have been doing more good work Anne!). Let's keep getting those local articles out there on how each area of the country will be affected by the cuts
"Legal aid cuts could hit 2,000 people in city .Wednesday, October 26, 2011 The Citizen Follow.MORE than 2,000 people could lose out on essential legal advice in Gloucestershire.
That's the warning from campaigners ahead of a vote on Government plans to cut legal aid, which extends a lifeline to those who can't afford a lawyer or solicitor.
Analysis of proposed cuts, which will affect services such as the Gloucester Law Centre, Citizens Advice Bureau and the charity Shelter, show that 2,369 people in Gloucestershire will no longer have access to crucial legal help.
The figures, from campaign group Justice for All, don't include cuts to other areas of law, such as clinical negligence, immigration or family law which will also hit residents.
Justice for All campaigner Anne Whitworth, from Gloucester Law Centre, said: "In Gloucestershire, as in the rest of the country, residents will be hit hard by these cuts to such a vital service.
"People on very low incomes will no longer be able to obtain specialist advice on issues which are crucial to their lives, leaving them at an unfair disadvantage when trying to deal with those in positions of power over them, landlords, employers, government departments and public authorities, who will still be represented by solicitors.
"We urge people to write to their MPs ahead of the crucial vote in the House of Commons next week."
Liam Kelch, 48, of Matson, relied on legal aid-funded solicitors to get his son's disability allowance back when it was cut some years ago.
He said in the current climate, where overstretching in government departments was causing a headache for benefit claimants, legal aid was essential. He added: "Facilities like the law centre are vital, and I completely agree we should be opposing these cuts."
The news comes after legal organisations such as Association of Lawyers for Children, the Bar Council and Liberty called on the Government to re-think its plans for fear vulnerable people may suffer..............."
BBC covers warning by disabled charities on the nightmare of the legal aid cuts
"Ministers are being urged not to restrict legal aid for disabled people wanting to challenge benefit decisions.
A coalition of charities including Scope and Mind argues that limiting access to "vital" help in England and Wales would harm vulnerable people.
Labour says the plans due to be debated by MPs later are "unprincipled".
But the government insists the £2bn legal aid bill is unaffordable and help has to be targeted at the most serious cases and those most needing support.
Ministers are looking to prune £350m from the civil legal aid budget by 2014-5 as part of cuts across government to reduce its deficit.
Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has argued that the legal aid bill has spiralled in recent years and, with resources being squeezed across Whitehall, only cases where life or liberty are at stake should be routinely funded out of the public purse.
It is thought there will be 500,000 fewer civil cases as a result.
The 23 organisations, which also include Mencap, the RNIB and Leonard Cheshire, want MPs to back an amendment to the Legal Aid and Sentencing Bill - put forward by Lib Dem Tom Brake - reversing the decision when the proposed legislation is debated.
The disability rights groups say the changes mean up to 80,000 people will no longer be able to get access to publicly funded legal advice to help them challenge benefit decisions.
Campaigners say those affected will not be able to find legal help elsewhere and it could have a "serious impact" on their finances and peace of mind - making it harder for them to return to work in the future.
“ Cutting legal aid in this area will make it harder for disabled people to get the right support and ultimately could drive more people further away from work”
Chief executive, Scope "Legal advice is vital for disabled people if they fall foul of poor decision-making, red tape or administrative error," Scope's chief executive Richard Hawkes said.
"For welfare reform to work, disabled people have to get support to appeal decisions relating to their benefits, especially within a system where errors are commonplace.
"Cutting legal aid in this area will make it harder for disabled people to get the right support and ultimately could drive more people further away from work."
Citizens Advice has warned the plans could be counter-productive since the £16m in anticipated savings will be exceeded in the long-term by the costs to the state as peoples' problems "spiral out of control".............................."
Coventry Law Centre on the disaster about to be created in that city by legal aid cuts
" Legal aid cuts will hit poor hardest, say Coventry Law Centre by Les ReidOct 31 2011Add a commentRecommend inShare.0 2GOVERNMENT cuts in legal aid will almost wipe out help for vulnerable people seeking justice in Coventry, according to alarming new figures.
It is estimated the number of people supported by Coventry Law Centre and the Citizens’ Advice Bureau with legal aid will be drastically cut by nearly 90 per cent.
Coventry Law Centre managers said the depressing figures highlighted an “unprecedented attack on the poor” – with the plans due to be debated in Parliament again today.
It is estimated the 1,830 people who will get legal aid support this year at the two centres - under contracts with the Legal Services Commission - will fall dramatically to just 226.
Those getting free legal help - who would not otherwise be able to afford solicitors’ fees - include single people and families fighting debt repayment demands, unlawful eviction and sackings, immigration cases, and refusal of benefits’ entitlements during the economic downturn.
The government disputes the figures produced by the Advice Services Alliance, which give a geographical breakdown of how the government’s plans will hit towns and cities.............."
Written by Eastlondonlines Cops & Crime, Lead Stories, Politics & Power Oct 31, 2011
Thousands of people in Hackney will lose out on free legal advice and representation due to government cuts, East London Lines has learned. Over £950,000 in funding will be axed by coalition plans to slash the legal aid budget, making Hackney one of the worst-hit areas in the country.
Analysis by Legal Action Group (LAG), a charity that campaigns for access to justice, shows that the number of cases financed in the borough will plummet from 7,829 to 1,454 starting April 2013 – meaning that over 4,000 people in vulnerable situations could be left without any form of advice or representation for housing, employment, benefits and debt.
Bearing the brunt of the blow will be black and minority (BME) social groups, who make up more than half of the borough’s population. Along with women they will be disproportionately affected by the cuts according to the government’s own impact assessment of the reform.
Local not-for-profit providers of advice services have warned of the potential dire effects of the move at a time when more people are turning to their services due to the economic downturn, warning of increased evictions and homelessness.
Rashid Seedat, director of legal services at Hackney Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) told East London Lines:
“It will have a catastrophic effect on poor and vulnerable people. I don’t know where they will go.
“Since the beginning of the recession we have had a huge increase in the number of clients with debt problems and those who have been made redundant.”
Hackney CAB estimate that around 50% of their funding will disappear – equating to £200,000.
Meanwhile Hackney Community Law Centre (CLC), which has provided free specialist legal services for over 30 years, is set to lose two thirds of its budget, even though the centre says it is already stretched beyond capacity.
Nathaniel Mathews, senior solicitor at the centre, said:
“This is a very heavy blow. Cases are flooding through the door at the moment and we cannot meet demand.”
“I think we are going to see evictions go up. When I go to court as a duty solicitor most of the cases are over rent arrears. These could be resolved with early intervention – but it will only get worse by removing legal aid when people need it more”.
Although both centres receive funding from the council and other sources, there are now fears that they could be forced to close their doors unless the shortfall is bridged. While the government has given an indicative commitment to provide limited funds there are as of yet no concrete plans. Funding from other streams is increasingly scarce in the third sector, with more charities and voluntary organisations now chasing money from the same pots.
The Legal Aid Bill is currently waiting to reach the House of Lords and once on the statute books could come into effect by April 2013.
It contains the coalition’s strategy to shave £280m off the legal aid budget that it claims has ballooned in recent years, increasing 6% annually in real terms since 1997, with the bill now at £2.1bn a year.
The Ministry of Justice hopes the removal of most categories of civil law from the scope of legal aid will discourage expensive litigation paid for by the public purse while targeting legal aid to those most in need.
But while the government states the paring back of legal aid is necessary to help tackle the national budget deficit, critics argue that it will have the inverse effect by increasing public expenditure in other areas.
Rachid Seedat of Hackney CAB said:
“[These cuts] will impact on the local authority due to their duties to provide temporary accommodation to homeless people.
“A lot of the time we sort things before court, such as housing arrears and debt. The courts will be inundated because more people will end up there instead and they are worried about this.”
Campaigners have attacked the economic logic underpinning the government’s case by pointing to research by Citizens Advice which found that every £1 spent on housing advice can save the state up to £2.34, while the same amount on benefits help can make savings of up to £8.80."
Sheffield Star cover the legal aid disaster on Nick Clegg's doorstep. It is important to keep these articles coming-the battle is not over and we need to keep the pressure on-this will have an effect on the Lords. Just been to a useful session on social welfare law at the House of Lords run by Lord Bach with Lib Dem, Tory and cross bench peers. One of the things they emphasised was the need to keep the public pressure on as the bill moves to the Lords and if it goes back to the Commons-will post later on other useful points arising. We are not going away and this is not over by a long chalk.
" Legal aid plan will hit poorest Published on Tuesday 1 November 2011 07:07
Advice services in Sheffield could be slashed under government proposals to reform the legal aid system.
The Government’s planned cuts to funding for legal advice will mean 3,495 people in the city will lose out, it has been estimated.
The Ministry of Justice wants to cut around £350 million from the UK’s £2.1 billion legal aid bill.
It wants to put an end to legal aid for divorce and custody battles, clinical negligence, employment and education law, immigration, and some debt, housing and benefits issues.
Campaign group Justice for All says the voluntary sector, which uses legal aid funding to offer help on issues such as debt, employment or benefits, will lose 76 per cent of its funding at a time when other streams are under pressure.
Justice for All spokesperson Gail Emerson said: “In Sheffield, as in the rest of the country, local residents will be hit hard by these cuts to such a vital service.
“The total bill for legal aid on social welfare issues like these only comes to £50m each year.
“Government spends almost three times more administering the legal aid system.”
Supreme Court Justice Baroness Hale said earlier this year the reforms would have a ‘disproportionate effect on the poorest and most vulnerable in society’.
“We have to be prepared to spend money on initial advice and assistance schemes because that is where most problems are solved,” she said
“Courts should be a last resort but they should be a last resort which is accessible to all.”........Rest at link below :