Cutting to the heart of justice is deadly

Young Legal Aid Lawyers warn that the Government’s decision to reduce legal aid by £350 million will devastate our justice system unless radical steps are taken to reduce other cost drivers first. Plans to cut to the heart of justice by targeting legal aid on the most vulnerable does not recognise the important role of legal aid in preventing social problems such as homelessness and spiralling debt. It will result in increasing the numbers of vulnerable people who require in depth legal help.

Legal Aid takes up less than 0.5% of the total UK budget and has faced cuts in real terms since 2004.

If the government wants to reduce the legal aid bill it should reduce the need for legal aid through measures such as simplification of the law and the prevention of poor decision-making by public bodies.

It is important that the government recognises that high-quality representation at the earliest stages of the legal process can lead to huge savings later on. There are grave costs implications of clients representing themselves in complex legal proceedings against the state or corporate entities.

We call for urgent clarification about the ‘tough choices’ mentioned in the CSR. Recent leaks suggest that tough choices might mean that children will be deprived of court action to prevent them from being abducted or seeing their parents.

At a time when spending will be cut dramatically on welfare benefits and social housing it is essential that the socially excluded have access to advice and representation to avoid destitution and homelessness.

YLAL chair person Laura Janes commented ‘ it is essential that all those acting for vulnerable legally aided clients take an active role in responding to the subsequent green paper in order to protect access to justice’

Read statement by Secretary of State for Justice