Financial & Legal News

Local People Losing Access to Justice, claims Family Solicitor

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Single parents, the vulnerable, the disabled and those living on less than £15,000 a year are more likely to experience multiple legal problems, according to a recent government study.

Access to justice, following legal aid reforms, has meant that for those in need legal assistance has reached crisis point.

The recent Legal Aid Bake organised by the Oldham Law Association was aimed at highlighting these problems and raised £500 towards free legal help via the CAB.

The Legal Problem Resolution Survey found that people most likely to experience four or more legal problems were: ‘adults with a limiting illness or disability, lone parents, adults with a household income of under £15,000 per year, those receiving means-tested state benefits and social renters.’

At least four in 10 adults who had a legal problem experienced at least one 'adverse consequence'.

The most common consequences were stress or another mental health problem, loss of confidence, and loss of income or financial strain. At least one in 10 reported being physically ill.

People likely to report adverse consequences were those with: a family problem; administrative problems associated with employment and state benefits; and civil problems concerning injury or ill health arising from an accident or negligence.

Legal Aid used to help the most vulnerable but since The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, (LAPSO) which came into force in April 2013, this was removed for the majority of private family law matters.

Of those who received help from a law firm, only one in 10 said their help had been funded by legal aid. Around a quarter said that an insurance company paid, while 19% were funded by a ‘no win, no fee’ agreement and 11% said a relative or friend helped with costs.

Commenting on the findings, head of childcare at Pearson Solicitors and OLA member, Stacy Fox, said:  “These results come as no surprise as practitioners have been saying since LAPSO that the restrictions on legal aid were too stringent and would affect the most vulnerable in society. 

“This is further exacerbated by court closures as is happening in Oldham, local access to justice further denied and people with the lowest incomes expected to travel to nearby cities they have possibly never been to before for a court hearing unrepresented,” she added.

“There is only so much pro-bono services can do, and only so much they should have to do.  Access to justice is a fundamental right and yet it is being denied to those who clearly need it the most.

“We can only hope that the government take these findings on board and relook at the current availability of legal aid.

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.

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