Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Jan 21, 2011 21:42:02 GMT
We're hard at work on mylegal raising the profile of Legal Aid work as best we can. The New Statesman magazine (which is on sale in most newsagents and can be looked at on-line too) ran an interesting major article on the effect the cuts are having on key front line public service workers, amongst which they included - The Doctor - The Policeman - The Teacher - The Postman - The Social Worker and......The Legal Aid Worker.
At South Hams CAB we contacted their editorial team and within a few days it's out there on the new stands, it even gets a big mention under the banner heading ' State of emergency' on the front page.
Here's the article
“The Legal Aid Worker
“They say our work could be done by volunteers – but filing cabinets of filing cabinets of complex cases tell me otherwise”
At the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) where I work in South Hams, Devon, we are heavily reliant on legal aid funding. A lot of our work is difficult, complicated and unglamorous. Dealing with people’s problems over entitlement to benefits, or their debts, or – in conjunction with the charity Shelter – specialist housing help.
The Government wants to make immediate savings by cutting all civil legal aid budgets by 10% - and, by 2014/2015, it hopes to save £350 million a year across the country. Our legal aid service costs each person in the three districts we cover just 94p a year, so we think we’re good value for money already. But the coalition says that the work we do isn’t specialist and could be picked up by volunteers. Filing cabinets of very complex cases tell me otherwise.
The cuts mean that we won’t be able to help people such as Tom in the future. Tom is in his thirties and is severely autistic. His mother came to us after his mobility payment was stopped because he is living in community residential care. We strongly disagreed with the decision: the money helps carers take Tom, who is unable to speak, out in a specially adapted bus. Without it, he is unlikely to see much of the outside world. What would his quality of life be like?
Tom’s case, which began in 2008, has now reached the upper tribunal in London. Despite the length of time and complexity of the case, we at the CAB are paid only a fixed fee of £167 by the state to deal with it. But even that might not be available in the future. The government’s plans will hit people such as Tom and his mother hard. Not only will they have to deal with cuts to benefits, but there will be much less funding to help them if those cuts are unjust.
Nick Dilworth is a legal aid casework supervisor in Devon. To find out more about the Justice for All Campaign, visit: justice- for – all.org.uk”
Don't just read the article, join the on-line blog on New Statesman (it's very easy to register and is free) where I've given Mylegal a much deserved plug.
Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Jan 23, 2011 8:57:07 GMT
I should add that the above post was highlighted on Mylegal - amongst other accounts of how Legal Aid has helped people like Tom. What it doesn't tell you is how we won the first case in the First Tier Tribunal for Tom. The DWP had prepared their initial case very inadequately, the references they provided to the FTT were totally irrelevant to the case. The upshot of this was the FTT had to adjourn and gave the DWP a chance to put their case in better form. The case was subsequently heard after the DWP had been given a 'second bite of the cherry' to get their case in order. The FTT fully accepted our argument at the hearing and decided the case in Tom's favour.
Tom's mother thought this would be the end of it, but no....the Secretary of State then appealed against the FTT's decision and appealed to the Upper Tribunal - where there are a number of cases stayed on the issue of DLA mobility funding/state funding provisions. The DWP asked for a stay on a case which transpired to be totally irrelevant and then went back for another stay on a more relevant case; we are waiting for the outcome.
We say the funding of mobility payments is steeped in the historic origins of funding for mobility trikes - later to become a mobility component when DLA was introduced in 1992. We say the funding for mobility is a separate one which exists entirely in its own right and is remote - and distinct from - the funding streams for the provision of residential care where the claimant is in accommodation other than a hospital and is being cared for rather than treated by the NHS. Thus, there is no duplicity of state funding as contended by the Secretary of State.
What complicates the case is the number of changes to NHS funding over the years, with changes to PCT's at later dates, regardless of this - we say the funding for Trikes was there to enable disabled people with a mobility impairment to get some financial help with getting out and about, the Trike became the mobility component when DLA was introduced in 1992 - but there remains in its origin - the intention behind the funding and we say it's remote from NHS/PCT funding, it's a different funding stream altogether.
It's a complicated old case, far more so than those that who think we only 'give basic mechanical advice' - is any one telling me this isn't Legal Aid???? - or is it rather that we're just 'non-lawyers' rather than the 'fat cat lawyer' brigade who probably did very well out of Legal Aid in days gone by.
Perhaps the old school needs to go and have a look at the Access to Justice Act, which brought about the introduction of the Community Legal Service and its implied access to improved access to justice to areas of law which could be better explained by people on the front line who deal with this work day in and day out? [Note in particular the sections relevant to non-lawyers]