Coventry Law Centre organise march against legal aid cuts for day of action on 3 June. Come on other people what are you doing? If we don't bother fighting these cuts what is the point of helping any of our clients at all, stopping these cuts is now more important than individual casework right now-that might help some clients, but if we don't do anything they are absolutely all going to lose access to advice.We can't just read we have to do something to help. If we can fight for them every day on individual cases surely we can fight for them collectively as well.
Coventry Telegraph now has fuller coverage of the march and a good picture. For some reason don't seem to be able to copy the article but here is the link below. Will also copy this into the media coverage section
ABOUT 200 people staged a march in Coventry city centre against planned “devastating” government cuts in free legal help for low-income people.
Organisers from the not-for-profit advice service Coventry Law Centre said the “silent protest” symbolised how people in crisis would go unheard in the courts from £350m cuts to the £2bn Legal Aid budget.
Advice centre users and staff were joined by MPs Jim Cunningham and Geoffrey Robinson, Labour shadow legal aid minister Lord Bach, and “Lady Godiva” Pru Proretta.
Legal Aid was set up in 1949 to give people who could not afford a solicitor free representation in court.
Thousands of vulnerable people a year in Coventry and Warwickshire get free advice and solicitors’ services for debt and disability problems; family court cases involving divorce and children; appeals against refusal of sickness and other benefits; disputes involving sacked workers and ex-employers, to challenge landlords threatening eviction, and immigration and school issues.
Conservative justice secretary Ken Clarke says taxpayers can no longer afford the bureaucratic Legal Aid budget, with money wasted in lengthy court hearings, sometimes in “no win, no fee” hearings.
He wants more mediation to prevent disputes going to court, and says those in the greatest need of help will still get free services.
But the government estimates more than half a million people will lose out. The Law Society’s Sound Off For Justice campaign, supported by Citizens’ Advice Bureaux, claims even more would lose their right to access justice, particularly for welfare and family disputes.
Campaigners claimed mediation will not work for many family issues such as divorce, contact with children or adoption.
Lord Bach said law centre caseloads would be cut by four-fifths, by what was a “crude and chaotic deliberate attack on the poor and marginalised.”
Sue Bent, of Coventry Law Centre, which is also funded by the city council, said: “These cuts will have a devastating impact and will threaten the future of many organisations.”
She said an extended national Legal Aid helpline would block many from face-to-face advice, and many would have to go it alone in court.
She said the cuts would prevent legal aid for debt advice until a person’s home is at “immediate risk” - too late in many cases.
Campaigners say all funding would go for employment tribunals, and to challenge schools’ exclusions or admissions, special educational needs and disability discrimination appeals.
People with more the £315-a-month disposable income or £1,000 savings would pay big legal bills.
Further article in Coventry Telegraph attacking the legal aid cuts
"No justice for people in crisis from government Legal Aid cuts By Les Reid on Jun 8, 11 08:42 AM
"IN England, justice is open to all - like the Ritz Hotel", 19th century Irish judge James Mathew once mocked.
In 2011, a return to a rich man's justice is threatened once more, say campaigners against planned cuts to Legal Aid.
The self-evident notion that justice must mean 'justice for all' was enshrined in the setting up of Legal Aid in 1949. The state would provide free legal advice and representation in court from lawyers for low-income people lacking the means to foot costly legal bills.
More than 60 years later, marchers took to the streets in Coventry and elsewhere last week to defend that principle.
The government wants to cut £350m from the nation's £2bn Legal Aid bill, which Conservative justice secretary Ken Clarke says taxpayers can no longer afford.
When plans were first mooted last summer, it was thought savings would be found in greater efficiencies. Mr Clarke still insists his proposals will end lengthy and wasteful court hearings, with some newspaper stories suggesting the main beneficiaries are lawyers' practices getting fat at taxpayers' expense.
Mr Clarke claims people and families in the most need will still get help from not-for-profit advice agencies such as Coventry Law Centre and the Citizens' Advice Bureaux, which help tens of thousands in our region in times of crisis.
A reading of the government's green paper highlights how Mr Clarke's words are misleading at best. The proposals thankfully protect most Legal Aid for criminal cases, including for those who could not otherwise afford the right to a free trial.
But they take a gigantic axe to support in civil cases. The government's own conservative estimate is a staggering half a million people would lose their entitlement to Legal Aid.
With civil cases, help will generally only be available to those facing "the immediate threat to life or safety, liberty or the roof over their heads" - too little and too late, experienced welfare advisers say.
Losers will include disabled or sick people, many of whom would have paid their taxes throughout their working lives, who may have been wrongly turned down for benefits they are entitled to.
Coventry Law Centre has secured over £50m in weekly benefits entitlements over its 35 years through advice and representation at appeals tribunals, paid by Legal Aid. That's also money for the local economy that would now be lost.
Also lost would be free legal advice for nearly all family court cases involving divorce and children, except where there is domestic violence.
Mr Clarke is encouraging more out-of-court settlements through mediation. But expert welfare advisers point out warring family members are often never going to find a compromise over divorce, contact with children or adoption, or child maintenance.
If you have been sacked unlawfully and don't have the means to take your unscrupulous ex-employers to an industrial tribunal, you will no longer get free representation through Legal Aid to fight the company's lawyers.
The same applies if debt agencies, companies, or crooked landlords are fleecing you unlawfully, unless you are "at immediate risk" of losing your home.
There would no longer be Legal Aid to appeal against wrong decisions over a school chosen for your child, or over the right education if your child has special education needs, or a wrongful school exclusion, or discrimation on grounds of disability.
You may no longer get Legal Aid to sue for damages against a hospital or dentist which botched your treatment.
The government's notion that people could find alternative funding or represent themselves is spurious and unsubstantiated in many cases.
People with more than just £315-a-month disposable income or £1000 savings would face personal legal bills.
Law centres caseloads would be cut by four-fifths, estimates shadow legal aid minister Lord Bach, and advice centres in Coventry and Warwickshire fear closure.
In Coventry last week - while he accepted the need for some Legal Aid cuts - he called the sweeping coalition plan a "crude and chaotic deliberate attack on the poor and marginalised."
Coventry Conservatives including the council's shadow leader Kevin Foster expressed support for the marchers last week.
Pressure will now be on Warwickshire's Tory MPs to oppose the plans."