"Legal aid costs a fraction of the £6.4 billion the government has just wasted
August 3rd, 2011 Several media outlets have today reported how the government has wasted billions of pounds, abandoning plans to create an electronic records programme for the NHS that the Department of Health has already squandered £6.4 billion on since 2002. This news comes after a Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) found these plans to be unworkable, admitting a ‘huge amount of money’ had been wasted.
Creating this new electronics system was no doubt a reasonable idea in principle, but was seriously flawed in practice. However, whilst the government is happy to write off over £6 billion pounds of taxpayers’ money, it is still determined to slash funding from a legal aid budget that has received a fraction of the money spent on other government departments in recent years.
To put spending on the legal aid budget in perspective, total Government spending in 2009-10 totaled £669.26 billion, of which only £2.1 billion was spent on legal aid. However, in comparison, in that year, the NHS budget increased by £6 billion from the previous year, the schools budget increased by around £3 billion and the defence budget increased by £1.5 billion.
In this context, the legal aid budget gets lost in the margin of error. Is the government then really saying it can’t afford to provide vulnerable Britons with the basic means of accessing justice at a tiny fraction of the £6.4 billion pounds just wasted on this electronic records programme?
The ability to access justice and challenge wrongful decisions in court is a fundamental right of any civilised society. In light of today’s news, providing this should not be too much of a cost for the government to bear."
Aren't they errr.. generally obliged to do so by law?
And isn't the Law Soc also nothing but a posh fellow trade union these days???
This humble sponge's employers have to find several hundred quid each year to pay for their dubious services. Think I should ask for a refund....
As for the MoJ staff - as they have taken the trouble to be better organised than us isolated frontline grunts, good luck to them in their redundancy battles. Don't see me getting much return on my subs at the moment...
Sound Off have updated their site today with an article on why the legal aid cuts will be disastrous for children. If you want to see how the government are ignoring children and disabled people see Kate Green MP's (she was former Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group's speech last week on 9.09.11 to the bill committee
"Legal aid cuts storing up social problems for tomorrow September 13th, 2011 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.”
Anne Marie Carrie, CEO of Barnardo’s, the UK’s largest children’s charity, said:
“Yet again the most vulnerable children, including children in poverty and young people in the immigration system, suffer from cut-backs. The tens of thousands of young people who use the legal system each year should not be denied the right to its protection to save what are relatively small sums of money in the bigger scheme of things.”
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, deprivationfrom benefit entitlement, deportation from the UK, all without advice and representation, and leaving juvenile victims of crime withoutcompensation. 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."
Post by Colin Henderson on Dec 9, 2011 11:02:09 GMT
No updates to this thread for 3 months? Yes indeed, and really that's because the website has had nothing novel on there in that time - just the blog reprinting Guardian articles. Yet arguably this is the crucial period to raise media awareness to get a buzz going around concessions in the Lords.
Come on guys - has the money run out? Perhaps you should do it for free - like we do
Agree Colin it seems very odd that they have suddenly gone silent. Has the money run out or something? The Law Society itself also seems to be taking a back seat over the last few weeks. Justice for All seems to be making all the running.