Post by Colin Henderson on May 19, 2012 8:43:35 GMT
So that's it then. Job done apparently. According to their website yesterday JfA are going into "hibernation". I knew it was cold for May but I didn't realise the winter had set in already.
Here is their statement:
"The Justice for All alliance will cease active campaigning - lthough the fight for free legal advice will continue.
Over the next year, key members will continue campaigning in partnership for free legal advice, but the Justice for All Campaign itself will go into hibernation. Organisations and advisors will be dealing with difficult changes, monitoring their impact, and looking ahead for new opportunities".
It then goes on to claim credit for: "£60m is available to the advice sector over 3 years... Many parts of the Legal Aid Act are better now than when plans were first introduced... MPs and Peers are more aware than ever of the importance of free legal advice."
Is it fair to claim that? Is it right to simply pack up now before the full effects of the cuts are even felt? Is the reality that the networks (who were always in control of JfA rather than us members) have moved on and given up on this fight months ago.
Years ago I posted about the various campaigns to save legal aid over the years and urged people to support them but not get their hopes up, as they never last. Once again this cynic is sad to be proved right.
Post by nickd (Mylegal) on May 19, 2012 11:20:00 GMT
I hear what you're saying Colin and I too think J4A's hibernation is sadly well premature. I guess at the end of the day it's a question of resources, no where near enough was poured into this campaign by those who could and should have more vigorously promoted the value of the work we do. That's not a criticism of J4A by the way who I think did a really good job with the limited resources within which they were constrained. Let's also not forget they were up against the most stubborn and socially irresponsible government of all times. That's why it's a good job we've got the ilegal network, it's an absolute pillar of support to coalitions of agencies who have no real common thread when it comes to frontline staff communicating their thoughts between one another and that's why I feel committed to doing all I can (along with many others including yourself I'm sure) to keep spreading the word and fighting for what's right because ultimately that is the right thing to do.
Yes Justice for All is in 'hibernation' but the need for social justice continues, the need for specialist legal aid (however it may be funded) remains. James of J4A is as I understand it more than willing to hear from any of us as to evidence of the need for regularity change and we should certainly continue to remain in dialogue via that channel of communication.
As to the broader future. How? when? why? - I'm sure we all have a few ideas and to me the best place to air them is right here...
I would question some of the assertions in your post. First up, in terms of J4A claiming credit for changes, the actual wording on the website is:
"almost 4,000 of us working together have ensured that"
which explicitly acknowledges the efforts of the supporters of the campaign.
Second, the J4A activity over the past few months has been much more high profile due to 2 dedicated campaigners working on the campaign, underpinned with funding from Baring Foundation. This was always a finite resource and I would imagine that given this was explicitly linked to LASPO, there may not be a business case for Baring to continue supporting the campaign in this way (I don't know that for definite, but I can't see how they could simply commit to funding an open-ended campaign).
I do share a frustration that this alliance will inevitably drift apart without dedicated input to keep it together, but where will that stem from? Yes, it would be good for the appropriate networks to put their heads together and see whether that's a viable option but to say that they had "given up on this fight months ago" is wide of the mark, and not the kind of infighting that will help make any continuation a possibility.
I know for a fact that Will was really struggling with how to frame the ending of his time with J4A, because he didn't want people involved, either directly or supporting the campaign more generally, to feel that all of their efforts had been wasted by the Bill receiving royal assent. Which maybe why some of the "successes" were highlighted as well, to show that the campaign did have an impact.
I'd agree with Nick that it's up to advisers, agencies and networks to start looking forwards now and make sure that analysis takes place of how the impacts of this heinous piece of legislation plays out for the public, what effect this has on the social welfare advice sector and what we can all do together to mitigate some of those impacts. This isn't a time to become cynical about the motivations of the good guys at the very least.
Post by Colin Henderson on May 31, 2012 21:27:40 GMT
I didn't mean to attack the good guys Paul - I completely agree Will and Gail have worked tirelessly, and I salute them both.
But let's be frank about who the good guys really are. It's common knowledge that some of the big networks - and the leaders of one in particular - have been clear since the legal aid green paper was published that their strategy is to move into the areas of work the current government are willing to fund - advice-lite call centres and consumer issues for example - whatever the consequences for the most vulnerable who need face-to-face services. Legal aid just never mattered that much to their new "business model".
So hence my lack of surprise that the campaign is abandoned with indecent haste. Who knows what we could have achieved if such people hadn't been riding two horses all along.
Sorry to come late to this thread. I wanted to add thanks for Justice for All on behalf of our Sheffield group, particularly for Will & Gail. “Tireless” is right - I would often get emails answered on weekends or receive stuff on pair up with a peer in the wee hours, and they kept working even after their official roles ended. Their input made it so much easier to rally our efforts as a J4all group in Sheffield. It gave us focus and their briefings and actions were a godsend for busy people. Like ilegal, J4all was a constant “go to” site throughout the campaign.
Could we have changed more of LASPO with more resources? Maybe. But we did achieve a lot. The successes with the bill may be modest, but there is a more intangible legacy that comes from the people who joined forces. As Patrick said on mylegal, hard times give birth to the best qualities of the sector - and “we fight on together”.
Exhibit A - our J4all group. Myra and her hand painted banner, Doug firing off another press release, Souley handing out flyers week after week, Mike and Sarah’s dedicated emails, Andrew's writing for the local media – the list goes on and everyone was great. They inspired me as they didn’t just complain and wait for the inevitable but sacrificed their lunchbreaks to do something about it. And you can go far with a little time and energy. Every time we had a LASPO vigil outside the town hall we met numerous people who weren’t touched by the national media and hadn’t heard about the cuts at all. Some people didn’t care but most did once we got talking.
LASPO would always have been hard to beat in a society where we don’t value justice and social equality as they deserve. Legal aid is still seen by too many as irrelevant because “I don’t have those problems” (yet). There is a job ahead to keep raising the profile of what we do and what people need as the penny starts to drop that our safety net has more & more holes. There are at least a few of us in Sheffield who don’t have any intention of packing in our commitment to this, and ilegal is a fantastic source of strength to keep going on.
Here are some comments from members of our group who say why we should be proud of the campaign far better than I:
“Congratulations and thanks for the very real achievements of your campaign and the numbers of people like me who are not lawyers that you have kept informed. I think it so important that ordinary folk know what is going on and why it matters.”
“I'd like to thank and congratulate everyone for the sterling work done over the last year or so. You may well be as disappointed as I am by the refusal of the Coalition (not to mention the mealy-mouthed stance of the Labour "opposition") to concede more ground, but nevertheless some important gains were made. More importantly, the public was made very aware of the reactionary nature of the proposals in what is now the Act, and that, together with the co-ordination and co-operation between the different groups involved in the campaign, means that there is now a base of committed people from a wide range of organisations, who will be better equipped to take on the next struggle (over the government's plan to permit snooping on people's e-mails and other communications, perhaps?) to defend what should be regarded as basic human rights…"Bloodied but unbowed", we live to fight another day.”