Joint Press Release on behalf of Resolution West Midlands Committee and the Birmingham Law Society Family Law Committee
Resolution, the country’s largest association of family law practitioners, and the Birmingham Law Society, the largest regional Law Society in the country, have joined together to warn of the devastating effects of further legal aid cuts, which will result in 200,000 people a year being denied access to justice across England and Wales.
Legal aid will remain available to support many victims of domestic violence and people seeking to protect children in private law cases where there is evidence of child abuse or neglect and a further limited number of people for mediation, as well as in cases where child care proceedings are involved.
However, mediation is not a one-size-fits-all solution. For the process to be successful, both parties need to agree to participate. Where one party is not willing, there is no support available. As a result, many people will be forced to represent themselves, sometimes in court (known as ‘litigants in person’), acting without legal advice.
In a statement made following the implementation of these cuts, Philip Barnsley Resolution’s Chair in the West Midlands, said:
“These measures are a false economy. In cases involving separation and financial matters, the weaker partner is left with an inadequate settlement and is pushed into reliance on benefits, shifting the costs to other areas of public spending. This will ultimately place a greater burden on the public purse.
“These cuts fail families and run counter to the government’s stated aim of putting children and families at the heart of policy. The effects will be particularly damaging for the children in divorce cases, particularly those from poorer backgrounds.”
Jerome O’Ryan, Chair of the Birmingham Law Society Family Law Committee, added:
“The government has recently announced a consultation on further cuts for cases involving child care proceedings. This is a further blow to those involved in trying to obtain justice for some of the most vulnerable members of our society. For the government to make these proposals now, on top of the deep cuts made in both 2010 and 2011, does feel like kicking people when they are down.”
“The reality for most solicitors dealing with child care cases is that fees are already cut back to the bare minimum. The impact on those vulnerable members of society who need expert legal advice will be fewer representatives as legal aid firms find it not viable to carry out this type of work, leading to them being denied access to justice.”
“In addition, there will be strict limits on a legal aid firm’s ability to take on further work. As a result, people who are eligible for legal aid may experience difficulty locating a legal aid lawyer to represent them as fewer practitioners are able to provide legal aid. Access to justice risks becoming a postcode lottery.”
Resolution’s Philip Barnsley added:
“Initially we estimated that around 200,000 people would be impacted by legal aid cuts, but our concern is that many people needing help will not be able to afford or access the advice that they require with immeasurable impacts on children.”
“Everyone appreciates the importance of reducing public expenditure but Resolution and the Law Society remain unconvinced that this is the right way to do it. We want to see the government review, at the earliest opportunity, the impact of the legal aid changes and assess whether the predicted cost savings across all government departments are really materialising.”
Contact Becky Lynch at Birmingham Law Society on 0121 237 6004 or at firstname.lastname@example.org