Thursday, 13 January 2011

Justice For All campaign launches amid decimation of legal aid for poorest

This month, a coalition of over 1300 legal and advice agencies, politicians, trade unions, community groups and members of the public have launched Justice For All, whose stated aim is to "campaign to ensure everyone is treated fairly under the law, no matter who they are, how much money they have or where they live".
Members include Shelter, the homeless charity; Scope, who lobby on behalf of people with cerebal palsy; Citizens Advice Bureau and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

In a letter to the Guardian they announced:

"The government's green paper proposes scrapping most free legal help on employment, housing, welfare benefits and debt – for the sake of saving just 2.5% of the legal aid budget. This means that over half a million people, especially the most vulnerable, will be left defenceless. Rather than punishing the poor, the government should sort out the public administrative systems which create many of the problems in the first place. A recent study in Nottingham found that more than 40% of the demand for free legal help was generated by failures in the system".

What is most striking about many of the government's reforms is their focus on removing many of the protections that the very neediest in society currently receive. Today's announcement on changes to child support arrangements - that has sparked concern from Barnados, amongst others - is just the latest in a range of changes.

What all of these have in common is something familiar to the ethos of the US Republican Party - that it is churches and charities job to look after the poor, not the state. We are in an era of Tory, not coalition, rule.

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