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Legal aid cuts will leave vulnerable struggling for help

April 2 2013

Cuts to civil legal aid which come into force this week will leave vulnerable people struggling to find help, a survey has warned.

 

Civil legal aid is no longer available for cases involving divorce, child custody, clinical negligence, welfare, employment, immigration, housing, debt, benefit and education.

 

More than £60million of funding has been given to open up new law and advice centres.

 

The Bar Council is publishing a handbook this week to help claimants who will have to represent themselves in court.

 

But a survey carried out by the Centre for Human Rights in Practice at the University of Warwick found around 29 per cent of people working in the legal-aid supported sector were at risk of losing their jobs.

 

Areas likely to be most deprived of advice centres included the north of England, the south-west, Wales and the Midlands.

 

The report’s author, Natalie Byrom, said: “Legal advice services are most heavily concentrated in London and the south-east of England.

 

“But our survey found that it is the rest of the UK that will be disproportionately affected by reductions in legal advice services.

 

“This survey raises grave concerns about the creation of ‘advice deserts’ and vulnerable people unable to get the advice they desperately need.”

 

According to the government’s own assessment, about 600,000 people will lose access to advice and legal representation.

 

The move has been heavily criticised by Lord Neuberger, the UK’s most senior judge.

 

Steve Hynes, director of the Legal Action Group, thinks up to 1,000 law firms taking family cases supported by legal aid could withdraw from the market.