An estimated 100,000 of the most vulnerable in society will be hit by the coalition’s planned reforms to the legal aid system in England and Wales, according to a leading firm of Family Law solicitors in Coventry.
The grim prediction was made in response to the announcement by Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, who has proposed cuts to legal aid areas such as employment, welfare and family law being affected or taken completely out of scope.
Pauline O’ Rourke of Ward and Rider Solicitors said: “We are deeply concerned that the planned cuts will seriously damage access to justice for many of our clients, as well as our ability to provide help for the most vulnerable. Every year hundreds of local people need legal help at moments of real need. If people can’t access such help, the consequences can be dire – spiraling debt, homelessness, family breakdown, domestic violence, depression”.
Miss O’ Rourke also pointed out that the government’s £81billion worth of cuts announced last October to try and reduce the country’s financial deficit will actually heighten the need for the very legal services which are now under threat.
She added: “We recognise the need for significant savings in the legal aid system, but we believe this could be better achieved by reforms to reduce demand on the legal system and to cut down on costly bureaucracy. If legal aid no longer provides for social welfare legal advice then an alternative resource must be identified.”
In response to the Government’s proposals, Ward and Rider have introduced a number of initiatives, including the cheapest Fixed Fee Divorce package in the West Midlands (which includes a free Will) and after Easter they will be opening up a Free Advice Clinic on Saturday mornings.
“We have been providing high quality legal services to local people for 60 years now and we shall continue to find ways and means of doing that. People cannot simply be denied access to justice, whatever the state of the economy”, said Miss O’ Rourke.
For further details, call Ward and Rider on: 0800 009 3462 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org