The newly appointed Chair of family law organisation Resolution, has described government cuts to legal aid as “devastating”.
Speaking at the organisation’s annual conference in Manchester, Jo Edwards cited the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO), which removed funding from most family law cases.”
“This week marks one year since the changes to family legal aid. LASPO has had a devastating impact on our members and, more importantly, on the people they had previously been able to help. We know that the promised “safety valve” of the availability of exceptional funding is not providing very much relief at all; at the last count there were only 8 successful applications in family cases, out of 617 made in the past year.”
“The plain fact is, when you hear some of the nonsensical stories about victims of domestic abuse who are not able to get legal aid because they can’t produce the right piece of paper – whatever way you look at it, it is just wrong.”
The Chair continued:
“The government are also cutting off their nose to spite their face. They said they want more people to choose mediation. Yet publicly-funded mediation numbers are down. We warned before the cuts were introduced that if you remove solicitors and Citizens Advice Bureau from the equation, you remove the key source of referrals into mediation.
We also emphasised the importance of legal advice during the mediation process. Sadly, they didn’t listen at the time.”
Legal practitioners need to adapt to the situation and work together, not against each other, she declared.
“Because the reality is that whilst we can make appropriate noises where there is particular injustice, more broadly, we have to accept the harsh reality that the cuts are here to stay.”