Coventry Law Centre is asking for urgent action to before the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill goes back to the Commons on 17 April.
Legal Aid cuts will have a disproportionate impact on women, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable.
The Government has made some concessions and also suffered a record 11 defeats, but we want to do everything we can to try to ensure that the defeats inflicted on the Government by the Lords are not overturned.
The two defeats that would have the biggest impact on clients at Coventry Law Centre are
- the defeat of the mandatory telephone gateway – which would allow clients to continue to approach the Law Centre directly and hopefully would mean that the LSC would increase the number of cases they might be able to run in the new contract – the Government predict they can deal with 76% of cases on the phone, which would leave the Law Centre dealing with only 24% of the clients we currently help in areas of work that are still in scope
- bringing welfare benefits back into scope – this would have a significant impact for the Law Centre’s service for people with welfare benefits problems. The number of appeals they are dealing with has increased by 50% since Christmas
Please write to your MP and ask your family and friends to do the same. Justice For All have an on line letter writing campaign here
Coventry Law Centre suggests ammending the Justice For All letter to read:
‘I also support the other amendments the Lords have voted through. They do not have significant spending implications, and are largely concerned with ensuring legal aid is provided in the most accessible way, and that clients in exceptional circumstances are not excluded from support. Specifically, the amendment removing the ‘mandatory telephone gateway’ for legal aid will enable charities like Law Centres and Citizens Advice Bureaux to continue to see their clients face to face. These charities provide services for some of the most vulnerable people in our society, for whom telephone advice is not helpful
I’m sure you will have experience of this from your own surgeries and I’d like to draw your attention to recent research which shows that legal aid cuts will impose a substantial extra burden on MPs’ surgeries, since 650,000 fewer people will have access to other forms of support. It is available from the Young Legal Aid Lawyers website.’
Please make time to do this before 17 April – it is our last chance to protect legal aid!