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Shadow Legal Aid Minister Lord Willy Bach visited BHT Advice on a fact finding mission to investigate the impact of legal aid cuts on individuals and organisations.
Lord Bach, who is HM Opposition spokesman on justice issues in the House of Lords, was accompanied on the visit by Lord Steve Bassam. They heard from BHT Advice clients who spoke about how legal aid had helped them when they were in desperate situations. They also heard from advice workers from both BHT and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau about their fears should the cuts go ahead.
The proposed cuts will mean that ordinary people, particularly the least well off, will not be able to get the early legal advice from BHT and other advice agencies that are so necessary for sorting out legal problems. This will mean that these problems remain unresolved, with increased costs and pain for the individuals concerned, and indeed a financial cost for all of us.
Lord Bach, HM opposition spokesman on Justice Issues
In Brighton and Hove alone, BHT and the Citizens Advice Bureau say they together risk losing £1 million per annum if the proposed cuts are implemented. This is funding currently used to advise and represent over 3,000 of the city’s most vulnerable residents. BHT forecast that the number of housing cases they will be able to take on across Brighton, Hastings and Eastbourne will reduce from the current 1,450 to just 650.
Our services most affected by the legal aid cuts are non-asylum immigration, welfare benefits and debt. Each of these services will be completely cut. In benefits cases we routinely win 90 per cent of appeals; the law is complex and without specialist legal support the people involved in these cases are less likely to achieve just outcomes.
John Holmström, BHT Assistant Chief Executive
Citizen’s Advice calculated that for every pound spent on early advice saves the state substantially more by averting crises in citizen’s lives. It represents possibly the most value-for-money of any area of government expenditure.
For further information about the legal aid cuts see the Justice for All website