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Family lawyers issue warning over legal aid changes
Resolution, the association of family lawyers, has issued a warning over the consequences of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Bill.
A survey of members undertaken by Resolution found that, according to the vast majority (87%), LASPO would mean that less than 25% of people they currently help would still qualify for legal aid.
The social implications would be considerable: the survey also found that 57% believe a parent risks losing contact with their child in at least half of their cases. Based on the surveyed lawyers alone, this represents well over 4,000 children.
LASPO would also withdraw legal aid from many parents trying to get back children who have been abducted within the UK, even though 91% of those surveyed believe there is a risk of abduction in at least some of their cases.
“It is clear that the Government’s proposed legal aid cuts could bring devastating consequences. Many of those currently eligible for legal aid would seriously struggle to obtain the legal advice and support that could ensure that they continue to see their children after a difficult separation”, said David Allison, Chair of Resolution.
“The changes also risk increasing the nation’s benefits bill. Many of our members say that the majority of their clients would not know what financial settlement they are entitled to, which could see them left dependent on the welfare state and benefits.
“Resolution is committed to the constructive resolution of issues arising from separation, through options such as mediation, and the organisation welcomes the Government’s desire to see fewer family cases going through the court system. However, there needs to be support for those for whom mediation is inappropriate, which, according to the survey, could be in as many as 40% of cases.
“We are concerned that, by focusing so heavily on mediation, the Government will punish those for whom it simply won’t work through no fault of their own – for example, if they have an abusive or uncooperative partner.”
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