Survey reveals grave concerns over future provision of family legal
aid in England and Wales
90% of family
lawyers believe the latest legal aid moves will damage access to
justice and result in widespread redundancies across the profession.
Resolution is calling on the government for an urgent public
statement of the practical steps they will take to deal with
emerging access to justice issues.
“The number of family legal aid firms has been significantly
cut with the LSC’s own figures showing a reduction in the number of
firms across the country from 4,500 in 2000 to 1,300 in 2010. Our survey of 561 firms has shown us that 40% were wholly
unsuccessful in their recent bids to provide family legal aid and
15% were partially successful. These firms have told us that
redundancies of up to 542 are expected – and these figures are
likely to rise as we hear from other firms who have been affected.
There are signs already of movement in the market, with mergers,
acquisitions and movement of staff, but it remains to be seen
whether the market can fully adjust quickly enough. Whilst we knew
that competitive tendering was coming, delays in the award of
contracts has left firms little time to open new offices, make
people redundant or plan recruitments.” said David Allison, Chair of family lawyer’s association Resolution.
The survey of family legal aid lawyers was conducted by Resolution
to gain a picture of the immediate impact of the outcomes of a
recent bid round on the picture of family law in England and Wales.
The survey reveals real concerns that that those in need of
emergency legal aid such as domestic abuse victims or those in need
of specialist legal advice on issues like forced marriage will be
unable to find the legal help and advice they need. For example, one
of the respondents to our survey said:- “Some of those who
failed are the preferred choice for the police Independent Domestic
Violence Advocates who are involved in running the women’s refuge. ”
The survey also pointed to signs of emerging advice deserts in a
number of areas. Members in Dorset, Cornwall, Bedfordshire and
Lincolnshire in particular have expressed grave concerns that the
number of legal aid providers will be insufficient to meet demand.
One member commented:- “Cornwall has been decimated in terms
of providers – there are now only five providers covering eleven
offices across the county. Of those eleven offices, six belong to a
single firm. Conflicts are going to be a massive issue.”
David Allison said:- “Our survey has painted a very worrying
picture for the future of legal aid provision in England and Wales.
We have pressed the LSC for a full picture of the contracts awarded
but this will not be published until the appeals process ends. Our
survey tells us that 86% of those who were unsuccessful will be
appealing and it is clear that the complete picture is unlikely to
emerge until very shortly before the contracts start on the 14
We have written to the Minister and the LSC and are calling on them
to immediately and publicly set out the steps they will take and the
practical measures they will introduce to meet any emerging access
to justice issues.”
Clampdown on cheats nets council £150,000
slashed the number of people fraudulently claiming the single person
discount on their council tax bill.
After the city council brought in a new series of checks, more than
600 people have cancelled their discount – generating £150,000 in
extra income to the council every year. And more than 3,000
cases are currently being reviewed which are likely to generate at
least an additional £50,000.
Councillor Paul Brant, Deputy Leader of Liverpool City Council,
said:- “This is very welcome news. In today’s tough times we
have to drive down costs and be more efficient so we can continue to
provide essential services.
I am disappointed by the number of people who were obviously
claiming single person discount benefit while not being entitled to
it. But I make no apology for taking a hard line on people who try
and cheat as they are stealing from other residents and drawing
valuable resources away from frontline services such as teaching,
social work, street cleansing and protecting the vulnerable.
We have instructed Liverpool Direct Limited, who run our Revenues
and Benefits Department, to use every available measure to make sure
the council gets everything it is owed.
We are facing extremely harsh government spending cuts and the city
council will do everything it takes to continue to provide the high
quality services that our residents depend on.”
New sound of ‘The Shewsy’
Liverpool’s oldest youth clubs is making a noise about a £130,000
investment in new facilities. Shrewsbury House in Everton –
known locally as ‘The Shewsy’ – now features a
refurbished band practice area for talented local musicians to
rehearse and perform. It is dedicated to the memory of 16 year old
army cadet Joseph Lappin who was stabbed to death outside the youth
centre in 2008. There is also a new fitness room, showers, an
enlarged balcony and snooker area. The completion of the work
is being celebrated on Thursday, 19 August 2010, with an event to be
attended by former Liverpool ECHO sports editor Ken Rogers, and
including a showcase of local bands including Earthworm and Afro
Reggae. The improvements have been funded by the city
council’s Youth Capital Fund together with money secured by the
youth club through donations and money from trusts. The
completion of the work will be marked with an opening ceremony on
Thursday, 19 August 2010, at 7pm by former Liverpool ECHO sports
editor Ken Rogers. Councillor Ann O’Byrne, cabinet member for
the youth service, said:- “This investment in Shrewsbury House
Youth Club has provided top quality facilities for local youngsters.
The new fitness suite and music room provide a place for teenagers
to come and take part in activities that interest them, rather than
hanging around street corners. The youth club has around 250
members, and 90 people use it every day." John
Hutchison, Chairman of the Board of Management at Shrewsbury House,
said:- “The youth centre is a long established part of life in
Everton and is hugely popular with local youngsters. The new
facilities will be well used over the coming years and will provide
education and enjoyment for our members.” More
information about Shrewsbury House Youth and Community Centre is