"The Government’s plans to significantly reduce legal aid seriously threatens our future and access to justice for the people of Swindon," says Neil Baker, manager of Wiltshire Law Centre.
The service was established over 30 years ago to provide free legal advice and representation to the poorest, most socially disadvantaged and vulnerable residents of Swindon.
In the last 12 months legal aid enabled our caseworkers to provide free specialist advice and representation in complex cases to over 1300 people in the areas of Debt, Housing and Welfare Benefits. If the cuts go through, the Wiltshire Law Centre will probably be forced to close its doors by March 2013 unless we can find significant alternative funding.
The Government proposes to remove from legal aid the following areas of law, all of which the Wiltshire Law Centre currently specialises in:
All welfare benefits cases.
All debt cases unless the home is directly at risk.
All employment cases, except for discrimination cases.
Some housing cases unless serious disrepair or possession proceedings.
Many people will no longer be eligible for legal aid as the proposed changes to eligibility include:
Those on means-tested benefits will no longer be passported through the means assessment.
People with savings between £1,000 and £3,000 will be required to pay a contribution.
Home equity will count in full – the end of civil legal aid for the majority of home owners.
People on low incomes including pensioners will required to make larger contributions
The Government’s consultation to the proposals closed in February and we await the Government’s response, which is due after Easter.
Join the Justice for All campaign (a coalition of over 2500 charities, legal and advice agencies, politicians, trade unions, community groups and members of the public). Click http://www.justice-for-all.org.uk/ for more information and to join.
If you have been a client of the Wiltshire Law Centre in the past or anticipate needing our services in the future please get involved by writing to or emailing your local MPs telling them why our service is vital.
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