Love legal aid this Valentine’s Day
Posted Tuesday 8 February 2011
I blogged a couple of weeks ago about the radical reforms the Government is proposing to make to the legal aid system, which could have devastating effects for people with experience of mental distress.
The experience of advisors on Mind’s legal line and advocates based in local Minds shows just how important legal advice and representation can be for people on a range of issues – like debt, welfare benefits, housing or employment – which can be key to managing a mental health condition.
The proposals to reduce the scope of issues that can be funded by legal aid, as well as increase the amount people must contribute to legal costs, will precisely hit these people – and hit them hard.
On top of this, the Government is proposing to channel all legal aid advice through a single telephone gateway. One local Mind told us why this would particularly impact on their service users:
Language and other communication barriers would make a telephone advice service difficult – clients are often distressed and to discuss their traumatic experiences over the phone with a “stranger” would be difficult and off-putting […] face to face communication aids working with people in distress/where there is a need to reassure and gain trust.
MPs are also angry about the Government’s proposals, as they made clear in a House of Commons debate yesterday. Andy Slaughter MP made Mind’s concerns plain to Ministers, saying:
People with mental health problems and other disabilities experience much higher rates of unemployment, debt, homelessness and discrimination and will therefore be disproportionately affected.
Mind, Justice for all and many MPs are fighting for the rights of people with experience of mental distress and others to have equal access to justice. But time is running out to influence Government.
The consultation on the Green Paper closes on Valentine’s Day – Monday 14 February. They have said they will give weight to the number of responses received. You can help put pressure on the Government to rethink their proposals, by:
- Writing a letter to Government about how legal aid helped you
- Responding to the consultation – a short response is better than no response!
Download templates and advice on how to show Government why you love legal aid this Valentine’s Day.
Amy Whitelock, Senior Policy and Campaigns Officer
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