People are facing greater and greater hardship as a result of cuts in benefits, homelessness, uncertainty at work, and escalating racism. “I Daniel Blake” paints this picture of Britain today utterly clearly.
Meanwhile legal aid – an essential part of the welfare state – has been cut again and again. People most in need are deprived of access to justice.
Greater Manchester Law Centre has been set up as a clear challenge to this. We now have premises and volunteers providing legal advice on Employment Support Allowance Appeals (just what Daniel was seeking). We have strong backing from the NWTUC and union branches such as Unite and Unison, and generous support of two national charities to appoint a Supervising Solicitor (see www.gmlaw.org.uk for recruitment), so we can make our policy demands and fulfil our service delivery aims.
We are fighting together for free access to independent, high quality face-to-face legal advice and representation, for everyone in need across the ten boroughs of Greater Manchester.
We do not just want to be a law centre, but a campaign for law centres generally. Nor do we want just to provide some service delivery, important though that is, on an occasional basis alongside Foodbanks. While we want lawyers to provide pro bono advice now, this isn’t to let Government or Councils off the hook; we need a new generation of paid social welfare lawyers, we demand the restoration of legal aid, and we are first and foremost a campaign for access to justice for all.
Near the end of the film, it is not quite clear whether Daniel was able to get access to legal advice (an adviser at the Tribunal is seen giving him confidence that he will win his appeal – as most do, if they can get that far). Access to proper advice is crucial – but we demand more, an end to the vicious sanctions themselves. If you agree, please let us know, get your union branch to support us, and join the campaign!
Chair, Greater Manchester Law Centre
159 Princess Road
Manchester M14 4RE