We have been working with journalist Ruth F Hunt to shed light on the lack of legal aid in austerity Britain.
We thank Ruth for this important work and for recent coverage in the Morning Star – see the full article here. Excerpts of the article are summarised and re-posted here with permission.
Legal aid is crucial in austerity Britain
At a time when draconian public service cuts and a deeply discriminatory immigration policy force many to require legal support, the number of individuals entitled to legal aid has been cut by 99 per cent since 2012.
Those who do not fall into the 1 per cent and are unable to afford expensive legal fees have been forced to either give up, go through a gruelling tribunal alone or rely on voluntary organisations.
While this happens voluntary organisations across the country are disappearing.
On 15 July, Lambeth Law Centre closed as a result of financial pressure caused by cuts to legal aid and increased operating costs.
This has resulted in a large number of claimants finding themselves unable to access juice. The situation is not unique to South London. Society’s most vulnerable are being systematically decoupled from free legal support across the country.
This can be shown in an interactive map produced by the Law Society highlighting legal deserts, where there is no provision for housing legal advice.
Amidst this, the Greater Manchester Law Centre (GMLC) fights on.
“So, who are GMLC? They are a law centre that’s been open to the public for the past three years.
“They’ve represented homeless people resisting eviction from a hostel and battled to enforce their rights to accommodation from the council.
“It has fought alongside tenants taking on rogue landlords and has recovered over £2 million for people wrongly denied benefits.
“In the wake of the Windrush scandal, GMLC stood in solidarity with the local community and gave information to people threatened by the hostile environment.
“GMLC also campaigns with others for change, including being a vocal critic of the proposed public space protection order, which is currently being considered by Manchester City Council.
“Like other law centres, GMLC is operating under the constant vulnerability of scarce resources and has renewed its pleas for much-needed funding for free and independent legal advice and representation by personally appealing to all Greater Manchester MPs and council leaders.
“In these letters GMLC chairman John Nicholson pointed to the attacks on those people most in need of free and independent advice as well as the depth of the crisis facing the voluntary sector in Greater Manchester, which has been striving to provide what help it can.” – Ruth F Hunt and Chris Stopping for the Morning Star
The Greater Manchester Law Centre encourages our supporters to support this campaign, as well as other campaigns across Greater Manchester which share our principles.
Summary by GMLC volunteer Emil Margrain