Signing up to oppose legal aid reforms

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LEGAL firm Taylor&Emmet is urging local residents to back the Law Society’s campaign to oppose sweeping legal aid reforms.

Taylor&Emmet’s family and clinical negligence experts believe the government’s changes to the legal aid system will leave many in the city without the means to achieve justice.

The firm wants people to add their names to the Law Society’s petition against the reforms, which will be presented to justice secretary, Kenneth Clarke. The movement has been launched following confirmation that eligibility for legal aid is to be slashed and housing, employment, clinical negligence, debt advice and some family law services removed from the system.

Lucy Rodgers, head of legal aid, said: “Despite huge concerns raised by many representative groups, the government has decided to press ahead with proposed cuts to legal aid. The impact will be devastating for the thousands of people in Sheffield who will no longer have the means to access legal services.

“When combined with reductions in welfare benefits, debt and housing advice, there could be nowhere left to turn in a desperate situation. In the area of family law alone, these changes will mean that a woman with children who is separating from her partner could be rendered homeless if the property she lives in is not in her name, whilst a father denied access to his family could end up never seeing his children again.”

The government states that its proposals aim to target legal aid at those who need it most and encourage the resolution of more matters without court proceedings. Financial support will still be available in cases where life or liberty is at stake or there is a risk of physical harm, immediate loss of a home or children taken into care.

James Drydale, Taylor&Emmet’s clinical negligence specialist, added: “The decision to take clinical negligence out of the legal aid system is unjust and punishes victims, particularly children who suffer permanent disabilities, as they will no longer be able to seek professional advice to help bring a claim. If more injured people are denied the means to achieve fair compensation, the NHS will be deprived of the opportunity to improve by learning from its mistakes.”