Cutting protection for the vulnerable

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From: Janet Paske

Sheffield, S8

I am writing to draw attention to the impact of the Tory-LibDem plans for legal advice on Heeley Advice Centre, a small centre which provides advice to some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the Gleadless Valley and beyond.

Its legal aid contract has had a significant cut in 2010/11.

Last year (2009/10) its three paid staff (with the help of volunteers) secured over £1m of income in benefit entitlements, most of which will be spent in the local economy, with a further £325k in backdated awards and one off grants.

They also prevented 250 households being repossessed. Almost £4m was written off in bankruptcies and debt relief orders.

These are remarkable achievements for a small agency, but in addition, for every £1 spent on legal aid, up to £10 is saved by the state according to Citizens Advice, which by my reckoning makes it an excellent return on investment.

So what can be done to prevent further cuts? Unfortunately these cuts will affect many people who are disenfranchised or who, if disabled, may find life enough of a challenge just to get by a day at a time. So it’s down to the rest of us.

There is a campaign - “Justice for All” http://www.justice-for-all.org.uk/ - which launched yesterday [12 January] in Parliament to help prevent cuts and you can add your voice to this. Better still, talk to your MP and ask them to sign Early Day Motion 1194 (http://tinyurl.com/38qzmtl) raising concerns now about the planned changes.

If civilisation is about protecting the vulnerable, we are in danger of becoming an uncivilised nation.