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77,000 Londoners will lose from legal aid cuts

12 January 2012

A total of 76,770 Londoners will lose access to legal aid in the areas of social welfare, housing, employment and immigration if the government presses ahead with its legal aid cuts, a report has found.

The report, by the Legal Action Group with funding from Trust for London, revealed that the capital was on course to lose £9.3m in funding for social welfare, housing and employment advice.

LAG estimated savings to the state resulting from the advice currently provided, for example in lower housing benefit payments, at £55m.

Earlier this week a report by Dr Graham Cotton at King’s College, London, calculated that cutting legal aid for family law, social welfare and medical negligence was likely to cost the government £139m.

LAG warned in its report that the “state will have to pick up the extra costs in services to people who miss out in getting their cases resolved at an earlier stage”.

Part of the report involved an opinion poll, carried out by GfK NOP, of 1,603 residents spread evenly across the 32 London boroughs.

This revealed that 24 per cent of Londoners contacted had sought advice in the areas of social welfare, housing, employment and immigration in the last year. Those from BME backgrounds were more likely to seek advice – 32 per cent of those surveyed, compared to 20 per cent of white respondents.

Of those who obtained advice, 81 per cent were fairly or very satisfied with the service they received while 65 per cent said their situation had improved as a result.

“Our poll found that a total of 88 per cent of Londoners believe advice on common legal problems should be free to all or to those earning on, or below, the national average income,” Steve Hynes, director of LAG, said. “This is a wake-up call from Londoners to the government – these cuts will be hugely unpopular.

“The research shows advice services are not just for poor people – eight per cent of people in social groups A and B who had sought advice in the last year needed advice on benefits. LAG concludes that is due to the greater number of middle-class families qualifying for family credit in London because of the high cost of living.”

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Legal Aid