When Legal Aid was reduced in 2013 by the Government Practitioners were advised that “exceptional funding” could be applied for if the case warranted it.
Figures released in September 2014 show that the Legal Aid Agency has only granted 4% of the 1,789 applications and in only 12 family cases.
The Government insists that the scheme is working.
Lawyers have repeatedly warned that families are being denied adequate advice to help resolve family issues and children are being deprived of contact with their parents in cases where parents cannot afford legal advice.
It is difficult to see how the Government can say the system is working effectively when even the High Court has ruled that the test is set to high. The Government expected to receive and grant thousands of applications and had put in place a team of 20 at the Legal Aid Agency to process them.
We are aware of one case where a Mother who was disabled and who had learning difficulties was applying for contact three times a year with her children who were in care to be increased. The Special Guardian was resisting her application and applying for contact to be reduced. The Mother’s application for exceptional funding was refused. The Judge said it was clear that the client could not deal with her own case and understand the nuances of the case against her.
The Government and the Legal Aid Agency need to wake up. As one Lawyer has said “they are living in LAA LAA Land”.
If you consider Family Legal Aids cuts are a disgrace please contact your MP, alternatively if you do need help and advice regarding your family matter please contact one of our offices in Boston, Grantham, Lincoln, Sleaford, Spalding & Newark.