The Office of the Children’s Commissioner has published a report into the impact that the drastic cuts to legal aid, introduced in April 2013, have had on cases involving children. As a result of the cuts, legal aid is no longer available in cases involving private family disputes about children, except in certain very limited circumstances.
The research reveals that, since the cuts were made, either one or both parties are now without legal representation in 70% of such cases.
The Government did introduce an “exceptional funding” regime in April 2013, which meant that legal aid should still be available in circumstances where an individual’s human rights could be infringed without it.
However, the research has revealed that, of all the applications made for exceptional cases last year, only 57 were granted, compared to the 3700 that the Ministry of Justice had expected! Further, that the regime requires complex preparatory work, which is completely impractical for a child who is not legally represented.
The Children’s Commissioner for England, Maggie Atkinson said, “The human cost of Legal Aid reforms is immense. Behind the evidence in our research are countless heart rending stories of children and vulnerable young adults whose lives have been seriously affected by their inability to access legal representation”.
The findings have led the Liberal Democrat minister to ask the Ministry of Justice to review these findings, in order to address any gaps in the current system.
At the Family Law Company, we are all too familiar with the huge impact these cuts have had upon families and children and are therefore certainly hoping for reform. We believe people should have the right to be legally represented in such cases. In order to try and bridge the gap we offer greatly reduced rates, in line with those of legal aid, for people who would have qualified previously for legal aid. Should you require advice or representation in a case involving a child or children, please contact us to make an initial free appointment, at which we will be able to advise you of your options.
Find out more about legal aid using our legal aid calculator.