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Citizens Advice says government making a fundamental mistake on legal aid

21 June 2011

In response to the Sentencing and Legal Aid Bill published today which radically cuts the availability of civil and family legal aid, Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said:

“The government is making a fundamental mistake on legal aid and it is those in greatest need who will suffer. Restricting the scope of legal aid is the wrong way to reform the system and may cost more than it saves.

“Civil legal aid keeps people in their homes, in their jobs and out of debt. These cuts will leave hundreds of thousands with nowhere to turn for help. Serious cases of family breakdown, unfair dismissal and refusal of benefits will simply get worse.

“At a time of economic uncertainty and big changes in work, welfare and public services, people need advice more than ever. The government has to make sure advice is there for those most in need of help.

“Today’s package will undermine the big society and have profound knock on costs for public services. Charities and community groups have all warned against this outcome. There cannot be justice for all without a workable civil legal aid system.”

Last year more than 300 specialist Citizens Advice Bureau case workers – who depend on legal aid - helped resolve more than 40,000 welfare benefit cases, almost 60,000 debt cases, over 9,000 housing case and 3,000 employment cases.

Notes to editors:

  1. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  2. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  3. To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk. You can also get advice online at adviceguide.org.uk
  4. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers
  5. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.3 million clients on 5.4 million problems from October 2013 to September 2014. For full 2013/2014  service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
  6. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.