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Legal aid bill ‘bad for vulnerable’

Legal aid bill ‘bad for vulnerable’

The country’s most vulnerable people could be denied access to advice if the legal aid bill is passed in its original form. That is according to campaigners, who fear the Government will use “financial privilege” rules to reject a Lords amendment that could alleviate some of its impact.

One of the bill’s key aims is to scrap legal aid for welfare and benefit cases. Consequently campaigners say the bill, which is due to return to the House of Commons on Tuesday, could leave people without recourse to advice if they encounter difficulties claiming support from the state.

Citizens Advice maintains tens of thousands of people will be more vulnerable to homelessness and poverty as a result. The Government wants to pass the bill in order to reduce the cost of the legal aid system. A Ministry of Justice spokesman said in a statement:

“At more than £2.1bn per year, we have one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world, which in the current financial climate we just cannot continue to afford. The wide-ranging availability of legal aid can lead people to assume legal action is their only option, even where early practical advice could be of more help to them and avoid them needing a lawyer at all.”

Campaigners also say the detrimental impact of the bill will be compounded by the ongoing reform of incapacity and disability benefits.

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