Legal aid must be protected

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WE ARE WRITING to thank everyone who joined last week’s protest against the proposals to cut legal aid, which will see funding for advice halved in Hastings.

We would also like to thank the Observer for its supportive coverage of this issue. We were pleased to hear that both Amber Rudd and Hastings Borough Council have promised to meet the requests on our petition, namely that the MP will oppose the proposals to remove housing, benefit and debt advice from the legal aid system, and support any amendments in the Justice Bill to this effect; and the council will bring a cross party motion in support of the Justice of All campaign. We shall be looking to all our elected representatives to keep these promises.

With the Justice Bill expected to go to the House of Commons this week, this is our last opportunity to influence these draconian proposals, that will see access to justice severely restricted, and entirely removed for many, across many areas of law.

Our clients often present to us in times of commonplace crisis. A long term or terminal illness diagnosis, loss of employment or relationship breakdown are the most usual reasons why people find their income reduced and need either to manage debt, claim benefit, or seek help with their housing. To remove the access to advice and indeed, in doing so, in many cases, remove the ability to challenge bad decision-making by Government at all levels, makes no sense. In times of crisis we should all be able to, at least, access legal advice to understand the choices we have.

While we therefore appreciate the support of our local representatives on this issue, it should not be seen as an act of heroism. It is surely the very least we should all expect from those we elect to stand up for our interests.

Those that wish to get involved further can do via the Hastings Stands up for Legal Aid Facebook site, or via the Justice for All or Sound Off for Justice campaigns.

Julie Eason

Partnership Manager East Sussex Advice Partnership

Jacky Everard

Centre Director HARC

Dina Christodoulou

Chief Executive Citizens Advice 1066

John Holmstrom

Asst Chief Executive – Brighton Housing Trust