The election results are in and the headlines in the legal world are unenthusiastic. The last 5 years have meant a lot of changes for lawyers under the coalition government, particularly Family lawyers. With the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 followed by the Children and Families Act 2014, it has become very difficult to get legal aid for most Family law cases, new procedures have made it a slow and trying process to make an application to court regarding children, and time limitations for care cases and the CAP for private law cases has meant that families are afforded limited time in court for their cases to be heard.
Unable to afford lawyers and struggling to navigate the court system alone, many families have turned to charities for help and support. Unfortunately, along with the significantly increased demand for advice and support also came the cuts in funding for charities, particularly government funding. Many valuable charities have had to shut their doors or reduce their resources to stay afloat. Drug Scope and others have closed altogether, the Children’s Legal Centre has had to shut down their direct access telephone advice line, Single Parent Action Network has closed their parenting support service and Family Lives has had to reduce their parenting helpline opening hours due to cuts of over 50% in their funding. The Family Rights Group, who provide direct legal advice and assistance to vulnerable parents and families, has had to cease their email advice service and their Pro Bono project funded by the London Legal Support Trust to offer free, in person legal advice to families where children are at risk will come to an end in July 2015 unless more funding is found. I have volunteered to advise clients in this Pro Bono project for the last several months and those who have attended are desperately in need of advice and even just an hour in the Pro Bono clinic has made a huge difference.
Thankfully, it is not all doom and gloom on the horizon. We can all continue to fight for the rights of children and families, lobby government, and support charities ourselves. On Monday 18th May 2015, the London legal community will come together for the London Legal 10k Walk which is one of the biggest charity fundraising events of the year and goes a long way in keeping legal charities afloat. This year, the Bindmans team is walking to raise money for the Family Rights Group and the London Legal Support Trust, which I hope will help to keep funding alive for the Pro Bono project as well as the other incredibly valuable work done by both charities. Let’s hope for sun on Monday to work towards a sunny future for legal services helping vulnerable people.
If you would like to sponsor us in our walk on Monday, you can find our team’s fundraising page here.
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