Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Skating towards Perdition says Jonathan Djanogly

“I would dispute that we have a roller skate legal service in this
country. I think it’s actually demeaning to the professions and to the excellence of the quality of service that most people receive [from Legal Aid].” Tory legal aid minister Jonathan Djanogly told legal bigwigs on 7.2.2011.

As a moderately depressed geezer working at the coalface this seemed like quite cheerful news. We'd all been worried about cuts of £350 million and 50% cuts to Civil Legal Aid services.

Oh wait, to paraphrase the rest of Jonathan's japes at the Westminster Policy Forum, therefore he's going to proceed to cut £350 million and ensure that 500,000 people will lose access to Civil Legal Aid.

So that's all right then. Cuddly Jonathan thinks that although we don't yet have a roller skate legal system, we should have, and this will make working in legal aid less demeaning.

Government consultation on massive legal aid cuts closed at 12 pm St Valentine's Day, as Chancellor Ken Clarke received thousands of  e-Valentine cards asking him scrap his plans to cut legal aid.

On 31 January 90 lawyers, charity workers and union members met with clients to plan a fightback at Hackney Town Hall. Already in just 14 days 1,000 Hackney residents have signed petitions to save Legal Aid. 500,000 people will lose free legal advice for problems such as debt, housing, and family, which is half of the number who are receiving civil legal aid now.

Local resident and human rights barrister Liz Davis, chair of the Haldane Society said that since 1949 Legal Aid had been the fourth pillar of the welfare state, along with the NHS, free education and the benefits system. The cuts would slash access to basic rights.

A member of the public who came to the meeting with her disabled mother said that she was a refugee who had been helped by Legal Aid when they were both homeless. She now has a university degree and is working as a dietician with Council services to improve school meals. “I wanted to give something back” she said.

12 Courts will close over the next 2 years in London. Nationally 3,000 jobs will be lost, but it's not about the jobs.

We put in a petition with 232 signatures by real people. People who put a mobile phone number and a post code, and a scrawl.  Mums with prams and kids, pensioners apprehensive about meeting a lawyer but hoping they may get help, worried and confused people from many walks of life with threatening letters and court papers they don't understand, smart people we only have to give a little knowledge to who go away and sort out their problems for themselves, frightened teenagers who have been trafficked as maids, then thrown out when they became 18, broken old men stuck low by drug problems and decades of homelessness and heroin, elderly people crippled by cancer, blindness, renal failure, who should be talking to doctors not lawyers, volunteers coming in day after day to help us run our cases.

232 people said No to LA cuts.

I'm sure there's more out there.

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