Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Social Benefit Lawyer RIP

What is a housing lawyer?  Or what is a social welfare lawyer?  Answer-   we are people who represent and come to court for people with very little money.  We are paid for mostly by the tax-payer. Why should the tax-payer give a damn?

We are the people who work for charities like Law Centres or CAB’s.  We are also those working in private firms set up on a for profit basis, staffed by underpaid and idealistic individuals, with a thirst for social justice.  It is an honourable calling.

We speak for the battered wife, the cancer victim, the abused child. We speak for the tenant who has had her papers ripped up in front of her face, and who has been put onto the street because her landlord is too lazy or ignorant to take his case to court to obtain a valid eviction order.

We speak for the student who is qualifying as a teacher when her husband deserts her with 2 kids, and leaves her with rent responsibilities she can’t meet.

We speak for the tenant who paid a deposit for her private tenancy, when the landlord has pocketed the coin. Rules say landlord should have registered her deposit, but where are her rights if she has no voice?  

We speak for the soldier who has been mutilated by war, and fight the letters that would take his benefits away. We fight the veterans' rights no matter which side they fought for, on disability grounds.

We speak for disabled adults under 35 years of age who are racked by the room rent that slashes their Housing Benefit.  It is expected these “young” people will share accommodation with each other, but there are too few flats to share.

We speak for those on threshold benefits who must pay a new Poll Tax because Council Tax Benefit has been restructured.  £3 a week from someone on Income Support will become the norm. Where are the marches we saw in the 90’s?

We speak for the council tenant who raised a family in a two bed flat, whose wife dies, whose children moved away. He faces a bedroom tax on the spare room- yet there are no unoccupied one bedroom council flats that he can move to- if he moves to the private sector his Housing Benefit bill will be higher and we will all pay more.

We speak for the homeless people.  The family skewered by the benefit changes, the war veteran sleeping on the streets for six months. They are shipped out of London because it is cheaper to have fewer poor people here- yet what is London without it’s cockneys and with its parvenus?

We speak for the Londoners who die violently and are remembered by flowers placed on random corners, which in their turn wither and die.

We speak for British children who have no proper home and are hungry and scantily shod because their foreign mothers never married their British fathers.  When did we hate children so because their mothers fell pregnant to men that left them there?

We speak for children who live for years in cramped emergency hostels with no room to breathe, let alone do their homework from school. Keep the poor stupid, that’s the way. No academies or free schools for these kids.

We speak for the Poles and other Eastern Europeans. Polish pilots flew Spitfires in the war, yet we are unwelcoming when their children fall on hard times.

We speak.

Yet on 1.4.13 we will speak no more.  The clumsy Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act will cut off Legal Aid and will seal our mouths with lead. Legal Aid cuts will shut our mouths, and silence the voices of the marginalised among us. .

We speak  for the London that matters. We do not speak for millionaires with their high falluting tax schemes and their high paid lawyers and accountants. I speak for the living and vibrant Borough of Hackney, thus London , thus the world.

Let us all speak.


  1. Excellent post, if only it weren't so bittersweet...

  2. very well said

  3. Excellent post, I wish I’d have found your blog earlier!

  4. The "FACT" that our £2Billion spent on legal aid is "the highest in the world" is probably false and needs careful investigation. I suspect that it is just propaganda; civil law countries spend a lot on inquisitorial and judicial costs which need to be covered by legal aid in common law countries so it is not easy to compare costs directly. US Federal and State systems provide some legal costs; are these really less than our costs, either relatively or absolutely? I suspect this "fact" is really a factoid and suggest that one pf your interns could be guided by a senior lawyer for a year or so to look at this "fact", which may explode on close and critical investigation.

  5. A very nice and inspiring write-up on the role of being a social benefit lawyer. Hope that the organisation that cuts off legal aid will change their mind and instead support the lawyers who speak for the good of the public.

  6. thanks for share..

  7. You are doing very good job but in some cases you are protecting tenant who abused with housing benefit,who have sublet the flat,supposed to live there,but instead they have used by illegally subletting the flats or houses and get money from both slides and plus working as well (claiming benefits,getting money from subleting the house and getting money by working full time,and claiming benefit as a single mother and living with undeclared husband in the same place just to get more benefit as a single mother),some tenants lying and cheating to the system and you are protecting them,for that reason i don't think you doing any good to other people in need for proper help, who needs your help!