CHILDREN will be put at risk by Government cuts to Legal Aid, London’s Green MEP Jean Lambert has warned after meeting lawyers at Hackney Community Law Centre.
Cuts to Legal Aid due to come into force from April will mean case-workers at the Hackney Centre, and similar centres around the UK, will only be able to work on housing cases where people face imminent eviction – when it’s usually too late – and not at all on benefits or most immigration cases.
Ms Lambert said: “Hackney Community Law Centre is dealing with an increasing number of cases involving children of parents with different nationalities – and their access to housing and education.
“In few of these cases will the centre be funded to offer any legal advice from April – and this will, inevitably, put children in Hackney at risk.”
During the visit to the law centre, of which she is a patron, Ms Lambert heard about one case in which a care leaver being helped with a housing issue after winning a place at college won’t be eligible for any such help after April. She would almost certainly be unable to attend college and learn a trade as a direct result – meaning she, and others like her, will be far more likely to face long-term unemployment and remain dependant on benefits for years.
“These cuts are simply shortsighted: coming at the same time as cuts to Citizens’ Advice Bureaux and other organizations offering advice in our communities, they will end up costing society far more over the long term than they will save in the short-term,” Ms Lambert said.
“These cuts are a direct attack on access to justice for some of the most vulnerable in our society – and the Government must rethink them, from both a humanitarian and economic perspective.
“If it doesn’t do so it’s the children of Hackney, and those like them, that will end up paying the greatest price.”
During her visit, Ms Lambert met case-workers, volunteers and interns.
Centre Manager Sean Canning said: “We were delighted to welcome our patron Jean Lambert MEP to the Centre last week. Jean is well known in the UK and at EU level for her hard work and commitment to issues relating to immigration and asylum – key areas of our work. The Law Centre, like all Law Centres, is going through a very difficult time and so we are very pleased to have Jean’s strong support.”
Ms Lambert added: “There’s so much dedication and expertise that goes into making this Law Centre work – and I am really grateful to everyone who gave up their time to show me around and explain some of the difficulties they face providing access to justice for hundreds of Londoners.”