Ministers have announced almost £17 million fund for the legal not-for-profit advice sector, as the controversial legal aid bill which looks to decimate the sector enters the House of Lords.
The Legal Action Group reckons that legal aid cuts to debt, benefits, housing and employment advice could total £63m annually and affect 317, 270 people. As the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill entered the House of Lords today the Cabinet Office announced a £16.8 million fund for not-for-profit advice as well as a review of advice provision.
‘We hope the advice services fund will provide a lifeline for citizens advice bureaux, law centres and independent advice agencies on the brink of closure, but it is just another stop-gap fix,’ commented Gail Emerson, Justice for All spokesperson. It came the same day that the Government was ‘pushing Lords to sanction a cut of £63 million every year to legal aid advice in the very areas of advice this fund will support’. ‘This one-off fund of less than a third of that amount is not enough to fill the gap,’ she said.
Emmerson said that the advice review was ‘crucial to the future of free legal advice’. ‘Politicians from all parties have said how much they value the work advice charities do in their constituencies. The Advice Review is time for them to really put their money where their mouth is and commit to supporting the advice sector in the long-term.’