Civil legal aid cuts will result in more families becoming homeless

A leading homeless charity believes cuts to civil legal aid will result in more families ending up on the streets.

Changes in civil legal aid, which came in to effect last month, mean divorce, employment, family issues, clinical negligence and housing cases are no longer eligible for public funding.

The Government hopes the move will slash the reported annual £2 billion legal aid bill.

In a letter to the Guardian newspaper, Shelter’s chief executive Campbell Robb outlined the charity’s concerns about the cuts.

He said: “At a time when so many people are struggling financially and are at risk of losing their home, Shelter is deeply concerned that the proposed further cuts to civil legal aid will make it even more difficult for us to help homeless families find a place to stay for the night.

“Judicial review is the main mechanism Shelter uses to ensure local authorities meet their legal duties to help homeless people.

“These proposals remove the funding for cases where permission to proceed is not granted by a judge.

“While it’s true that a significant number are either refused permission or withdrawn, this is because many cases are settled in favour of the claimant before the case needs to go that far.

“In some cases, simply the threat of a judicial review prompts the local authority to provide the temporary accommodation to which homeless families are legally entitled.

“This will be exacerbated by other proposals – for example, the introduction of a “residence test”, allowing local authorities to ignore, with impunity, their legal obligations to the vulnerable children and families.

“Without the use of judicial review to intervene, many more people will end up on the streets. Sadly, this could mean children being separated from their parents. We fear that this additional cut, if implemented, will make it even harder for families who become homeless to get back on their feet.”

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