11:59am Wednesday 10th April 2013
By Zoie O'Brien
The manager of a closed Citizens Advice Bureau has spoken of the devastating impact that legal aid cuts could have on thousands of Waltham Forest families.
As of April 1 the list of people entitled to legal aid in the UK was slashed meaning that Britain’s poorest families will have to pay the huge costs for representation in court.
Now, welfare, benefits, debts and employment cases will no longer be subsidized by the government, for all but an extremely limited number of cases.
Andy Munton, now the joint manager for Waltham Forest CAB Service says that at a time of welfare reform, these cuts mean that people will be left in legal limbo.
He said: “I think that the impact is going to be quite significant.
“We had about a 70 percent success rate for appeals for people with mental health needs and disabilities when the Department for Work and Pensions had got a decision wrong.
“The time that the biggest benefits reform is coming in, the means of challenging a government decision is being restricted through the dramatic changes to legal aid.
“Now it will be difficult for people to get decisions overturned.
“People will have to sort out their own family matters now. This is worrying for people who are denied access to their children, especially fathers if they cannot afford a lawyer.”
The Leytonstone CAB office was closed last week as a direct result of the cuts to legal aid funding.
Mr Munton however, is trying to reassure people that they are doing all they can at the now joint office, on Church Hill, Walthamstow, to ensure that they can continue to provide help and support.
He said: “We are working to reorganize the service and we have been in talks with the council.
“The council has been very flexible and we hope to use their funding to help as many people as possible.”
Anyone worried about changes to legal aid can visit the CAB’s website at www.adviceguide.org.uk for further information.
The Waltham Forest Citizens Advice Bureau can be contacted on 020 8521 5125 for help concerning debit, benefits, employment and immigration.
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