cuts will make it almost impossible for many Citizens Advice
Bureaux (CAB) to carry on providing specialist advice, leaving
thousands of people with nowhere to turn with serious but everyday
legal problems. This is according to a new report commissioned
by Citizens Advice which is published this week.
Writing in the introduction to the report
Out of scope, out of mind: who loses from legal aid reform
(link opens in a new window), Citizens Advice Chief
Executive Gillian Guy says that abolishing legal aid for issues
such as welfare benefits, debt, most housing problems and
employment will have a devastating impact on the capacity of the
CAB service to provide specialist advice and casework,.
The warning comes as the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of
Offenders Bill reaches its final stages in Parliament.
“Specialist advice has become a core part of the CAB service,”
“Our frontline caseworkers and managers have told us that the
impact of the proposed changes to legal aid on specialist services
will be devastating. The overwhelming majority say that it will be
impossible to provide a specialist service, whilst over half say
that it may be impossible to continue providing any advice service
“Our real concern is how these types of problems will be
resolved if specialist casework services are no longer available.
The vulnerability of the clients in the cases outlined in the
report is striking. Serious cases of unmanageable debt,
refusal of benefits and unfair dismissal will simply get worse.
And the worse these problems get, the greater the cost for
public services and the economy.”
Out of scope, out of mind
Out of scope, out of mind* tells the stories of some of
the many thousands of clients who have sought advice and been
helped by their local CAB in the last 18 months, but whose problems
will not qualify for free legal help in future. In most cases it
has been CAB specialist legal aid advice which has helped them
resolve their problems.
From April 2013, social welfare law will be taken ‘out of scope’
of legal aid. This means legal aid advice will be abolished for all
welfare benefit matters, debt, employment and all housing cases
except those where a person’s home is at “immediate risk” or where
housing disrepair poses a serious threat to health. Legal aid
advice on issues involving immigration status and family breakdown
will also be abolished, except where detention, domestic violence,
child protection or state childcare are involved.
House of Lords vote
On Monday 5 March, the House of Lords
voted against some of the changes in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and
Punishment of Offenders Bill.
Read the Citizens
Advice press release (link opens in a new window)