Reductions in Legal Aid for Migrants and Local Authority Support to People with No Recourse to Public Funds  

 
    The Ministry of Justice consultation on Transforming Legal Aid ended on Tuesday 4th June 2013. The NRPF Network is very concerned about the impact of the new proposals to cut legal aid by imposing a residence test for ALL civil legal aid.
    We have produced a statement of concern with the ADCS and LGA. We have also produced a more detailed consultation response.
    We have also worked with partners in the voluntary sector to produce a Shadow Equality Impact Assessment and Shadow Financial Impact Assessment to respond to the Ministry of Justice's 'Next Steps' response and consultation.
    We believe the proposals are likely to be found unlawful due since they are discriminatory and do not apply with human rights obligations. We also believe the residence test would be unworkable in practice and is likely to cost the public purse far more than it would save.
    We will be taking our concerns about the legal aid proposals forward over the next few months; if you would like more information about our work in this area, please email Jennifer.Blair@Islington.gov.uk.
    We attended the Save UK Justice protest outside the Ministry of Justice on the 4th June 2013 and we were very impressed with the quality and passion of the speakers. One QC (pictured here holding an avocado - something that is apparently much easier to cut than legal aid) described legal aid as the beating heart of the rule of law. Access to justice is what allows ordinary people to enforce their rights and entitlements and we should not change that in a way that makes fundamental rights illusory.

For some additional consultation responses and perspectives on the proposed changes take a look at what some other expert organisations have said:

  • Consultation overview from the Save UK Justice campaign
  • A retired police officer raises concerns about the likely impact of the proposed residence test on migrant victims of domestic violence and on the police service: this consultation response.
  • Human Rights Watch call for halt in attacks to legal aid.
  • Amnesty International UK warm of decimation of access to justice.
  • Response from the Law Society.
  • Impact of LASPO
    On 27th March 2013 the NRPF Network and British Red Cross hosted a conference to explore the impact of the legal aid cuts to clients with NRPF. From April 2013 legal aid in immigration law will primarily only be available for asylum cases, applications under the Domestic Violence Rule and legal proceedings relating to detention or deportation.
    Legal aid in other areas, including for Article 8 applications, has been abolished unless the client can successfully apply for exceptional funding: http://bit.ly/12UwQE9 (for assistance with this contact the Public Law Project: http://bit.ly/ZKUpM4.
    It is very likely that the local authority’s position as primary carer for looked-after children will place a responsibility on them to secure legal advice for children in their care; it will usually be in the best interests of the child to resolve their immigration status.
    Where a looked-after child has a non-asylum immigration case (e.g. under Article 8), then the local authority may be required to procure independent legal advice for the child. In some cases a local authority may decide to fund immigration legal advice for other NRPF clients (such as adults with severe disabilities or long-term family clients). The NRPF Network is producing a factsheet on this issue at present.