Government Cuts to Legal Aid Could Mean Parents Missing Out On Contact
By Vicky Medd Solicitor and Mediator with Ridley & Hall Solicitors.
The Government’s cuts to the Legal Aid budget which came in on 1st April 2013 are already having a massive impact on families in this country.
Previously, parents who were having a dispute over contact to their children could, provided they qualified financially, get legal aid to take the dispute to Court. From 1st April 2013, this is no longer the case.
The Government brought in a very wide ranging definition of domestic violence, but have then brought in very stringent criteria in which legal aid will be made available. Parents not only have to qualify financially, but they have to prove that there is domestic violence, or there is a child protection issue, and the evidence required to prove it are very exacting.
Vicky Medd, solicitor and mediator at Ridley & Hall said “Since the government cuts came in, very few clients have been able to get public funding for cases involving contact to children. The evidential requirements often cost money – a letter from a GP, or a letter from the police are required to be written in such a way as to satisfy the Legal Aid Agency’s requirements. This is stopping vulnerable people being represented by a solicitor in very difficult cases. It could lead to more children not having contact to parents.”
In addition, people who can not afford solicitors are resorting to issuing court proceedings themselves. This is taking up more court time, and the court system may struggle to cope with these cases. This could mean court proceedings taking longer. It also means that other services are going to be stretched – the Police and Social Services in particular.
Vicky explains “It is hoped that the Government rethink their plan. What they have failed to see is that by saving, they hope, £350 million from the Legal Aid budget, they will have to spend more in supporting other services like the police and social services”.
Vicky Medd is a family solicitor with over 20 years experience. She is an accredited specialist with Resolution and has a lot of experience of financial relief, and child disputes. Vicky was also recently involved in one of the first family arbitration cases in the country and has a lot of experience in dealing with cases as expeditiously as possible, whilst achieving the best outcomes for clients.
Vicky has also been a family mediator for the last 9 years. She is a member of the Family Mediators Association, and is also qualified to act as a professional practice consultant, which enables her to work with other mediators, and try and develop their professional practice. Vicky was previously head of a family mediation practice in a large West Yorkshire firm.
Vicky is also a Collaborative lawyer, which enables her to work with other Collaborative lawyers across Yorkshire to help clients achieve settlements with as little acrimony as possible.
Contact Vicky Medd on 01484 538421 or by e-mail.