Cuts could cause community meltdown


Campaigners have warned that the proposed government cuts to legal aid will hit the vulnerable people in society hardest and could tip the mental health crisis in the black community into meltdown.

Campaign group have made submissions to the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) consultation this week saying services users could be left locked up on wards without the legal counsel they need to appeal against their detention, unless there is a radical rethink of MoJ’s  plans.  

The groups point out that funding cuts will hit those with disabilities and ethnic minorities hardest at a time when detention rates of people from the UK’s African Caribbean community at an all time high.

Proposed cuts of 350m from the legal aid budget has seen Conservative MP and solicitor Helen Grant speak out recently. She said; “Over the last three decades the distance between the haves and have- nots has increased, .. To stem the flow of legal aid while we are in such a critical condition, amid a stifling recession, could prove devastating”.

“I remain mindful of the justice department's duty to tackle its budgetary burdens, but this goes beyond its remit. ..Our country's financial health is a priority, but not at the cost of basic social justice”.

Speaking about the danting prospects of the cuts leaving the poor to represent themselves in court, she said; "Experience shows that members of the public are not well-equipped to represent themselves on a legal stage. Technical issues of law and procedure aside, it is virtually impossible to maintain composure and focus when you yourself are the subject of litigation".

Matilda MacAttram director of Black Mental Health UK said; “There is a danger that the legal rights of one of the most vulnerable groups in society will be further eroded by these Legal Aid reforms.

"We need to look after the vulnerable people in our community who through no fault of their own can’t make certain decisions. When people don’t know their rights and the systems that should be in place aren’t there to support them, this is when things could go into meltdown”.

Winsome-Grace Cornish

Main picture: Poorer people will face the formidable task of haveing to represent themselves in the courtroom.

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Services for the vulnerables have started to be reduced!

This very evening I was present when the Reading Borough Council ConDem coalition railroaded the most severe cuts through their budge meeting. As of April the Reading Council for Racial Equaliy will lose it's core funding. The process undertaken by the council disregarded all of the current equalities legislation regarding the need for impact assessments, consultation and openess and transparency.