Saturday, 3 March 2012

True Compassion

Several stories in today's newspapers caught my attention, that seems to be linked and the true extent of the government are having on the most vulnerable.

The Prime minister likes to think of himself and his government having “true compassion" in today's Independent he talks about his government cares about the kind of country our children are going to grow up in, they care about giving people dignity in old age, he says only by taking tough and bold action that we will make our country stronger and fairer."

Earlier in the week I wrote about the increasing private credit crunch, where our CAB is seeing increasing number of people seeking advice on debt, housing and employment problems.

In Mendip we are fortunate to have a high quality bureau, previous governments of all political colours have understood the important nature of free community legal advice given, this can make such a huge difference to a persons life.

This Tory government are looking to save/cut £350million, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill has now passed to the House of Lords and Peers have warned that if the planned £350 million cuts are implemented law centres will close, leaving many thousands of the poor and vulnerable marginalised and without access to legal help.

The cut in Legal Aid will remove legal aid for medical negligence, divorce, employment and welfare cases, whilst also hitting areas such as debt and housing hard

The newly passed Welfare Reform act will increase the workload of the community legal centres, with changes that will effect disabled people, housing costs and reductions in benefits.

The government believe that their system the government expects more people to deal with problems themselves, via a centralised telephone line or the Internet.

Just imagine how difficult this might be for someone with learning disabilities, who really needs to deal with someone face-to-face from the start. Especially as in legal centres have access to experts to call upon for the most complex cases. Or someone who cannot afford a telephone or the Internet, and therefore would previously have relied on walking to their local law centre. These people will still exist, but will have nowhere to turn.

An example of the help CAB and legal centres offer is the GP outreach project in Mendip, trained people give advice and as a consequence local people have received benefits they are entitled £400,000 in the pockets of the most needy.

Disabled people will not get the support they need - at great cost to them and to friends, family, carers, communities and the taxpayer further down the line.

The thought of people living in fear of safety is of true concern. In today Independent there is a report of the savings/cuts into the help offered to victims of domestic violence.

Refuges for women suffering physical and mental abuse from partners are closing and specialist counsellors are losing their jobs following a 31 per cent cut in their funding.

The British Crime Survey estimated that there were 392,000 incidents of domestic violence in 2010-11. A separate study found 7 per cent of all women aged 16 to 59 had been victims of domestic abuse in the previous year.

I say to the Prime Minister the system needs to be fair. And that means fairness for everyone. Fair to the vulnerable, fair to defendants, fair to practitioners, and fair to the taxpayer too.

What sort of country is it where the powerful are riding around on retired police horses preaching about fairness at the same time aggressively attacking the very services that the most vulnerable need, I guess that what passes for fairness in the class of Eton.

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