Association of Lawyers for Children

October 30, 2006 19:01 ET

Lawyers for Children Demands Serious Support for Family Legal Aid

The government claim that 'Every child matters' does not square with plans to cut costs

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(CCNMatthews - Oct. 31, 2006) - 'No extra money,' says Lord Falconer. the Lord Chancellor, and it could be effectively the end of legal aid for the most vulnerable children in our society. A survey of its members by Lawyers for Children suggests that if cost cutting in legal aid for children and families continues, soon there will be few lawyers available to offer essential advice to children under threat from the state and local authorities. Some 80% of England and Wales could have no practitioners. The Association of Lawyers for Children has 1200 members across England and Wales representing over 65% of qualified legal practitioners in this sector. It is the body exclusively dedicated to the law and children (and their families). It works not for lawyers but for children who need access to justice, including some of those most at risk.

"Our concerns are about the rights of children and their often underprivileged parents . Without effective legal advice and representation they will never have their voices heard when they have to defend themselves against the might of the state. The issue goes to the very heart of our democracy," comment the co-chairs of the association, Caroline Little and Alistair MacDonald, both practising professionals in the children's law sector.

Lawyers for Children believes that:

- Better funding is essential for the family justice system

- Safeguarding children actually safeguards our society

- Cutting costs could be putting many children at risk

Some statistics and background

- Solicitors representing children and vulnerable families have seen their real incomes reduced over the past decade by at least 25% plus.

- The Retail Price Index has increased by 42.6% over the last 10 years; the proportionate increase for family legal aid over the last 10 years is 3%.

- In 2000, there were 4500 legal aid family contracts; there are now only 2700.

- Children panel membership is down from over 2000 in 2001 to 1500 in 2005.

- Only 15 members of the panel are under 30, most are over 45 and many are retiring.

- Government proposals will result in up 65% of child law solicitors leaving the field.

- This would cut advisers in rural areas by up to 80% resulting in "advice deserts".

- It would increase the average travelling time for families in need to obtain legal advice to four hours.

Note: these points are confirmed in the recent survey by ALC. Please ask for a copy ... or an interview.

For further information: Roger Haywood
Strategy adviser to the Association of Lawyers for Children.
Barron Lodge Farm, Grub Street, Happisburgh, Norfolk, NR12 0QZ
T: 01692 651573 M: 07802 874584

New Broad Street House, 35 New Broad Street, London, EC2M 1NH
Tel: +44 207 247 4670

Contact Information

  • Strategy adviser to the Association of Lawyers for Children
    Roger Haywood
    01692 651573
    Mobile: 07802 874584