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Plans for cuts to legal aid will put families at risk

Barristers are angry that they can no longer provide the service that their clients need, Several hundred barristers met in London last weekend, with another 250 joining via  video link. They endorsed a resolution warning that “the public interest demands that family legal aid is funded at a level which ensures quality advocacy for all clients; further cuts to the fund will put families (particularly vulnerable families) and children at grave risk”.

The event demonstrates the high levels of emotion over ministers’ plans for further inroads into the annual £2 billion legal aid budget. Plans that come, in the 60th anniversary year of the legal aid scheme.

Their message is that the family system is at breaking point. Their claims were compellingly reinforced by The Work of the Family Bar, a study published last week into the impact of the cuts on the family justice system. The report, concluded that experienced advocates are being driven out of family work, leaving the most vulnerable people exposed to miscarriages of family justice.

It also showed that barristers were working long and anti-social hours (two in three worked for an average of five hours on Sundays) and puncture the myth of a top-earning legal aid barrister, with taxable profits of about £66,000, and noted that as more women and ethnic minority barristers turned to family work, the budget cuts would hit the diversity of the profession  and the judiciary

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