Complications of accessing legal aid leave women and children at further risk of DV
The Guardian today has a worrying article about how changes to the way in which solicitors practice certain types of law are leaving victims of domestic abuse without legal help.
The arguments are fairly technical, but the upshot seems to be that the Legal Services Commission (LSC), the body that runs Legal Aid services in England and Wales, has implemented a complex system for deciding who can and cannot provide legal aid, causing some expert providers to lose out.
Solace Women's Aid is a good example. It previously provided legal help to women dealing with domestic violence, but claims that it was penalised under the LSC's criteria and marked down for not being on the Law Society's children panel.
The end result is that women in desperate situations, who are in dire need of easily accessed and reliable legal advice, are losing out. The organisation Rights of Women reports that of the 90,000 women who call their helpline every year, they only have the resources to advise a small fraction.
However well meaning the Legal Services Commission's criteria may be, if they are leaving women with limited options for escaping dangerous situations, then surely the system could use another overhaul.