In Southwark we have a strong sense of community and significant support networks to help each other. Today I visited Southwark Law Centre for Young Legal Aid Lawyers’ ‘Take Your MP to Work’ campaign. The centre are doing an incredible job supporting thousands of people in Southwark to have access to proper legal advice in very difficult circumstances. They receive some Legal Aid funding and help from Southwark Council and other organisations but Government cuts mean they are not able to help as many people as needed.
Clement Attlee’s post-war Labour Government is remembered for creating the NHS, building the welfare state and a housebuilding programme unrivalled since that time of genuine austerity. But Attlee also established Legal Aid which has benefitted millions of people since. The Cameron and Clegg Coalition took an axe to seven decades of progress and their cuts led the UK Children’s Commissioner to report they were breaching British families’ human rights as they were denying access to justice. I see the consequences of these appalling cuts weekly in advice surgeries, with some families unable to resolve custody disputes, discrimination at work, and disabled people denied help to challenge unfair benefits decisions.
The Government has recognised it went too far in Coalition: it is rowing back some of the changes and has been forced to finally carry out a review of Legal Aid. A Labour Government would restore legal aid for family law, housing, welfare appeals, and to challenge poor Home Office decisions, ensuring that no one is denied access to justice.
I thank Sally Causer and the whole team at Southwark Law Centre for the invaluable support they give to thousands of local people.