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Disabled people lose legal aid in 99% of benefits disputes

16 April 2018

Official figures show that cuts have caused a massive drop in claimants granted help for welfare battles

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The total number of disabled people granted legal aid in welfare cases has plummeted from 29,801 in 2011-12 to just 308 in 2016-17. This is because of the 2012 Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, which removed more than £350m from the legal aid budget and ended the right to legal representation in many benefits cases, as well as others concerning divorce, child custody, clinical negligence, employment, immigration and housing.

Kamran Mallick, chief executive officer of the charity Disability Rights UK, said:

“The government was warned changes to access to legal aid would fall heavily on disabled people who need legal advice, and these figures show those concerns were real.

“Despite that, we’ve seen a massive rise in the number of people appealing disability benefit claims, and a huge increase in the number of successful appeals after people have been wrongly turned down. But our benefits system is complex to navigate, and more so since the raft of changes that have come in since 2012.”

He added:

“Some people do need extra legal help and support, and if they don’t get it they may end up without benefits they’re entitled to.

“Access to justice is a fundamental human right as well as a sign of a civilised society. We’d urge the government to reverse the changes that are hitting disabled people so heavily.”