No Justice for Workers

On 1 April 2013 the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act brought in massive cuts to legal aid. The result is that civil legal aid will generally no longer be available for areas of law such as employment, welfare benefits, clinical negligence, immigration, debt, divorce and custody of children. The areas that have been cut are those that have the greatest significance for workers, both employed and unemployed, and those with disabilities. So if you are unlawfully sacked by your boss, refused a benefit to which you are entitled, or if you suffer injury at the hands of the NHS you will only be able to obtain legal representation for these matters if you can afford to pay for it, or are lucky enough to have access to the very limited number of ‘pro bono’ or free legal advice services.

No sooner had these cuts been implemented when the government announced itsintention to make still further cuts. By the end of the year they intend to introduce a residence test for civil legal aid which will limit eligibility to those who can prove 12 months lawful residence in the UK. This test is probably illegal under UK and EU laws intended to prevent discrimination on grounds of race or nationality. There is no evidence that this proposal will even save much money, so it appears that its main driver is the ‘divide and rule’ ideology of xenophobia. The government is also proposing further constraints on legal aid funding for judicial reviews which enable the courts to scrutinise and sometimes overturn unreasonable and unlawful decisions by the government and other public bodies. These cuts will reduce the legal aid budget by just under a quarter, but perhaps more significantly will deny the poorest sections of society access to redress against the decisions of the State that affect them.

The removal of legal aid for welfare benefits advice comes at a time when major changes to the benefits system are being implemented such as Universal Credit and the transfer of disability benefits to Personal Independence Payments which are estimated to affect about half a million claimants. Those who fall victim to the State’s attempt to deprive them off benefit or even just the inevitable bureaucratic chaos that ensues from system change, will struggle to find any legal assistance to challenge the DWP’s decisions. Similarly employers will know that they can flout what remains of the employment protection laws with little risk of any comeback. These legal aid cuts are a direct attack on the working class. They are part of the wider strategy to drive down wages and create a supine and compliant workforce.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Aurora (en)

Aurora is the broadsheet of the ICT for the interventions amongst the working class. It is published and distributed in several countries and languages. So far it has been distributed in UK, France, Italy, Canada, USA, Colombia.