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Proposed changes to the Public Funding Scheme

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From the beginning of this firm, we have always been very committed to our communities in providing legal advice under the various Legal Aid Schemes. However significant changes are planned in 2012 to the schemes which are currently available for help with family problems. Whilst these changes will not affect current cases, they are highly likely to affect the public if advice is needed in the future.
The Ministry of Justice who has responsibility for the Public Funding Scheme is planning large scale cuts to Legal Aid as a result of cost cutting measures. If the Government is successful, Legal Aid will no longer be available for very common problems such as divorce, for cases involving financial settlements and for disputes concerning children unless there are extremely specific and limited circumstances.   
Without Legal Aid, the only options are to pay for a solicitor or to deal with the problem without the benefit of specialist legal advice. In other words, there will be many people with very common family problems having to represent themselves. We are very worried that for people who cannot afford good legal representation they will be left unable to enforce and defend their legal rights.
We are very concerned about the Government plans and we are doing all we can to persuade them to make sure that everyone who needs legal advice and access to justice will have it in the future. We have been in talks with our local MPs and have been raising objections with the Government at every opportunity. We are committed to campaigning on behalf of our communities to protect the Public Funding Scheme but this may not be enough to ensure that Legal Aid remains available for the people who may need it.
As a firm, we believe that our clients and the general public will want their say about what the Government is proposing. We believe that our communities have a valuable and important message for the Government about the necessity of Legal Aid continuing to be available for anyone with a family problem.
If you would like to help to support the campaign please email us at enquiries@stephensons.co.uk or write to us with your views. Please let us know how you would feel and how it might affect you if you were not able to have the help and support from a solicitor specialising in family problems because Legal Aid was not available.
You might also want to support The Law Society’s own campaign to protect Legal Aid by including your name on a national petition. This is called the Sound Off For Justice Campaign. Signing the petition could not be easier, simply log onto www.soundoffforjustice.org and add your name.
We are very clear that access to justice must remain available to everyone, not just those who can afford it. Any response you feel able to give to the Government plans will be used in support of the campaign.
By family law solicitor, Mandy Rimmer