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Casualties of Legal Aid Changes

(60 Posts)
Collaborate Thu 13-Jun-13 11:47:18

I'm going to start posting in this thread cases that previously I would have been able to take on as a solicitor, but which now I can't (at least not under Legal Aid) due to the new rules that say unless you're the victim of DV (verifiable strictly only as set out in the rules), or you're a parent in care proceedings, or a child is at risk (verifiable child protection concerns), you won't get Legal Aid for family proceedings at all. Unlawful child abduction is the other exemption.

Client on the phone this morning in tears. Father won't return the child. It's child abduction, but he's on the birth certificate so he has parental responsibility so it's not unlawful. No domestic violence (at least not to the client), and although she feels he's a risk to the child, that's based on how he behaves towards the other children and not due to prior court findings, or social services/police involvement.

She needs to apply for Residence and Prohibited Steps Orders. Court fee is £200. She may be exempt ffrom some or all of the fees, but she works part time and gets tax credits so I'll assume she may have to pay the full fee. I explained that to draw up the application (after seeing her in the office - to include a statement - 3 hours), go to court, issue the application, ask the judge to order the child's return (2 hours), serve the order on father (£150 to process server) and deal with the return date (a date a week later when the father would be able to come to court - around 3 hours work) would cost around £1,500. I would expect a further hour at least spent on phone calls and miscellaneous letters. Total time to be spent 9 hours. After paying expenses £1150 would be for me. This is £958 plus vat. Client very upset and couldn't continue the conversation. This cost represents a reduction of over 50% on my standard privately funded fees. Still the client could not afford it.

Out of interest, I was phoned by a costs draftsman the other day. I had done a claim under Schedule 1 of the chidlren Act for a client in University, claiming from her estranged father who had stopped paying her maintenance when she started at University. She secured an order.

The fixed fee for the work is £703. The notional hourly rate is £54.90. If, when totting up the time you spend, you get 3 times or more the fixed fee, you get paid for the work you do. The fixed fee is so low that it's almost impossible to do it for less than the fixed fee (only really comes in to play if your client buggers off soon after the certificate is granted, and no one would do that).

In this particular case I did 35 hours of work. So fixed fee for me there. Works out at £20 an hour. Out of which I want to get paid, and so does my secretary, receptionist, practice manager, and accounts staff. Normal office overheads apply (rent, lighting, IT, business rates, marketing, insurance etc). We have made a huge loss on this case.

The problem is, it's not an isolated case. Most of our legal aid cases fall into that hole where we do more than the fixed fee, but less than 3 times the fixed fee.

Increasingly I'm feeling that I will have to offer a crapper and crapper service to legal aid clients, otherwise the department may be closed down. Very disheartening.

But what does Grayling care about that?

Collaborate Tue 09-Jul-13 16:21:23

Go to social services with your concerns.if they agree your child is at risk you may be eligible for LA.

CountingClouds Thu 11-Jul-13 10:33:18

I think this is a very one sided debate. Why should I, a tax payer who just manages to feed my family go hungry, just so someone can have a free divorce?

Or why is is automatically assumed the mother has the right to have the child and not the father. I have known a couple of men who were denied access to their children because the 'mothers' knew how to play the legal aid system and the working fathers were unable to afford lawyers.

It is my experience that legal aid, abused and was abused, by many more people and lawyers than it ever helped.

The solution is not to take food/clothes etc out of my families budget and throw it into a legal black hole. Represent yourself, use mediators, sort it out with the other parent, take responsibility for the situation you have created and stop expecting others to pay.

babybarrister Thu 11-Jul-13 11:45:31

I wrote to my MP again about the stranded spouse case [above] which would not be eligibale for legal aid if the residence test is brought in.

He stated:

"The case that you have highlighted does seem to be particularly complex and very sad, however, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on an individual case " shock
blah, blah blah [continues not answering point about what this actual real person could now have done in her circumstances ....]

He did emphasis in his previous letter to me though that he is a Government Whip, so that's alright then!

babybarrister Thu 11-Jul-13 11:45:45

"eligible!"

Collaborate Thu 11-Jul-13 12:39:56

Counting clouds: is it too much to ask that government policy is based on compassion? That we can judge the government based on how it looks after the most disadvantaged?

You claim that your family will go hungry if people get legal aid. That's absurd, and where you lost the argument, and moral authority, in my view.

Collaborate Thu 11-Jul-13 12:55:53

Father just been on the phone. Denied contact to his children for no apparent reason. Out of work, so can't pay for advice.
No legal aid. Must either represent himself through the minefield of court proceedings, with absolutely no assistance whatsoever, or accept that his relationship with his children is broken for ever.

CountingClouds Thu 11-Jul-13 20:50:04

Collaborate - I think you are an example of the ignorant majority who doesn't know how hard life is on the bread line, has to make ends meet, shopping in charity shops, and occasionally visiting food banks! Would be nice to have more time with the kids but I have to work, so get really angry when the rich middle class expect money to 'compassionately' support their domestic squabbles. Sort it out, dont expect me to pay for it.

WhoWhatWhereWhen Thu 11-Jul-13 21:07:40

Counting Clouds - It's unlikely you are a net contributor of tax, do you get child benefit? do you get tax credits?

Noregrets78 Thu 11-Jul-13 22:44:42

counting clouds meow what's got your goat?! I'm all for people supporting themselves, and am currently in well paid, full-time employment, and paying a fortune for legal advice. However... solicitors cost a fortune, and there are a lot of people who simply cannot afford legal advice. The issues being raised her are not domestic squabbles, they are really huge problems, which mean people may lose contact with their children due to the lack of legal aid.

Collaborate Fri 12-Jul-13 00:21:36

Rich middle class qualifying for Legal Aid? And you call me ignorant?? Mothers working full time receiving tax credits usually don't qualify. A client of mine was recently refused Legal Aid as she earns £650 a month and takes £200 a month from her sons for their keep. Denied Legal Aid.
So where does your wealth of knowledge come from? The Daily Mail doesn't count.

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