Questioning the Justice Secretary in Parliament on tackling gaps in legal aid funding and advice, Imran Hussain MP has today urged the Government to review legal aid and advice procurement processes with a focus on a ‘local first’ approach to keep advice services in the communities that they serve.

Following the Government’s failed reforms to legal aid funding and cuts to local authority budgets, swathes of legal aid providers and local community advice centres in Bradford and across the country have been forced to close their doors, with the Law Society reporting that there are now zero community care legal aid providers and just six housing legal aid providers in the Bradford District.

As a result, people in Bradford who have been handed unfair welfare, housing or other decisions have been left without the legal support and advice that they need to challenge these decisions, rendering their rights worth nothing more than the paper that they are written as they’re unable to enforce them.

Speaking on the Government’s record of legal aid funding and his call for the Government to adopt a ‘local first’ policy, Imran said:

“In the last decade, the Government has imposed savage cuts and damaging reforms on legal aid and advice centres, and whilst centres right across Bradford continue to do excellent work in supporting some of our most vulnerable residents, allowing them to challenge welfare, housing and other decisions, and helping them get justice, they have been left struggling and forced to reduce the services they provide as a result.

“These brutal, ideological austerity cuts and reforms have also seen many other advice centres and legal aid providers both across Bradford and the rest of the country close, creating what are essentially legal aid and advice deserts that leave people cut off and isolated from support that is simply impossible to access.

“To address this imbalance that leaves ordinary people unable to access justice and unable to challenge unfair and wrong decisions, the Government must change their approach to funding and advice contracts, and put in place a policy that prioritises local, grassroots organisations to get advice centres back into our communities and onto our high streets where they belong.”

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