You’re on your own! 1,100 to lose expert advice

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Calderdale’s most vulnerable people will be left without legal help after a huge 73 per cent cut in legal-aid funding.

Under plans by Justice Secretary Ken Clarke, legal aid would no longer extend to welfare and debt advice.

Currently, Calderdale Citizens’ Advice Bureau gets legal-aid payments to help offer complex advice for court work, appeals and tribunal preparation for those disputing decisions about their welfare, debt and housing benefits.

The Legal Aid Group has calculated the effect on Calderdale.

It says it would mean 1,102 people would miss out on specialist advice.

If the cuts, which would save £201,938 in Calderdale, go ahead they will no longer be able to offer expert legal advice to people needing advice about debt or welfare benefits. They will only be able to give specialist help to those needing housing benefit advice.

Chief Executive of the Citizen’s Advice Bureau Rory Deighton said the cuts were devastating.

“They’re as bad as we could have hoped for,” he said.

“It’s taking away people’s ability to challenge these decisions,” he said.

The only people who could provide the funding would be Calderdale Council.

“The council isn’t in a position where they can put £200,000 into this gap.

“Central government is taking this money out and leaving Calderdale Council to plug the gap.”

He said it would be the most vulnerable that are hit.

“It will start single mums, the disabled, those at the margins of the workforce including those with low-level mental health issues and those are the people who will not be able to get that type of help in the future.

“If you look at it in terms of health and wellbeing of people in Calderdale, unless you give people a decent amount of money to live on, the impact on them and their health is massive,” said Mr Deighton.

“I can’t believe the government will take this support away without replacing it with something else,” he said.

Earlier this year the Courier reported a study by Salford University which showed the £787,000 invested in the charity generates £7 million to the economy in Calderdale.

That amount will be vastly reduced by these cuts.