“It could be catastrophic.” That’s the warning from a charity that fears it may be forced to leave some of Calderdale’s most vulnerable people without legal support.
Calderdale Citizens’ Advice Bureau employs three specialist advisors who can represent clients in court and offer specialist advice.
They were paid for by the Financial Inclusion Fund, started under the Labour government six years ago.
It has been announced the fund, worth £120m nationally, will not be renewed when it runs out next month, and the three Calderdale advisers face redundancy.
Chief executive of the charity, Rory Deighton, said their input stopped the most vulnerable people in society from being forced to turn to doorstep loans which often have interest rates of more than 300 per cent.
The fund, worth £54,000 to Calderdale CAB a year, has helped 967 desperate people since it was brought in.
“We’ve represented people in court, we’ll write to the creditors and normally we’ll make an agreement with debtors which helps people get back on their feet,” he said. The charity’s fears have been heightened after Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke put forward a green paper which would narrow the type of cases covered by legal aid.
Housing, debt and welfare benefit cases would no longer be covered.
Each year, the charity deals with more than 1,100 legal aid cases.
“Where are these people going to go?” asked Mr Deighton. “In some places like Leeds there is the Law Centre or independent advisors, but we’re the only place in Calderdale that can help.”
Despite budget cuts at a local level, Calderdale Council has maintained the charity’s base funding.
“It’s a massive vote of confidence,” said Mr Deighton. “The effect of these cuts could be catastrophic.”
“We would become a service manned by staff and volunteers but volunteers can’t represent people in court.”
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