Family Justice Review welcomed but reform at risk from legal aid cuts

News Release

03 Nov 2011

Today’s publication of the final report by the Family Justice Review Panel presents a major opportunity for progressive reform of family law – but progress could be seriously undermined by the Government’s controversial plans to cut family legal aid, said family law association Resolution.

Resolution said that while the detail of the report needed careful scrutiny, the overall direction of the panel’s recommendations could mean that family law processes become more streamlined and easier for parents and children alike.

“As an association committed to the constructive resolution of family problems, we welcome the Family Justice Review as a springboard for progressive reform that makes family law fit for purpose in the 21st century,” said David Allison, Chair of Resolution

“Long and complicated legal processes are emotionally and financially draining for parents and distressing for children. Any moves to make family law less combative, such as the report’s emphasis on alternative dispute resolution methods are to be encouraged”.

Nevertheless, the publication of the final report the day after the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill leaves the House of Commons demonstrates the fragmented nature of the Government’s approach to family law. The negative effect of the legal aid changes – not least the inevitable rise of the number of people representing themselves in court (litigants in person) – is an area of particular concern raised in the report.

“The Family Law Review is a watershed moment for family law, something that has long been in need of reform. But at the same time, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill will remove legal aid provision for the vast majority of family law cases, meaning that some of the most vulnerable families, and their children, will struggle to access the professional legal advice and support they need, even if the processes are simplified,” David Allison said.

Meanwhile, findings from a survey by Citizens Advice and Resolution released today further highlighted the pressing need for the Government to amend the Bill. The findings appear in a new report, ‘Breaking up is never easy’, which concludes that family breakdown problems will get worse without legal aid, and warns of a growing advice gap, with Citizens Advice Bureaux unable to fill the vacuum left by cuts to family legal aid.

The survey of almost 1,000 enquiries to Citizens Advice Bureaux revealed that over half (54 per cent) of clients needed referral to a family law solicitor, and over 60 per cent were entitled to legal aid under the current rules. The research suggests that 80 per cent of clients needing

help from a family law solicitor and eligible for legal aid under the current rules will no longer qualify if the cuts are implemented.

Resolution is an association of 6,000 family lawyers and professionals that campaigns for family law reform to improve the experience of those going through relationship breakdown, and advocates the constructive resolution of issues arising from separation.

Notes to editors

Resolution promotes a non-confrontational, constructive approach to resolving family disputes: http://www.resolution.org.uk/

The Citizens Advice report can be found here: http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/breaking_up_is_never_easy

For more information, please contact Isobel Bradshaw or Hannah Marwood on 020 7484 5386/5399 or isobel.bradshaw@theopen-road.com/ hannah.marwood@theopen-road.com

Spokespeople are available to provide further comment on all aspects of the Family Justice Review and the current Legal Aid Bill.