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Carer’s rights for free advice

Note: The following blog post is by guest blogger Carita Thomas who is a member of Young Legal Aid Lawyers.

This year’s Carer’s Rights Day theme is “Money Matters”. The aim of the day is to highlight the need for carers to get advice about claiming benefits, getting a carer’s assessment and accessing the support they need. Often having to give up work means carers can easily face money problems and fall into debt, piling on the stress they are already under.

Unfortunately the Government is driving a bill through parliament that would cut the free advice that you can get through a Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), law centre or your local law firm, helping you resolve problems before they go too far. At the moment, if your income is low enough, you can see a specialist adviser funded by “legal aid” in lots of areas of law. They can help you access your rights, putting you on the same footing as anyone else who can afford a lawyer.

If the Government’s plans become law they would remove free advice for around 650,000 people per year. For some cases you would no longer get legal aid at all, like a problem with your benefits or a clinical negligence claim. The cuts are so harsh that advice services may not be able to survive, especially those law centres and CAB which have lost funding from other key sources like local government.

The government says its plans would save £350 million a year but there will be long term costs. Good quality advice early on can stop problems from getting worse and Citizens Advice has estimated that for every £1 of legal aid spent on housing, debt, employment and benefits advice the state saves between £2.34 and £8.80.filling in forms

It is estimated that 135,000 people per year will lose legal aid for benefits cases, of which 58% will be ill or disabled. Can many carers afford the cost of an advisor? When the average carer provides care worth £18,473 a year, this move does not seem justifiable.

However, the Bill is now in the House of Lords and Peers want changes. Baroness O’Loan spoke about what it will mean to lose free help with clinical negligence cases:

“The effect of the current proposals will be that yet another two-tier system will emerge. There will be those whose parents or carers who just cannot contemplate how to bring such proceedings and who will ultimately suffer the consequences in terms of reduced living standards.”

The bill will now go into committee stage where the peers will go over it line by line. You can still influence their decisions. Politicians need to hear from the public to understand what it would mean if you couldn’t get the advice you need. Contact Scope, who are collecting stories from disabled people who used legal aid to get the right benefits (). You can find other ideas for how you can help the campaign here: Save Legal Aid, Justice For All and Sound Off for Justice.

Related items:

Read a previous post by Gordon to see why legal aid can be important for carers

Government’s bill

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December 2, 2011 - Posted by | Benefits

4 Comments »

  1. Hi Gordon,
    Thanks for such an informative blog.
    I just wish this Govt would ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ and realise just what carers do!
    I can’t believe they are now taking away the right for carers to access legal advice. It’s crazy. Don’t they understand how much we save this country every year? It’s millions of pounds; if not billions!
    What if we were all to turn around and say ‘We refuse to care anymore!’??????
    This country would be bankrupt! Sadly carers are in a catch 22 situation. Faced with the knowledge that if we refuse to care for our loved one then we are putting them at risk, because the Govt can’t afford to fund care for them, we are put in a situation where we have to give up our lives to care. Does that make us lesser people in society’s eyes? Have we not already given up enough? Now the Govt thinks we shouldn’t be entitled to free legal advice anymore?! I wonder could they give up their lives? Changing to a life where someone else’s needs always come before your own wants and needs?
    Carers aren’t in the same position as the bankers, on a vast income with the lavish lifestyle to go with it. Many carers have been forced into a life of poverty surviving on benefits after having always worked for everything but now they can’t work due to their responsibilities as a carer. The benefits don’t come close to the income that they used to be on, so the difference in their outgoings to their income means that they end up in debt.

    I am still amazed by so many people’s assumptions that the money is there to pay for endless care. I was recently told by someone who has never been a carer that young carers shouldn’t have to care! The Govt should be ‘sorting it out’. I’m afraid I got quite angry at their ignorance and explained how much care costs per hour! Didn’t they understand that without carers the country would be on its knees. Of course I would dearly love to live in a world where the term young carers is non existent because they don’t have to care, but unfortunately that isn’t the reality of this world.

    Sorry I’ve got on my soapbox a bit with this Gordon, but it makes my blood boil. This Govt needs to wake up and support carers even in times of cuts and economic hardship, coz they can’t afford us to stop caring!

    Rant over.

    Thanks for all the amazing work you are doing Gordon and Thanks so much for keeping us all informed with the latest news. We truly appreciate it!

    Regards

    Victoria.

    Comment by caitlinswish | December 2, 2011 | Reply

  2. when i read this comment i cried,WHY because i am tired depressed and hounestly have LITTLE hope left. I have and still am a CARER (for 26 years). I feel burnt out and my wish list has only one wish

    O,GOD PLEASE STOP THE WORLD I WANT TO GET OFF
    but wishes are not real life and i will continue to look after my disabled wife and my learning disabled son.

    DOES ANYONE REALLY CARE – DOES THE GOVERNMENT REALLY CARE
    DOES THIS NATION HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT CARERS DO AND WHAT THEY ARE GOING THROUGH

    ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

    Comment by Taras Kurylak | December 4, 2011 | Reply

  3. Thank you for these comments Victoria and Taras.

    What you and every other carer does is phenomenal. You are important and appreciated, and we want the Government to change its plans on legal aid because we think people like you deserve all the support you can get. I was really moved to read your posts and if you could join the campaign it would mean a lot. There will be links to the campaign sites in my post soon so you can find out more.

    As I mentioned in the post, if you have a story about how someone with a disability used legal aid to get help with their benefits Scope would love to hear from you. Your voice could go directly into their campaign work which is very well respected. Check out their latest report here:
    http://www.lag.org.uk/files/93940/FileName/Legalaidinwelfarereport.pdf

    Contact Cristina with any benefits stories: cristina.sarb@scope.org.uk.

    Thanks again for taking the time to share your views.

    carita

    Comment by Carita | December 6, 2011 | Reply

  4. Hi folks
    You may have noticed that Carita wrote in her guest blog above that Scope are collecting information from people who have used legal aid regarding disability benefits. I was meant to have included the contact details and some links but omitted these. So, here are they are. You can contact cristina.sarb@scope.org.uk at Scope, who are collecting stories from disabled people who used legal aid to get the right benefits.

    You can find other ideas of how you can help the campaign at:
    Save Legal Aid – http://www.savelegalaid.co.uk/
    Justice For All – http://www.justice-for-all.org.uk/Take-part
    Sound Off for Justice – http://soundoffforjustice.org/

    I thought Carita’s blog was really interesting and the campaign is obviously relevant to many carers lives.
    Gordon

    Comment by Gordon Conochie | December 6, 2011 | Reply


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