UK legal aid cuts likely to affect women more than men

The Guardian recently reported that proposals to cut legal aid in the UK are likely to have a greater impact on women, according to the Ministry of Justice’s own equality impact assessments.

Take family cases, like disputes about contact and residence of children; injunctions against ex-partners; the division of financial assets; applications for maintenance; and divorce.  The proposals mean that legal aid will be restricted to cases where forced marriage, international child abduction or domestic violence is proven. According to the Guardian, ‘domestic violence’ for these purposes will only include physical violence, not psychological abuse. They report that the Ministry of Justice believed it had to ‘…restrict the definition of domestic violence to one that could be demonstrated through “clear, objective evidence”.’

Another of the most worrying proposals is complete removal of legal aid from education cases, including those where – say – a disabled child has been incorrectly assessed for support, or has been refused admission to a school.  The factors they list in support of this removal are that the importance of the issues is relatively low – “some financial claims; some issues arise from personal choices, e.g. conduct at school” and that people can represent themselves because the tribunals are “accessible to lay people”.

And note that – from what I can tell – withdrawal of legal aid doesn’t just mean no representation, it means no right to legal aid in getting advice, either.

4 thoughts on “UK legal aid cuts likely to affect women more than men

  1. This really is a disaster. I’ve been really lucky, there were no children and hardly any money to speak of in my marriage, so all I have needed (so far, touch wood) is the advice and the court fees paid. However, without that advice, I wouldn’t have been able to do it at all.

    As for domestic violence being proven… quite apart from it being only one kind of abuse, only in a handful of cases will violence be provable. The whole pernicious nature of domestic abuse is that it takes place out of sight and victims are made to feel that they have no right to complain. By the time they are able to do something about it, even if that’s just severing legal ties, the bruises are generally healed.

    Anything which risks making less well off women and men more reluctant to divorce and legally protect themselves, their children and their property from abusers, also risks trapping women, men and children in dangerous situations. To say nothing of the fact that violence is only one kind of abuse which ruins lives.

  2. Not being from the UK, I’m not sure of the political climate. This sounds outrageous… how likely is it to become reality?

    That being said, women are more easily marginalized by most cutbacks than mean as a fact of social posiiton.

  3. Horrendous. And Westwood– it’s much easier for the govt to push things through here than in the US. So I’d say it’s pretty likely.

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