Karen Buck MP acknowledges disproportionate impact of legal aid cuts on people with mental health problems
Karen Buck MP has submitted an article on her Westminster Hall debate on legal aid and the post-implementation review. Within this article, she mentions the disproportionate impact changes to legal aid are having on people with mental health problems, and cites research carried out by Mind.
Responding to this, Michael Henson-Webb, Head of Legal at Mind, said:
“We welcome the comments by Karen Buck MP highlighting the devastating impact that the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012 is having on people with mental health problems. Our report, ‘An Unjust System?’, published in March this year, shows that more than half (52 per cent) of people with mental health problems have experienced legal difficulties, compared to just over a quarter (27 per cent) of people without. We also found that just over one in three people (36 per cent) who are eligible for legal aid under the income and savings criteria have mental health problems, compared to nearly one in seven people (15 per cent) who do not. Our legal team has heard anecdotally that there has been a rise in people with mental health problems having to represent themselves in court as a result of cuts to legal aid. Even judges have told us about this. Not only does this create a great deal more pressure and impact on people’s mental health, it also means they’re less likely to get the right outcome.
“Mind has raised its concerns with the Ministry of Justice to ensure that the experiences of people with mental health problems are placed at the centre of their review of the legislation. We’ve also been asking our campaigners to share their experiences with the team at the Ministry of Justice through our website, at mind.org.uk/legalaid. We look forward to the release of the review at the end of the year and hope the government will use this opportunity to ensure that the remit of legal aid is once again broadened out so that it reaches those who need it most and helps them in their pursuit of justice.”
Some quotes from our campaigners (names have been changed to protect anonymity):
- In total, it cost £2,000. The stress of this process was enormous and affected my health considerably. I had to wait until March 2017 for the hearing. I represented myself, ending up on beta blockers to get me through the day. – ‘Louise’
- I was already struggling so much and this extra stress and uncertainty was extremely difficult for me and my two younger brothers. For people with mental health problems, and for people in crisis - like me and my brothers were - it’s so important to have someone there to help. Someone who understands how to support people in those situations, and someone who understands the legal system. It was like speaking another language. - ‘Sarah’
- Without this free legal help I would’ve lost my job, my health, everything. – ‘Jennifer’