The number of claimants getting legal aid to help with welfare benefits has plunged from 88,380 in 2012-13 to just 149 in 2013-14 due to coalition cuts. In addition, not one single application for exceptional case funding has been granted. The Lib Dems have expressed concern about the effect of their own legal aid cuts on children, but not about the effects on sick and disabled claimants.
Legal aid has been abolished for almost all welfare benefits issues, including appeals to first-tier tribunals, but is still available for appeals to the upper tribunal.
In addition, in theory, exceptional case funding is available where a claimants human rights or European Union rights would be breached if they did not get funding to bring their case. However, although 11 applications were made for exceptional case funding in 2013-14, every single one was refused.
The Lib Dem family justice minister has now called for a review of legal aid cuts that affect children, according to the Guardian, but no minister has shown similar concern about the effect of legal aid cuts on sick and disabled claimants.
Legal aid for other areas of law likely to affect sick and disabled claimants has also been almost wiped out in the same period. This includes debt, which has fallen from 81,993 funded cases to 2,584 and employment, which has fallen from 16,157 to 32.
Source – Benefits & Work, 26 Sept 2014