26th November 2011

The UK Government’s proposed changes to the Legal Aid system will lead to more people in Wales becoming homeless Cardiff West AM Mark Drakeford said in Plenary today (Tuesday, 22 November).

Mr Drakeford said he feared many people would lose out on access to the debt and welfare benefit advice under changes to Legal Aid proposed by the Ministry of Justice and the homelessness crisis in Wales will get much worse as a result.

The Government is proposing a number of changes which will lead to whole areas of law being taken out of scope for Legal Aid including debt and welfare benefit advice.

Under new Government proposals, funding of legal advice and assistance would not be available to people until they were on the brink of being made homeless.

Mark Drakeford said: “Many people’s housing problems are complex which means they need a range of debt, benefits and other advice where they can currently access legal aid. It is a fact that early advice and intervention is the best way to prevent people reaching that crisis point where losing their home becomes inevitable.

“These changes could not have come at a worse time as significant changes to housing benefit and wider welfare reform proposals will leave many more people in difficulty with debt and at real risk of losing their home.  In our weekly surgeries, housing problems brought to us by constituents outnumber all the other problems put together – and they are always the most desperate.”

Mr Drakeford raised the issue of Legal Aid changes with the First Minister in Plenary today and called upon his Assembly colleagues to condemn the proposals which are certain to plunge many more people in Wales into poverty.