June 21, 2013

Full Steam Backwards: Controversy rages over cutback threats to family venues

By Peter Jones, Partner

As a vociferous campaigner who fears that the repercussions of the demise of Legal Aid will put vulnerable children at risk and deny youngsters contact with their parents – I was horrified to hear that the brutal cutbacks could be jeopardizing family venues.

The impact of the April 2013 removal of £220 million of cuts to Legal Aid is already biting hard just weeks after its implementation.

Once a fundamental pillar of the legal structure, which enabled our financially weaker members of society to seek legal advice and representation to help resolve their problems, its removal has cast hundreds of thousands of families into a ‘legal wilderness’.

For families feeling stressed and traumatised because they won’t know which way to turn – and who to turn to – I’ve previously forecast how repercussions include more children playing truant from school, a rise in depression causing more time off work, further strain on the NHS budget – along with an escalation in crime as children’s problems are left unresolved.

My fears about ‘desperate fathers’ taking action into their own hands as a direct result of being unable to see an expert family lawyer has been reflected in the recent resurfacing of  Fathers 4 Justice after one of its members was charged with defacing a painting of the Queen in Westminster Abbey.

I was interviewed and quoted on the Channel 4 website about this incident – attributing it to fathers’ frustration as we move further and further from a court-driven system of resolution, which could well result in more of these type of protests.

I empathise with the despair and frustration of these fathers. The Government has made it impossible for family law specialists like Jones Myers to assist and manage parents’ expectations, stemming from the demise of Legal Aid.

In light of the cutbacks, the importance of having accessibility to venues for family outings the length and breadth of the UK which do not cost those already struggling financially a proverbial arm and leg – and where they can savour precious quality access time with their children – has taken on an unprecedented importance.

So why on earth is the Government further compounding the situation and adding insult to injury by oscillating over whether or not it will close museums where fathers and their children can enjoy stimulating and memorable days out?

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