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Women to bear brunt of legal aid reforms

Women will bear the brunt of plans to strip back legal aid as funding for family law and divorce cases is cut, according to the justice department’s own assessment of the impact of reform according to the Guardian today.

Of the people who will no longer qualify for legal aid under the changes announced by the government in November, women outnumber men by nearly six to four. Ethnic minorities and people with disabilities are also more likely to be denied legal aid after the reforms, which will also end most funding for welfare and education disputes.

The government proposed wide-ranging changes to reduce spending on legal advice and representation on issues such as divorce, housing, employment, immigration, debt and welfare benefits by more than one quarter, thus saving £600m a year. Family law including divorce and child residence cases would no longer be eligible for legal aid other than where domestic violence, forced marriage or international child abduction is proven.

Women’s rights groups are expressing profound concerns that the definition of abuse is that of physical violence, meaning that women – and men – suffering psychological victimisation will have to pay to escape their marriages. The government says it hopes the changes will lead to more mediation when relationships break down.

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This post was written by Mark Keenan. Editor of the Divorce Online Blog and Managing Director of Online Legal Service Ltd. Mark has been writing about divorce and related subjects for over 20+ years and is an expert in legal marketing.

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