Families “fend for themselves” after legal aid cuts

Cuts in legal aid have seen a dramatic increase in the number of parents who are representing themselves in family law cases.

For the first time ever, more than half (58 per cent of parents) did not have a lawyer.

The steep increase in people who are entering the courtroom alone follows changes in spring last year, which saw the removal of legal aid for most private family law.

The Government has fiercely defended the reforms, saying that it would mean families using mediation.

But in actual fact, the number of people who are resorting to the courts has risen.

Judges have warned that the changes could ultimately slow down the legal process and hamper access to justice.

Jerry Karlin, from the charity Families Need Father, said: “It is staggering that so many parents are effectively being left to fend for themselves.

“We urgently need to develop affordable and compelling services that strive to keep parents from the courtroom. Children need their parents to communicate effectively with each other so that conflict can be addressed and ultimately resolved.”

Shadow Justice Minister Sadiq Khan said that the cuts in legal aid had hit women and the vulnerable hardest of all.

“Not only does it cost the system more money when people turn up in court without a lawyer as the whole process is much slower, but the experience for those concerned can be traumatic and harrowing,” he told The Independent.