'Unfair' cuts to family legal aid to be helped with new Suffolk law clinic

Eleanor Scarlett, senior lecturer in law at the school of social sciences and humanities at the University of Suffolk

Eleanor Scarlett, senior lecturer in law at the school of social sciences and humanities at the University of Suffolk - Credit: UoS

Cuts to family legal aid blasted as "unfair" are to be helped with a new Suffolk law clinic. 

The University of Suffolk will open its own Legal Advice Centre on February 2, aimed at family and business law. 

Its director, Eleanor Scarlett, who was hired for this very purpose, is very "excited" that they can provide advice for Ipswich and surrounding areas. 

She said: "It is unfair family law is only possible for those who have got money."

Ms Scarlett, who worked at the University of East London Legal Advice Centre, explained a lot of people since the 2012 Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (Laspo) have become "ineligible" for aid. 

This causes people to represent themselves in the family courts while going up against partners in custody hearings. 

Alongside this, some people such as victims of domestic violence, she argues, do not know they are entitled to legal aid. 

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"We want to let people know what is out there," she said. "Those on a community order or have been in prison cannot get free legal advice for family law. 

"The courts want to keep children in touch with both parents, as long as its appropriate contact. 

"But with no legal aid, the court and people struggle and then they cannot see their children."

The Legal Advice Centre (LAC) works with students, who will help with advice and filling in forms. 

Ms Scarlett explains C100 forms, for custody arrangements when parents cannot agree, can be "pretty daunting" for most people. 

Alongside this, there will be advice for what support people can get like "exceptional case funding" for legal aid. 

"When cuts to legal aid came in there was still a right to a fair hearing," she said.

"This is used in a lot of immigration cases and should be used more for family proceedings and widened for more who are eligible for it."

The LAC is also giving free advice to start-up businesses and hopes in the future to extend to homelessness and immigration. 

"I hope that people in rural areas will benefit and people will have more of a positive experience with the law," she said.  

If you need help, please email legaladvicecentre@uos.ac.uk. Appointments will be provided in slots with alternating weeks addressing family law and the following week tackling business law. 

There is also the Suffolk Law Centre here.

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