WHAT: Vigil for Justice
WHEN: Wednesday 18 April, 19:00-20:00
WHERE: Ministry of Justice, 102 Petty France, London, SW1H 9AJ.

Workers in legal aid and advice organisations are at breaking point according to a survey undertaken by their union Unite. 

The survey released on the eve of a vigil for justice, organised by the Justice Alliance, supported by Unite, which will be held on Wednesday 18 April between 19:00 – 20:00 outside the Ministry of Justice. 

The survey of Unite members at over 30 advice centres, law centres and Citizen Advice at a local level found that over three quarters (77 per cent) of members reported an increase in their workload because of increased demand and cuts in staff. 

The increased workload is closely linked to the vast majority of respondents (80 per cent) being required to work in excess of their contracted hours. 

Two thirds of workers (68 per cent) have had to contend with recent workplace restructuring with most of these changes resulting in redundancies and the loss of skilled staff. In 35 per cent of organisations members report that volunteers are increasingly required to undertake work previously performed by paid staff. 

The increased workload and the constant changes have had an adverse effect on members’ health. In 78 per cent of cases members report that they now feel more stressed at work with 1 in 3 being forced to take time off due to work related sickness. 

To add insult to injury 43 per cent of members reported that they had not received a pay rise in the last two years and no one had received a pay increase in line with inflation. 

One Unite member starkly described the challenges workers face: “Ever increasing numbers of abused women are referred to our service every month. The outreach services we provided raised awareness with many partner organisations, but cuts to our services means fewer workers to cope with increased demand.” 

Unite national officer Siobhan Endean said: “The legal aid and advice system is the bedrock of our justice system. Successive Conservative governments have undertaken the biggest attacks on the justice system in history. The most vulnerable in society are being priced out and denied justice. 

“Unite members who are dedicated to providing justice are being stretched beyond breaking point as their services have been cut to the bone. The vital services they provide are on the point of total collapse. 

“The most vulnerable in society such as women suffering domestic abuse are having to wait longer to receive the support they need to escape from their abusers. Such delays are intolerable and cannot be justified at any level. 

It is largely Government cuts to legal aid that have led to the pressures on services. We are now seeing the full effects of the cuts which are more than £350 million from the legal aid budget and removed support for: family, employment, benefits, immigration, clinical negligence and some housing cases. 

“The impact of Universal Credit, which has an inbuilt delay and which includes housing costs has meant that more people have fallen into arrears and created even greater pressure on advice services. 

“It is imperative that these cuts to justice are reversed in order to ensure that justice is fairly delivered and people are properly assisted and supported through the criminal and civil legal system.” 

ENDS 

Notes to editors: 

For more information please contact Unite communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235. Email: barckley.sumner@unitetheunion.org 

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.