Cuts to services, welfare reform and loss of legal aid have left those who are poor, vulnerable or destitute with fewer options to fight their way out of crisis. Added to this is the current hostile environment for immigrants, denying them access to the most basic of public services, plunging more and more people into destitution.
What little is left of legal aid includes our community care contract which allows us to challenge poor quality decision making from both central and local government that denies or restricts access to accommodation, financial support or basic public services to asylum seekers and families or vulnerable adults with no recourse to public funds.
My worst day sees me meeting a family of 5 expected by their local authority to live on £50 per week, spending days without gas or electricity and having to make difficult choices over how many meals to miss. Better days include challenging that local authority to get them to increase the level of support. However, there’s still work to be done: that local authority only increased the financial support to £120. I couldn’t bring up 4 children on my own on that amount of money.
A good day saw that family get their papers from the Home Office and they’ll soon have access to mainstream services.
I’m proud to work for the Law Centre and to play a part in helping people find their way out of crisis. And I’m proud to be able find ways in which our clients can question authority and hold decision makers to account.