It’s that time of year again for me to ask you to please donate generously what I think is a really good cause. As part of my role as Director of Legal Services at the Royal Association for Deaf people, I am responsible for RAD Deaf Law Centre.
I am sure you can appreciate that times are hard for legal advice services that provide free advice to those who really need it, with cuts to funding right left and centre. It is now that we really need your help in order to ensure that we continue to do the really important work that we do.
Deaf people who use British Sign Language (BSL) as a first language often have poor literacy levels (the average reading age for Deaf school leavers is 8-9 years). This means that they cannot understand information leaflets and correspondence, or access telephone helplines using a textphone.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s report into the provision of advice services in the UK, “Responding to discrimination: the geography and geometry of advice provision in England, Scotland and Wales” was published in July 2009. On pages 105-107, it found that:
- “ … the advice system of CABs, law societies, union sources and private firms of solicitors are often still inaccessible to profoundly Deaf customers in spite of the DDA having been on the statute books since 1995”
- “ … when disabled people are treated as a homogenous group then the specific obstacles facing Deaf customers and those with learning difficulties often slip through the net.”
Legal aid cuts
As a result of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, from March 2013, the areas of welfare benefits and employment, incidentally the areas of law most in demand by our clientele, all legal aid funding will be cut, except in appeal cases to the Upper Tribunal and above where there is a point of law for welfare benefits, and in employment matters involving discrimination.
This means that Deaf clients will not get any free legal advice in relation to claiming Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payments, Universal Credit, Employment & Support Allowance, nor bedroom tax and the benefit cap. Where can they now go to receive advice on claiming the benefits they are entitled to and appealing any decisions?
What can be done?
We have calculated that the approximate cost for RAD DLC to deal with one welfare benefits enquiry for 1 hour is £27. We need to raise this money as we do not currently receive any funding to provide this type of legal advice, and are unable to rely on central funds.
We would like to raise at least £1,000 in order to be able to give a total of 40 clients one-off advice on their welfare benefit issues. Obviously, the more we raise, the more clients we can advise.
So there you have it. I’m asking you please, please, please to donate as much as you can so we can provide free legal advice to Deaf people who are going to be hard hit by the welfare reforms and the cuts to legal aid.
The link you need is: http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/RADDeafLawCentre.
Thank you SO much!