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Government urged to scrap GP fees hurdle for legal aid

By Megan Bennie

Regular readers of the Grayfords blog will know that cuts to legal aid have featured in many of our stories over the past few years.

Those who seek legal aid funding will now find it is only available for a limited number of family law actions.  Even then, the recipient must pass a financial means test and a new evidential test to confirm they have suffered domestic violence.

The kinds of evidence a person can produce include a referral to a refuge, a police caution or a letter from a GP.  And herein the problem lies.  Some GPs are apparently charging up to £175 for such letters.

Almost 20 police and crime commissioners in England and Wales have written to the Secretary of State for Health to ask him to scrap such charges.

Not every GP will charge for providing a letter but many do.

The Secretary of State for Justice has been asked to go one step further and scrap the requirement for a letter altogether.

While we wholeheartedly agree that funding for legal aid should be increased, we are struggling to think of an ideal solution to assessing who needs funding most.  However, the fact that some of the most vulnerable people in society are having to pay to access legal funding seems somewhat perverse.  Unfortunately, against the background of continued cuts to the health service, GPs are also having to make hard choices.

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