Guest Column: Government’s society is failing those who need help the most

Gloria De Piero MP
Gloria De Piero MP

It is becoming clearer, in my view, that under this Tory Government our society is not doing a good job of looking after those who need it the most.

There are plenty of examples I could give, but I will share one I uncovered recently when I asked a parliamentary question to the Ministry of Justice.

I asked the secretary of state how many welfare cases involving disability benefits were granted legal aid in each year since 2011/12.

The answer was jaw-dropping.

The total number of disabled people granted legal aid in welfare cases has plummeted 99 per cent from 29,801 in 2011-12 to just 308 in 2016-17.

It means that people who have been refused disability benefits and needed legal represen-tation have been denied expert advice.

Dozens of constituents have come to me for help after wrongly being denied disability benefits, including people with conditions such as spina bifida and other lifelong debilitating illnesses.

It is people like this who are having to fight court cases themselves because of cuts to legal aid.

I have spoken before on the damage that Government cuts to legal aid has done.

Thousands of domestic violence victims are now having to represent themselves in family courts without lawyers due to legal aid cuts.

Access to justice should be for all, not just the rich and powerful.

It is a founding principle of democracy and one that Labour is standing up for while the Tories let this right erode away.

Queries about all types of benefits make up a large amount of the casework I do for constituents.

A Kirkby pensioner contacted me recently because he was confused about the amount of pension credit he was receiving.

A letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) quoted two amounts.

He wanted this confusion clearing up but was having no luck getting a plain answer.

I wrote to the DWP on his behalf and it replied saying that it had now rectified the error and given him £50 compensation, which was a good result for him.