A Fife organisation providing vital frontline legal services to vulnerable people has reported a surge in referrals due to Universal Credit.
On a recent visit to Fife Law Centre in Lochgelly, Lesley Laird MP learned the team had represented people forced to endure months of poverty under the new benefits system.
“In one recent case a man had been wrongfully sanctioned and had to wait six months for his Universal Credit to be reinstated by a tribunal,“ she said.
“With the expertise and assistance of Fife Law Centre, his appeal was successful but there should be no place in our society for a government-sanctioned system which forces people to endure months of chronic anxiety and poverty and the untold damage that inflicts on their mental and physical health.
“Fife Law Centre exists to offer people legal representation they could otherwise never afford – and thank goodness we have them.”
It was reported recently that the proportion of Universal Credit claims hit by deductions has rocketed from one in 10 in May 2017, to one in five in December 2017, to a third in May 2018.
Foodbank usage has increased throughout the Kingdom, resulting in pleas from Kirkcaldy Foodbank for businesses to make donations to keep the service afloat.
Lesley commented: “I’ve talked to many services and third sector groups over the summer and the feedback from everyone is consistent: Universal Credit is biting hard.
“Fife Law Centre reports a significant rise in cases, with Universal Credit linked to increased bankruptcies and a surge in rent arrears with people owing, on average, between £2,000 – £5,000.
“As a result, Fife Law Centre’s services are vital to an increasing number of people in Fife blighted by poverty.”
Fife Law Centre offers a wide range of advice and representation for people who have difficulty accessing legal services for many different reasons. They take on cases that other solicitors cannot deal with.
Law Centre clients, in many cases, are also struggling with mental health problems or disability. Many cannot afford mainstream legal services and Civil Legal Aid is often not available.
The team offers assistance to clients with mortgage or rent arrears and are threatened by eviction, and complex welfare benefits issues such as an appeal to Upper Tribunal or overpayment of benefits.
Fife Law Centre can also provide assistance with adults with incapacity, child law, criminal injuries compensation, rights for refugees and migrants, persons in insecure immigration situation and other miscellaneous issues. They are a small but important organisation and the only one of its kind in Fife and surrounding areas.
To contact Fife Law Centre telephone 01592 786710 or visit www.fifelawcentre.co.uk
Pictured left to right: Solicitors Calvin Gordon and Joyce Horsham, Lesley Laird MP.