Official figures show that cuts have caused a massive drop in claimants granted help for welfare battles.
Toby Helm Observer Political Editor
Sat 14 Apr 2018 11.29 BST Last modified on Sat 14 Apr 2018 22.00 BST

Legal aid protest.

Lawyers and protesters demonstrate against changes to the legal aid budget, outside Parliament in 2013.

Photograph: Alamy

The extent to which savage government cuts have deprived disabled people of legal aid in disputes over their benefit payments is revealed today by new official figures that show a 99% decline since 2011.

The total number of disabled people granted legal aid in welfare cases has plummeted from 29,801 in 2011-12 to just 308 in 2016-17, cutting some of the most vulnerable people in society adrift without expert advice in often highly complex and distressing cases.

MPs and charities representing disabled people reacted furiously to the figures, released in a parliamentary answer, saying they bore out their worst fears at the time ministers announced the cuts several years ago.

They called on the government to speed up an ongoing review of the legal aid system and to end a Whitehall culture that, they say, too often views disabled people as easy targets for savings.

Drastic cuts to the £2bn legal aid budget were imposed in 2013 as part of the Tory austerity drive championed by former chancellor George Osborne.

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The 2012 Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act removed more than £350m from the legal aid budget and ended the right to legal representation in many benefits cases, as well as others concerning divorce, child custody, clinical negligence, employment, immigration and housing.

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