• Robert Spicer

Poverty And Lawyers


How many practising lawyers know the real meaning of poverty?

The income of lawyers should be seen, for example, in the context of the most recent poverty statistics compiled by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. These statistics include:

  • The low-income threshold for a couple with two children under 14 is £357 per week.

  • In 2013, 13 million people in the UK were living in households below this threshold.

  • 3.5 million children were living in low-income households.

  • 4.4 million adults were paid less than £7 per hour.

In May 2014, the Office of National Statistics published data which showed that the richest 1 per cent of Britain’s population now own as much wealth as the poorest 55 per cent put together.

In 2013/2014, the Tressell Trust reported that 913,138 people were now using its food banks, an increase of 51 per cent from the previous year.

In December 2009 Shelter, the housing charity, reported that it would take between 10 and 33 years for local authorities to clear their housing waiting lists. Approximately 1.8 million households were currently on waiting lists for social housing.

The Royal Courts of Justice Citizen’s Advice Bureau (RCJCAB) deals with nearly 20,000 clients a year. It has reported the following:

  • In family cases, 69 per cent of divorce matters involved at least one unrepresented party.

  • In civil cases, 85 per cent of individual defendants in county court cases were unrepresented.

  • There is a definite trend of solicitors being unwilling to take on cases on a publicly-funded basis in areas such as housing and family.

  • 38 per cent of cases handled by the RCJCAB involve debt, mostly possession proceedings brought by banks.

  • There may be a theoretical entitlement to get legal aid but the reality is somewhat different. Solicitors say that they are too busy, or the case does not look like a sure-fire winner, or there is not going to be much money in it for them.

  • In relation to costs, many people do not have any concept of just how expensive litigation is.

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