Breadcrumbs

Charities urge government to save Refugee and Migrant Justice

By Jennifer Sprinks, Third Sector Online, 2 June 2010

Citizens Advice, Liberty and Mind back campaign to rescue legal advice charity from £1.8m 'cash crisis'

The leaders of several well known charities are among the high-profile figures urging the government to save Refugee and Migrant Justice from possible closure.

The legal advice charity has said it is facing a cash crisis because changes to the legal aid system have meant a large proportion of legal aid work is now paid upon completion, which can take anything up to two years.

It has a £1.8m backlog of payments and is calling for the legal aid payment system to be changed to ensure charities are paid promptly for their work.

Charity leaders including David Harker, chief executive of Citizens Advice, Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights organisation Liberty, and Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, have joined faith leaders including the Archishop of Canterbury and senior legal and human rights experts in a campaign to save the RMJ from closure.

In an open letter to the home and justice secretaries, the group says it would be "a tragedy if RMJ was allowed to go under because of bureaucratic rules".

"Sadly, we have become aware that this pioneering charity is at risk of closure simply because of delays in legal aid payments for work already done," the letter says.

"No charity can be expected to wait six months or more for the money it is owed, and no private sector organisation will be able to replace RMJ's longstanding commitment to those with the greatest needs."

Caroline Slocock, chief executive of Refugee and Migrant Justice, said: "RMJ is not asking for new money, simply prompt payment of legal aid by the Legal Services Commission, or failing that, interest free loans by the government to cover the gap. We know times are hard but it doesn't make sense to drive charities out of business."

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said it was due to announce the outcome of a tender exercise with legal aid providers in this area of law and it would be inappropriate to take any action that could be viewed as favouring one potential bidder over others.

"The Legal Services Commission has worked closely with Refugee and Migrant Justice for the past few years and, as a result, it has received substantial support to help it transfer to the current payment system," he said.

"Other organisations have successfully made this transition and it is only reasonable to expect Refugee and Migrant Justice to do the same."

 

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