MANCHESTER City Council unanimously supported the motion of Councillor Sarah Judge on ‘Scrap the Fee’ campaign on 30 November, to make legal aid more accessible for domestic abuse victims.
Councillor Judge said that one of the main barriers abused women face when they try to apply for legal aid is that they must prove that they are victims of domestic violence.
One of the accepted forms of evidence is a letter from their GP, but some GPs charge a fee for it. In Manchester the average fee is around ₤75, but there were many cases in the country where GPs asked for up to ₤300.
Councillor Judge added: “That ₤300 to a woman in that position, when she is vulnerable, she has been abused by a partner, she is trying to flee, trying to protect herself, her children… That letter is something that woman has to save up for… But in my opinion it is not something that she has ever need to save up for, that is something that she needs.”
For most families Christmas is about spending time with their loved ones, but for some it is the worst time of the year. Figures show that domestic abuse significantly rises around the festive season.
Most of these women are still living with their abuser and sometimes they do not have the money to pay for legal services or the GP fee to get legal aid and has to face their offender alone in court.
Lisa Clover, coordinator of Wythenshawe SafeSpots Centre and former victim of domestic abuse said: “The scrap the fee campaign will be an amazing thing for women suffering at the hands of an abuser. Many women cannot afford the cost of these letters, in some cases the question for them could be do they feed their family or pay their GP for the letter.”
“Scrap the Fee” was initiated by Tom Watson, Labour MP and since the start of the campaign in September 2016 more than 4100 people have signed the petition.
Tom Watson stated on his website: “No GP should charge victims of domestic abuse for a letter they need to access legal aid. It’s unfair. It’s immoral. And it has to stop.”
More information on the ‘Scrap the Fee’ campaign and the petition is available here.
— Tom Watson (@tom_watson) 30 November 2016