Ministers are being urged not to restrict legal aid for disabled
people wanting to challenge benefit decisions.
A coalition of charities including Scope and Mind argues that
limiting access to "vital" help in England and Wales could harm
But the government insists that the £2bn legal aid bill is
unaffordable and help has to be targeted at the most serious cases
and those most needing support.
Ministers are looking to cut £350m from the civil legal aid
budget by 2014-15.
The 23 organisations, which also include Mencap, the RNIB and
Leonard Cheshire, want MPs to back an amendment to the Legal Aid
and Sentencing Bill reversing the decision when the proposed
legislation is debated.
The disability rights groups say the changes mean up to 80,000
people will no longer be able to get access to publicly funded
legal advice to help them challenge benefit decisions.
Campaigners say those affected will not be able to find legal
help elsewhere and it could have a "serious impact" on their
finances and peace of mind - making it harder for them to return to
work in the future.
"Legal advice is vital for disabled people if they fall foul of
poor decision making, red tape or adminisrative error," Scope's
chief executive Richard Hawkes said.
"For welfare reform to work, disabled people have to get support
to appeal decisions relating to their benefits especially within a
system where errors are commonplace.
"Cutting legal aid in this area will make it harder for disabled
people to get the right support and ultimately could drive more
people further away from work."