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WAIS Survivors Create Historic Change in Legal Aid Across the UK

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Women’s Aid Integrated Services are pleased to announce that the courage and contribution of WAIS service users has brought about a major change in the legal aid system throughout the UK. This will affect every woman going through the family law courts who has experienced domestic violence and abuse.

WAIS were put forward to the Ministry of Justice by Women’s Aid England in August 2016, allowing officials to hear first hand from service users just how the widely criticised rules affected and prevented women from seeking legal representation in disputed family court hearings.

The review of legal aid has led to the government announcing that it will now scrap rules requiring survivors to prove they’ve experienced abuse in the past five years in order to apply for legal aid.

The second major change also means that survivors will be able to draw upon a much wider pool of resources to evidence abuse – which will also include records and statements from domestic abuse charities like WAIS and other organisations working with survivors.

Val Lunn, Chief Executive Officer at WAIS stated “We welcome the changes in the rules. We’re pleased that the Ministry of Justice listened to what survivors had to say and we’re very proud of the women who were willing to share painful and upsetting experiences in order to make the situation better for other women in the future. Our job as an organisation is not just to provide services to women and children but also to highlight unfair rules and systems. This is a victory for women and for common sense”.

Polly Neate, Chief Executive Officer at Women’s Aid England has written a personal letter of thanks to the survivors who attended the meeting. In her letter she wrote “I hope it reassures you to know that your courage was genuinely the deciding factor in achieving change in this case”.

The courage of these women now means that others who find themselves in a similar position can access safety and justice through the law. It wouldn’t have happened without them. We’ll be celebrating with a tea party in April!

Read more in this Guardian article.

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