Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill

Memorandum submitted by Patricia Thomas (LA 103)

Dear Mr Sheridan,

re: Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill 2010-11

I am writing to you as I understand that you are co-Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee currently considering the provisions of the proposed legislation. Please would you ensure that this letter and attachment are copied to all members of the committee for their information.

I wish to express my serious concerns about the proposed changes outlined in this Bill, that relate to the withdrawal of legal aid provision in a number of areas - particularly with regard to advice relating to the benefits system, a complex area and the effect of that on the Law Centres and their clients.

The impact that that will have on those who cannot afford legal fees, particularly those vulnerable individuals who suffer with mental illness or learning disability, is likely to have dreadful consequences which in all probability will prove even more costly to the public finances.

I have enclosed a copy of my recent email to our constituency MP, Richard Graham, setting out my daughter's experiences and why the continued provision from the Law Centre is so important. I have had contact with our MP not just in relation to my concerns about my daughter's situation - I will not always be here to support her - but also relating to the work I am involved in. as Chairman of the Gloucester group of Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide. This work, both locally and nationally, in which I have been engaged for over 14 years has provided knowledge that raises my concerns on an informed basis.

I hope that you will be able to include these considerations in your discussions on this legislation, if you would like any further information do not hesitate to contact me.

I look forward to your responses. Yours sincerely

Patricia Thomas

September 2011

Carer’s experience

1974 Married - age 25, husband 27

1975 Birth first child

1977 Husband - 1st disappearance (overnight)

1978 Birth second child

1981 Husband overdose - went to GP - brought home after treatment

1983 Husband - 2nd disappearance (3 days) – overdose - hospital treatment (3 days)

Moved (180 miles) - husband new job

1985 Birth third child

1987 Husband - 3rd disappearance (2 weeks) - attempted gassing (car)

GP referred him to consultant psychologist - therapy started

1988 Moved (90 miles) - husband new job

3 months after move - 4th disappearance (3 days) another suicide attempt

new GP refused consultant referral for continuation of psych therapy told wife "not available on the NHS" - not true - (NB GP's – control own budgets at this time)

1990 Husband 5th disappearance (5 days) - wife 'talked him down' in middle of the

night (1.30 am) phone call with police officer listening on extension.

1994 Husband 6th disappearance (5 days) - suicide by gassing - left wife (45) and 3

Children (18, 15 and 8). GP advice re support for children - "Wait and see"

2000 Daughter (14) self-harming - subjected to bullying at school – mother requested involvement of Educational Psychologist - no referral made

2003 Daughter (17) - new GP diagnosed depression and anxiety medication prescribed

2004 Daughter - diagnosis of Dyslexia

Started at College – self-harming continued. Considerable support needed.

2006 Mother requested CPN support for daughter - GP referred

Mother is told she is a Carer who needs support in her own right

2007 CPN support al first good (6 mths) - then "system improvements" lead to complete

breakdown in service - no further support for daughter

2008 Daughter leaves College - unemployed and (despite excellent Disability adviser at

JobCentre, whose efforts are limited by the bureaucratic pigeon-holes available), need for continuity of support that is not there.

2010 Daughter wins ESA Tribunal after 7 months unnecessary stress and anxiety

What has this cost these individuals (and the country) in wasted potential ?

Daughter’s experience

1985 Born - a girl after 2 boys - whole family thrilled

1994 Age 8 yrs 3 months - father died - suicide

1997 Sept - Moved up to secondary school

Oct - emergency admission to hospital - middle of night life-saving surgery

Extra support at school - literacy/numeracy - discontinued very soon

1998 Mother had to explain at Yr 8 Parents Evening (to 4 teachers) why daughter very withdrawn and reluctant to speak in lessons - teachers had not been briefed beginning of year

2000 May – discovered self-harming at school - bullying had started the previous year. Mother requested referral to Ed Psych service – still waiting for appointment

2003 Spring – Lwr VI – 2 occasions – police involved following bullying incidents

May – mother hospital seriously ill - surgery

Summer – 17 yrs old – diagnosed with Depression/Anxiety

Autumn - tried to return to school - spent year working at home – very isolated

2004 Charitable funding accessed for private Ed Psych assessment - dyslexic

Autumn – started course at Harlpury College - special needs support provided

self-harming continued

2006 Referred for CPN support from NHS mental health trust - v good 1st CPN -

begins to build trust and make therapeutic relationship (5 months)

2007 Trust re-structured - abrupt change of CPN - 2nd CPN disastrous

Summer - 3rd CPN gave care plan offering "minimal support"

no further contact for 8 months - then letter referring her back to GP

Only support – from home throughout all of the above

2008 Summer left college with certificate at distinction/merit level

Signed on at JCP – referred to disability adviser

2009 Jan-Feb - work trial with major retail company - fiasco - subsequently received letter of apology and admission of their responsibility for outcome.

Shaw Trust support worker - wrote critical report to Ofsted.

Damage to health considerable -DA advised claim ESA - obviously not fit for job/job-seeking.

Self-harming again

Summer – Atos Medical

Questionnaire completed - questions only relevant to physical disability

Assessment – GP sent note giving contact details - but no contact for additional info made.

She became distressed during assessment - Dr (?) refused to ask mother to join them

Found fit for work

Appeal submitted – ignored

Summer - mother - letter of concern to 2gether NHS Trust - re lack of care

October - mother – hospital 36 hrs - Cardiac Assessment unit

December - Gloucester Law Centre - completed paperwork re Tribunal

2010 Feb - Law Centre solicitor accompanied her to Tribunal - she became very

distressed - panic attack

Tribunal judge found in her favour - expressed incredulity that she was found fit for work

2010 Referral for Psychotherapy – interruptions – prematurely ended

2011 Referred by DA to People and Places - started to meet with support worker

connected building trust and confidence in her

2011 Feb - letter of apology from Trust director:

"It is quite clear that following the transfer of K's care from CPN until her

recent referral to Psychotherapy that the experience that K had fell short

of what is reasonable to expect from the Trust."

Medical assessment questionnaire from Atos - questions - no change - why?

Law Centre solicitor- helped her to complete the form

2011 March – saw specialist from Frenchay Hospital - diagnosed with ME

sent letter to Atos – still required to attend for assessment

May - support worker accompanied her to assessment - took detailed notes – very

surprised by some of questions – letter from specialist provided and reluctantly

accepted

This time correct outcome – put in work-related activity group (as before)

2011 July – support worker's contract not renewed - lack of funding - yet another source

of support removed

Prepared 11th October 2011