Lord McNally’s first speech on legal aid since taking the brief was delivered to the Legal Aid Practitioners Group. Into the lion’s den. McNally wants to move on from LASPO, admitting the bill’s passage was ‘bruising for everyone’. His emollience was welcome; the absence of credible answers to practitioners’ questions less so. For example, there was a sharp intake of breath when one solicitor asked about the adequacy of the number of firms able to do education law (three, apparently).
The Lib Dem peer questioned why a disabled child would need a ‘lifetime of legal help’, suggesting that they would not need a lawyer to get their special educational needs met.
Once his inquisitor had retrieved her chin from the ground, she pointed out that as children develop, their needs change. Yet cash-strapped local authorities do not willingly capitulate and devote resources to ensure children with disabilities and a myriad of special educational needs get their needs met in a manner enabling them to thrive.
Only those with the most doughty and indefatigable parents stand any chance at all without a lawyer. Lawyers, she pointed out, are never parents’ first option; they are generally sought when there is no other choice. McNally has said he wants to learn from legal aid lawyers. He will not want for people to bend his ear.