The UK’s legal aid organisation (which give free legal help and lawyers to those who can’t afford them) is being sued for refusing to give legal aid to the homeless.
What it means: Homelessness doesn’t benefit anyone: neither the people on the streets (who are exposed to horrible living conditions and abuse) nor the people who walk down those streets (who, rather than seeing homelessness as a social issue, sometimes complain that homeless people are intimidating and/or an eyesore), nor the economy (not having a home makes it difficult to hold down a job, homeless people deter tourists/businesses and are more likely to be hospitalised or require other forms of government spending).
So what’s the solution? Some UK local councils think they’ve cracked it, and started fining homeless people, handing them criminal convictions and/or locking them up. If you think that sounds like an odd way to solve the problem because taking money away from homeless people and giving them a criminal record seems unlikely to help them find a job, get a place to stay and get off the streets, well, you’d be right. Homelessness in the UK increased for seven years straight from 2010.
Some people consider the council’s behaviour illegal (it does not match the advice given from the central UK government about how to tackle homelessness). But homeless people are struggling to challenge the fines and imprisonments because the UK’s legal aid organisation is apparently refusing to help. Legal aid, which provides free legal advice and lawyers to people who can’t afford it, is supposed to be a way to ensure our society (and therefore economy) works for everyone. The law is what forces businesses and people to practice certain economic decisions, like the minimum wage or workplace safety standards. Without access to it, people may find it harder to move up the economic ladder (get richer, basically).
Luckily, a human rights organisation called Liberty is stepping in to take the UK’s legal aid organisation to court. Tbh, it sounds like they need the practice.
Read our explainers on economic ladders and social inequality.