Money Saving Expert says GPs are charging up to £300 for a letter of support
DOCTORS who overcharge domestic violence survivors for letters to support their legal aid applications are acting immorally, Labour’s shadow women and equalities minister said yesterday.
Sarah Champion voiced her concerns in response to an investigation by MoneySavingExpert.com.
Family law solicitors told the consumer website’s journalists that people fleeing domestic abuse have had to pay large sums since the criteria for legal aid changed three years ago.
A letter is required to show that applicants and any children have suffered injuries to their mental or physical health by a partner or a relative. And while some GPs do not charge, those that do can set their own rate because filling in template letters provided by the Ministry of Justice falls outside of their NHS duties.
Money Saving Expert found that GPs typically ask for £50. But five of 10 solicitor firms surveyed had experience of GPs charging £100 or more, up to £300.
Survivors who cannot afford legal fees and are refused legal aid have little option other than to drop the case against a perpetrator of physical or mental abuse.
Ms Champion said: “It’s a travesty that some victims of domestic violence are being charged for a GP’s letter while they seek justice.
“Many of these people are undergoing intense stress and trauma and it’s the last thing they need.
“It isn’t just unfair — it’s immoral. And the government won’t provide data for how many GPs are charging for the letters.
“The government should be doing all it can to help survivors of domestic violence find justice. This is doing the opposite.”
Since 2013, there have been 25,000 applications for legal aid backed by letters of support for those who suffered domestic abuse.
It is not known how much of the documentation was provided by GPs, according to the investigation.
Money Saving Expert suggests that evidence for legal aid applications can also be provided for free if a claimant has had contact with courts, the police and managers of domestic violence refuges, even if they had been turned away from a refuge that was full.
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