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Union attacks legal aid reforms

A teachers' union which has claimed a record Pounds 3 million compensation for its members over the last year says the Government's legal reforms will prevent it pursuing future claims.

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers said the cases pursued by its regional officers are becoming increasingly diverse, but the reforms proposed by the Lord Chancellor's review of legal aid could undermine trade unions' ability to take on cases.

In 199697, unions helped injured workers and their families to win Pounds 330 million. But plans for a fast-track, fixed-costs scheme will cap the limit unions can recover from employers' insurance companies.

Nigel de Gruchy, NASUWT general secretary, said: "This outstanding amount is a result of the hard work of the union's legal service.

"However, regrettably the Government's proposed Access to Justice reforms are likely to have an adverse impact on our work. The NASUWT will be unable to achieve the compensation that members deserve for their injuries if these Government reforms go ahead."

The cases won by the NASUWT include: * Pounds 212,538 won for a teacher injured by tripping over at school. The sum reflects the member's loss of earnings and early retirement from the profession; * Pounds 165,000 for a member who suffered psychological trauma after a coach crash while on an educational visit; * Pounds 70,000 awarded by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board to a member who was injured when she attempted to restrain pupils involved in a fight.

Frances Rafferty

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