In April 2013, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) cut large areas from legal aid, meaning fewer people can access legal advice.

“Legal aid can be the difference between a family staying in a safe home or homelessness, protection from domestic abuse or staying in an abusive relationship. People must be able to access this vital service,“ said Law Society immediate past president Lubna Shuja.

Across England and Wales, people are cut off from legal help with many family, employment, housing and debt problems.

We’re pleased the government launched its long-awaited review on civil legal aid earlier this year.

However, this will not report until 2024. We’re not likely to see any significant changes until at least 2025.

“Services are collapsing now,” said Lubna Shuja. “The public cannot afford to wait until 2024 for investment, if we want to ensure that support is there for those who need it in these turbulent times. “

What this means for solicitors

Since 2013, firms across the country have been forced to close their legal aid departments, leaving millions of people with no provider in their local area.

The number of advice agencies and law centres doing legal aid work dropped 59%, compared to 2012. This created large advice deserts – areas where people entitled to legal aid can no longer get it.

Our data suggests that the number of providers could fall by another third by 2025.

Fresh ideas for the justice system

We’ve come up with some fresh ideas for practical, affordable changes to our civil justice system that will enhance access to justice and could save the system £72 million over a five-year period.

Explore our ideas, join the conversation

What this means for the public

Without professional legal advice, many people may miss out on the fair outcome they deserve.

From almost a million cases in 2009/10 started by lawyers and advice agencies to help people get the advice they need, this number plummeted to just over 100,000 in 2020/21. (Family and social welfare cases have been especially hard hit.)

At the same time people having to go to court without representation trebled in the family courts.

Since April 2022, the number of welfare providers has fallen by 21%.

Check if you live in an area where legal aid is vanishing

How has LASPO changed access to justice?

Our work so far

In 2017, we reviewed the legal aid changes introduced under LASPO and found:

  • legal aid is no longer available for many who need it
  • those eligible for legal aid find it hard to access
  • wide gaps in provision are not being addressed
  • LASPO has had a negative impact on the state and society

We’ve supported litigation that has challenged and improved LASPO, such as:

  • the domestic violence gateway
  • exceptional case funding
  • means test and the means test review

Other key successes so far in our campaign include:

Legal aid reforms post LASPO

Following a post-implementation review of LASPO in 2019, the government set out plans to improve access to legal aid, including:

The 2019 review did not fundamentally change LASPO as the basis for providing legal aid.

Read the Legal Support Action Plan

What we’re doing

We’re continuing to campaign for measures to restore access to justice.

We’re also planning ahead for a more sustainable future.

Find out about our new 21st Century Justice project

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