Civil legal aid – invest now to stop system dying out
Early legal advice plays a vital role in preventing problems from escalating, helping to reduce homelessness, repossession and related mental health issues.
But early advice is vanishing and people cannot get the advice they need when they need it most.
The last decade has seen a 77% drop in civil legal aid cases started, largely due to cuts to what’s covered by legal aid, but also because the areas left in scope are not financially viable for providers.
Without early advice, more people and families could be made homeless, fall further into debt or be left without the welfare benefits they need to live.
Following a campaign by the Law Society, the government is conducting a long-overdue review into the sustainability of civil legal aid, from March 2023 to late 2024.
But the government’s review is not expected to report until 2024, and any recommendations will take even longer to carry out.
“To sustain the civil legal aid system until this time, the justice secretary must implement an interim 15% increase (£11.3 million) for providers of early legal advice now,” said Law Society immediate past president Lubna Shuja.
What we’re doing
In our interim submission (PDF 871 KB), we’re calling on the government to:
We know it’s important to you that access to justice and the rules of fair play are protected. The Law Society amplifies the powerful collective voice of more than 200,000 solicitors to fight for government investment in a justice system that is available for all.
August 2023 – we publish our interim submission to the review of civil legal aid (PDF 871 KB), calling for an immediate fee increase for legal advice pending the outcome of the review
March 2023 – we updated our maps on civil legal aid deserts in England and Wales to mark 10 years since LASPO was passed
January 2023 – our poll showed 90% voters in the UK support legal aid
December 2022 – we analysed data that suggests the number civil legal aid providers starting work could drop by a third by 2025
October 2022 – we listed fixing the justice system as our top recommendation for new prime minister, Rishi Sunak
September 2021 – we published our own review on the system’s sustainability, including eight recommendations on what the government should focus on in a formal review
May 2021 – we issued a judicial review against the Legal Aid Agency and lord chancellor, over changes to costs assessments that were made without proper consultation
September 2018 – we submitted evidence to the post-implementation review of LASPO, stressing that legal aid is no longer available for many who need it
June 2018 – our research on the benefits of early legal advice with Ipsos-MORI showed a clear statistical link between people getting early advice and resolving problems sooner
November 2017 – we launched our campaign on early legal advice, which is cited in multiple parliamentary discussions on the future of legal aid
2017 – we first call for an independent review into the sustainability of the civil legal aid system, following a 37% drop in the number of providers after massive legal aid cuts were introduced by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO)
Support the MoJ's independent review on civil legal aid by taking part in a one-hour interview about how the civil legal aid system is working, in November or December 2023.
If you’re a legal professional, we’d like you to share examples of the damage that legal aid deserts have caused in your local area.