Civil Legal Aid Review: Providers actively leaving the sector

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has today (19 January) published its provider survey* of the civil legal aid market to inform its Civil Legal Aid Review. The survey shows that providers cannot make a profit from civil legal aid work, and will actively leave the sector in the medium term, meaning that people are unable to enforce and defend their rights.

Areas with the highest levels of dissatisfaction from respondents included:

  • The majority of private practices reported not making a profit from their civil legal aid services
  • Looking to the long term (next five years), 40% saying they will actively leave the sector
  • 82% being dissatisfied with the fee system
  • 61% saying that they are unable to build a quality workforce
  • 59% being dissatisfied with the way the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) makes decisions

Law Society of England and Wales vice president Richard Atkinson said: “The report shows what we already knew, the civil legal aid system is on its knees.

“The findings reflect an experienced workforce committed to access to justice and supporting their clients, but who are being driven out of the sector through unsustainable fee levels and LAA bureaucracy and decision making.

“The long term looks particularly bleak given the shortage of new young lawyers coming into the system to take over from experienced lawyers as they reach the end of their careers.

“Civil legal aid providers haven’t seen a fee increase since 1996. On top of this, the UK government imposed a further 10% fee-cut in 2011. This represents a real-terms cut of 49.4% in fees to 2022.

“42% of respondents said that they would leave the sector or reduce services in the next year if things stayed the same. This is alarming considering the extent of legal aid deserts we already have in England and Wales.**

“Of those that had already left the sector, the most common reasons were because it was not financially viable to continue (65%), and difficulty in recruiting the necessary staff (28%).”

Richard Atkinson concluded: “This data shows the reasons why providers are closing their doors.

“The people who are affected most by this are families facing eviction, victims of abuse seeking the protection they need or a vulnerable person denied access to the care they’re entitled to.

“Starving the system of resources is penny wise and pound foolish. It would not take a huge sum of money in terms of overall public expenditure to solve this problem, and the savings in other areas from solving people’s problems early would more than offset the cost.

“We urge the government to use this data for its Civil Legal Aid Review and to invest in civil legal aid by ensuring there is a future for this vital public service.”

Notes to editors

* Read the MoJ’s Survey of civil legal aid providers in England and Wales

** Find out about the Law Society’s civil legal aid deserts

About the Law Society

The Law Society is the independent professional body that works globally to support and represent solicitors, promoting the highest professional standards, the public interest and the rule of law.

Press office contact: Naomi Jeffreys | 020 8049 3928

Maximise your Law Society membership with My LS