Housing legal aid providers on the brink of collapse

New research published by the Law Society of England and Wales has shone a light on the depth of the crisis facing civil legal aid providers.

A study commissioned by the Law Society from Frontier Economics has worked with providers across the market to understand in-depth their operating model and financial situation.

An interim report* analysing data from housing legal aid providers reveals:

  • 100% of providers are loss-making.** The average fee earner is only able to recover around half of the full costs of providing housing legal aid
  • There is a high turnover of junior staff as they leave for better pay and work-life balance
  • Providers are working long hours with high levels of stress and burnout, which is exacerbated by the significant administrative costs involved in housing legal aid work

Law Society of England and Wales president Nick Emmerson said: “This vital research reveals the lengths providers have to go to keep housing legal aid afloat in the current environment – routinely working grossly excessive hours and cross-subsidising from other parts of their businesses.

“It’s therefore no surprise that we’re seeing providers exit the market because they can no longer sustain this approach. Those who remain struggle to attract younger people to legal aid work.

“At a time when the cost-of-living crisis is driving rising numbers of evictions and repossessions, the UK government needs to use its Civil Legal Aid Review to invest in legal aid now before it collapses completely.”

Additional research*** from the Law Society shows that 26 million people currently have no access to a local housing legal aid provider.

Nick Emmerson concluded: “We urge the government to provide the civil legal aid system with the investment needed to ensure there is a future for this vital public service.”

Notes to editors

* Read the Research on the sustainability of civil legal aid interim report. This stream of work is ongoing. A final report will be published in due course.

** All providers surveyed to date are found to be loss making when we adjust for inter-partes incomes and the majority are found to be loss making even when accounting for inter-partes incomes.

Frontier’s research will form part of the Law Society’s submission to the government’s review of Civil Legal Aid, which is due to report in March.

*** Research taken from our updated housing legal aid desert map, which will be published on 21 February, alongside the rest of our civil legal aid desert maps. It will coincide with the Law Society’s call for evidence submission to the Civil Legal Aid Review. The heat map is compiled from the directory of legal aid providers which is published by the Legal Aid Agency.

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

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