Legal aid

LASPO Act

In April 2013, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) came into effect and introduced funding cuts to legal aid, meaning fewer people can access legal advice.

In October 2017, the government announced it would conduct a post-implementation review of the legal aid changes in LASPO.

In February 2019, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) published a post-implementation review of part 1 of LASPO. It also published a Legal Support Action Plan that sets out how the government’s plans to improve access to legal support service.

The action plan included a holistic review of criminal legal aid, which published a final report in December 2021.

Read more about the criminal legal aid review

Our view

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

Read our LASPO review

What this means for solicitors

The outcome of the government’s 2019 review has not fundamentally changed LASPO as the basis for providing legal aid.

However, the government has proposed some significant developments and initiatives which could improve access to legal aid.

Civil legal aid helpline

Since 2013, legally aided advice for debt, discrimination and special educational needs could only be accessed by telephone. This was known as the Mandatory Telephone Gateway.

The government is changing the requirements so clients can choose telephone advice or face-to-face advice.

Criminal legal aid fees

In March 2022, following an independent review on criminal legal aid, the government launched a consultation on changes including a 15% pay increase for criminal legal aid solicitors.

The proposals echo many of the recommendations we've raised in our campaigning work.

Find out more about what’s changing

The guidance on unused material claims was updated in January 2021.

Read the guidance on criminal legal aid fee schemes

Domestic abuse

In May 2020, changes were made to the regulations on evidence of both domestic violence and child abuse.

The supporting documents acceptable as evidence of domestic abuse are extended to letters from:

  • an independent domestic violence advisor confirming that they are providing or have provided support to A (see schedule 1 (14)) 
  • an independent sexual violence advisor confirming that they are providing or have provided support to A relating to sexual violence by B (see schedule 1 (15))
  • an organisation providing domestic violence support services (see schedule 1(17) for full conditions)

Read the LASPO 2012 evidence requirements for private family law matters (PDF 812 KB)

Early advice

The government plans to pilot the expansion of legal aid to cover early advice in a specific area of social welfare law, related to housing. 

See our campaign to bring back early legal advice

Exceptional case funding

In January 2022, the mean-testing requirement for exceptional case funding was removed for inquests.

In January 2021, the government updated its guidance for non-inquests, as part of exiting the EU.

Read our guide for solicitors

Family legal aid

The government will expand the scope of legal aid to include:

  • separated migrant children in immigration cases
  • special guardianship orders in private family law

We’re working with government to look at a different way of providing family legal aid.

Inquests

In 2018, the government ran a consultation on:

  • proposals to provide separate guidance for families which sets out the inquest process and legal aid system in plain English
  • backdating the legal help means test waiver so that all payments can be backdated to the date of application if a waiver is granted

Read the final report

Legal support

The government will invest up to £5m in innovation, using the LawTech sector, to deliver new legal support services.

A pilot will explore how government can better coordinate and signpost legal support. Legal support hubs will also be piloted, tested and evaluated.

The government will test changes to triage and signposting support offered as part of the civil legal aid helpline.

Litigants in person

The government is increasing the support offered by the MoJ and HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) and has introduced a £3.1m grant to support litigants in person.

Read the government press release

Means test

On 15 March 2022, the government launched a consultation on the legal aid means test. 

Find out what’s changing

Research 

The Legal Support Advisory Network was set up in 2019 to:

  • make use of external expertise
  • influence research and evaluation proposals
  • consider new research opportunities and collaborations

Read more about the Legal Support Advisory Group

What we’re doing

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