Civil legal aid wait to continue into New Year
By Monidipa Fouzder >>
(21 December 2022)
Details of a major civil legal aid review will be announced in January, the Ministry of Justice has confirmed – more than two months after telling the Gazette that an announcement was imminent.
The Legal Aid Agency quietly revealed at the beginning of October that a major review was in the pipeline and told the Gazette that more detail on the terms of reference and process for the review would be announced shortly.
Law Society president Lubna Shuja said the review must proceed at an urgent pace. ‘Our research on the vast legal aid deserts across England and Wales shows the crisis is already acute. There simply isn’t time to wait until the end of this review process before investment is made to halt the collapse of civil legal aid advice provision,’ she added.
According to government figures, there were 1,363 providers with a civil contract in March 2022. There were 2,134 providers in April 2012 – a year before the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) came into force. LASPO removed vast areas of law – such as housing family, immigration, employment and welfare benefits – out of scope for legal aid. The LAA has repeatedly had to plug gaps in advice provision, particularly in housing.
The Ministry of Justice has only just published its final response to the independent criminal legal aid review. The review was first announced in December 2018.