Tag Archive | "debt"

LASPO Review


At last the Ministry of Justice has announced that the government has set the ball rolling on the long-awaited review of its controversial legal aid reforms.

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO), which came into force in April 2013, made savage cuts to the scope of legal aid. Civil legal aid became no longer available for cases involving divorce, child custody, clinical negligence, welfare, employment, immigration, housing, debt, benefit and education.

At this week’s all-party parliamentary group meeting on legal aid, the justice minister Sir Oliver Heald QC, set out the government’s timetable for the review. A post-legislative memorandum on LASPO will be sent to the justice select committee before May, ahead of a full post-implementation review of the Act to be conducted by April 2018.

Sir Oliver said the government intended to work closely with the sector’s stakeholders over the course of the full post-implementation review in order to inform its conclusions. “We intend to outline our plans in more detail about a review when we present the memorandum to parliament. What we envisage is that the memorandum and review will provide us with a robust evidence-based picture of the current legal aid landscape and how it has changed since LASPO.”

Heald said that the ministry plans to submit a post-legislative memorandum on LASPO ‘as a whole’ to the justice select committee. This process has to be done by May but he said the ministry hopes to do it before then. He added that the memorandum will cover the whole act, including part one. “It will look at how the Act has been affected by litigation, how it was implemented, and will consider the various reviews of legal aid that have taken place since LASPO, by bodies such as the National Audit Office and others,” said Sir Oliver. “This will lead to an initial assessment of the extent to which changes to legal aid met their objectives, which is the test for a post-legislative memorandum.”

He added: “We intend to outline our plans in more detail about a review when we present the memorandum to parliament. What we envisage is that the memorandum and review will provide us with a robust evidence-based picture of the current legal aid landscape and how it has changed since LASPO.” Heald said the government intends to work ‘closely and collaboratively’ with other parties. It will outline more detailed plans about the review when it presents the memorandum to parliament.

Cuts to legal aid have left many without access to justice. One of the effects of reduced legal aid is the rise in the number of litigants in person, which has caused an increase in court delays. The number of people going to court without a lawyer has been rising since access to legal aid was cut. The less well off and those with children are more heavily represented in those litigating in person than any other group. Reductions in legal advice services raise grave concerns about the creation of “advice deserts” and vulnerable people unable to get the advice they desperately need.

Research by the charity Citizens Advice has revealed that the stress, responsibility and loneliness of going to court without representation can mean ‘Litigants in person’ (LiPS) achieve worse outcomes compared with their represented counterparts.

It also showed 90% of people who had been LiPS found the experience negatively affected their health, relationships, work or finances. Figures from the MoJ in October 2016 reveal that in 80% of family court cases, at least one individual had no lawyer.

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“Legal services will cease to exist in rural Wales”


Legal services will cease to exist in rural Wales if current trends continue, says the Low Commission.

The Low Commission was established by the legal education charity Legal Action Group in 2012 in the wake of the legal aid cuts to develop a strategy for access to advice and legal support in social welfare law in England and Wales. For the purposes of its inquiry, the Low Commission considers social welfare law to include asylum; benefits; community care; debt; education (including special educational needs); employment; housing; and immigration. The Commission is chaired by the cross-bench peer and disability rights campaigner Lord Colin Low, while their work has been funded by a number of trusts, foundations and City law firms. Read the full story

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Labour’s review of the government’s legal aid reforms


When Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour party last September one of his first acts was to announce an immediate review of legal aid.

He said: “I have asked Willy Bach, the former Shadow Attorney General, to undertake an immediate review of the assault on Legal Aid by the Government over the last five years. This has resulted in many of our fellow citizens, often the poor and marginalised, not being able to get advice or representation when they are faced with legal problems such as housing, welfare benefits, debt and employment. Many vital advice services, including Law Centres, have had to close.

Read the full story

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Advice deserts


Last Monday civil legal aid became no longer available for cases involving divorce, child custody, clinical negligence, welfare, employment, immigration, housing, debt, benefit and education. Someone with an odd sense of humour decided that April 1st was an appropriate date. Read the full story

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Legal aid concessions on the way?


A fortnight ago the Government signalled that it was abandoning controversial clause 12 of the Legal Aid bill that would have introduced means testing for initial advice and assistance at the police station. Now it looks as if further concessions could be on the way.

Having suffered heavy defeats in the Lords over the welfare reform and health service bills, the government appears eager to avoid further embarrassing reversals. As reported in the ‘Guardian’, justice minister Jonathan Djanogly, addressing a Westminster Legal Policy Forum meeting, said that the government continues to Read the full story

Posted in Civil Law, Criminal Justice, Legal AidComments (0)

Legal Aid reform


Introducing proposals for legal aid reform last week, Legal Aid Minister, Willy Bach, said that the UK has one of the best funded legal aid systems in the world. He went on to say that “legal aid practitioners provide a fantastic service and should be paid accordingly; Read the full story

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