The Latest Statistics on Legal Aid Including Family Mediation

The Latest Statistics on Legal Aid Including Family Mediation

The Ministry of Justice has today published its latest statistical bulletin on the take-up of Legal Aid. This is not just Legal Aid for Family Mediation but also for Family Law and Crime. Below is a link which opens the statistics in PDF format.

Ministry of Justice – Legal Aid Agency – Statistics Bulletin – April to June 2014

Legal Aid for Family Law

The Statistics show in graphic detail the reduction in the numbers able to access Legal Aid since the changes which came into effect last year. Access to the initial level of Legal Aid remains steady but this is limited by the number of cases that Solicitors with Legal Aid contracts are allowed to start. Overall it does appear that there is an ongoing downward trend in the number of Legal Aid Certificates granted for court proceedings in family cases following a massive drop after the legal aid changes of last year. This is worrying what was left of legal aid was supposed to be there to assist those who needed protection or who had suffered domestic abuse.

Legal Aid for Family Mediation

I have reproduced below one of the tables from the statistics bulletin. These tables cover the numbers of assessment meetings for family mediation as well as the number of mediation cases that have been started and then successfully concluded.

This practice has a legal aid contract for family law for our Honiton office. As a family mediation service we are contracted with the Legal Aid Agency to provide family mediation in Honiton, Exeter and Taunton and from a few further outreach locations. We are the only family mediation service which has a contract with the legal aid agency which is actually based outside of Exeter and in East Devon which makes us particularly convenient for clients who live in locations such as: Sidmouth, Seaton, Axminster, Ottery St Mary, the Blackdown Hills, Cullompton, Chard and surrounding villages.

The way in which legal aid is currently structured is that all those who are no longer able to get legal aid to consider the arrangements for their children or financial issues after separation and divorce can still get funding for family mediation instead. Legal aid is then available for legal advice in support of the mediation process after the mediation has started. This means that following the legal aid changes of 2013 there should be more mediation cases taking place. The statistics show clearly that that is not the case. I have blogged previously about the crisis in family mediation.

The statistics show that the number of assessment meetings undertaken by mediators in order to see whether mediation can take place has after a fall started to rise. Unfortunately this would not seem to have translated into more joint meetings/full mediation processes starting or to more mediation cases reaching settlement. This is worrying indeed.

At the same time we are being told that the numbers of persons Applying to the Court for court orders (without legal representation) has/is increasing. Perhaps therefore the increase in assessment meetings is only tied to the compulsory Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings and has nothing to do with any increased desire or commitment on the public to give mediation a try.

I have recently blogged on the government announcement to support there being a first proper mediation meeting that is free to both of a couple, provided that one was financially eligible for legal aid. This should help. Unfortunately we are still waiting to know when this new system will come into effect! The change needs to be introduced sooner rather than later.


A Solicitors Practice and a Family Mediation Service

As a Solicitors Practice and Family Mediation Service, we are lucky that we are not entirely reliant upon either family law or family mediation or legal aid to be able to offer a viable and cost-effective service. Indeed we continue to be able to offer our legal services on an hourly charging rate which is below the comparable rate for solicitors with a similar level of experience. We have the benefit that we can offer our clients all of the different process options and they can choose the best way to proceed for them. We are lucky that we have had growth in all areas of our work and will shortly be announcing the next step in the growth of our service. Watch this space!

Here is the family mediation graphic:

Ministry of Justice Mediations Statistics Published September 2014

Ministry of Justice Mediations Statistics Published September 2014

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