The decline of legal aid…
The Legal Aid Agency have very recently published Legal Aid Statistics for the quarter January to March 2018.
- There were 9% fewer legal help new matter starts (these are for the initial advice level of legal aid) than in the same period of 2017.
- The volume of completed claims also decreased, by 8%, and expenditure fell by 11%. Not surprising if less cases are started.
- This is a continuing downward trend.
- Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings were 19% lower than in the same quarter of 2017.
- Mediation starts (full mediation cases, rather than assessment meetings) between October and December 2017 were down by 18% and currently running at just under half the number of starts since the implementation of the LASPO Act.
- 6% more certificates were issued compared to the same quarter in 2017, due to demand for public family law representation. In other words more cases are being brought by social services.
- This category (social services cases) accounts for three quarters of the Family workload and 80% of Family expenditure.
- Changes in the acceptable evidence of domestic abuse from January 2018 have resulted in more certificates being granted on this basis.
- 746 applications for Exceptional Case Funding were received in the last quarter. 59% of them were granted – the highest number and proportion since the scheme began – up 5% compared to last year.
- The number of legal aid provider offices has fallen by a third in the last five years.
It appears that there will be a further decline in the number of firms offering legal aid when the current legal aid tender completes.
Why the decline in legal aid?
We would suggest the following reasons;
- It is increasingly uneconomic for solicitors and mediation services to offer. The rates of pay/fixed fees have not been increased for a long long time. 15+ years… eventually inflation catches up
- The means limits for eligibility no longer rise with inflation… eventually inflation catches up
- The evidence requirement to prove eligibility seems to be increasing difficult to meet.
- It feels like there is a hostile environment around legal aid, both to those who need it and to providers. This is so sad on what is essentially an important part of the welfare state.
We continue to offer legal aid and are specialists in cases involving social services.