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Firms launch court challenge to legal aid phone gateway

26 September 2011

A group of ten firms specialising in community care law have launched a judicial review challenging government plans to force legal aid clients to access services through a single telephone gateway in all but emergency cases.

The group includes well-known names such as Bindmans, Irwin Mitchell, Pierce Glynn and Ben Hoare Bell. The other firms are Public Law Solicitors, Jackson and Canter, Steel and Shamash, Mackintosh Law, Hansen Palomares and Julie Burton Law.

The firms argue that insisting on the telephone service and denying community care clients access to immediate face-to-face advice would deny clients access to justice.

Des Hudson, chief executive of the Law Society, said the MoJ had reduced its original estimate of £60m for savings to be achieved by the new phone line to only £2m.

“Analysis of the impact assessment suggests that, even now, the MoJ is probably significantly underestimating both the cost of implementing the service and the barriers it will place in the way of vulnerable clients,” Hudson said.

“Indeed, the available research indicates that the move to telephone advice may well stop a significant number of people from getting advice at all, and deliver worse outcomes for those who do manage to access the service.

“We urge the government to reconsider whether in the light of the evidence now available, it makes any sense to proceed with this proposal.”

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Legal Aid