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Civil legal aid funding "has run out"

16 February 2010

Funding for civil legal aid is running out in some areas as the end of the financial year approaches, a survey for the Alliance for Legal Aid has found.

The Alliance, launched this month, is made up of the Legal Action Group (LAG), Legal Aid Practitioners Group, Law Centres Federation and the Young Legal Aid Lawyers.

Steve Hynes, director of LAG, said the survey aimed to make the public aware that there were gaps in provision.

The survey found that there were no solicitors specialising in debt, welfare benefits, employment, mental health, community care or public law in Blackburn, justice secretary Jack Straw’s constituency.

Instead, the only source of legal aid was Shelter, which gave housing and benefits advice.

“People won’t be getting any help in some areas because the money has run out,” Hynes said.

“When you have a recession, the demand for legal services inevitably rises and the budget needs to rise.”

The Alliance survey was based on interviews with 11 legal aid firms across the country and one law centre.

Gwyn James Solicitors, a firm in the Forest of Dean, and the Community Law Partnership in Birmingham both said they had been refused additional new matter starts by the LSC.

A firm in Cambridgeshire said it had run out of new matter starts in family in October and had been refused any more by the LSC. Others said they ran out in December or January.

The Alliance is calling on organisations and individuals who believe that legal aid should continue to be free at the point of delivery and are concerned that cuts are reducing quality to join its campaign.

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Legal Aid Costs Funding Local government