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Access to justice crisis: Millions left without Legal Aid

Access to justice crisis: Millions left without Legal Aid


Research exposes the dire state of civil legal aid in England and Wales, urging urgent government intervention

A new report from the Law Society of England and Wales has unveiled a severe access to justice crisis, with millions facing barriers to legal aid. Charities and small firms, crucial providers of legal assistance, are grappling with financial strains, risking the collapse of essential services.

The Law Society's response to the Civil Legal Aid Review emphasizes the urgent need for the UK government to raise fees for civil legal aid work, stagnant for 28 years. The report reveals a bleak scenario, illustrated by interactive maps, showcasing the diminishing availability of legal aid in critical areas such as housing, welfare, education, community care, and immigration.

Notably, regions outside major cities, including the southwest, north, northeast, east, south, southeast (excluding London), and Wales, experience sparse legal aid coverage. Alarming statistics highlight the widespread lack of access across England and Wales, with 90% lacking local education legal aid providers, 84.9% without welfare legal aid, 70.8% without community care legal aid, 63% without immigration and asylum legal aid, and 43.6% without housing advice.

Law Society President Nick Emmerson underscores the exhaustion and overwork faced by housing civil legal aid providers, who often cross-subsidize to sustain legal aid work. Government statistics indicate that 40% of providers may exit the sector in the next five years, amplifying concerns about the public's inability to access free legal advice.

Nick Emmerson argues for government intervention, urging an increase in resources during the Civil Legal Aid Review. He emphasizes the long-term cost-effectiveness, asserting that the investment required is relatively small compared to the overall public expenditure. The Law Society's plea echoes the broader impact of neglecting legal aid, emphasizing the crucial role it plays as a vital public service.