The National Audit Office building

The legal aid sector is financially unsustainable, limited by unnecessary red tape, and denies help to those who need it the most, as we explain in our response to the National Audit Office’s consultation.


Is the legal aid system good value for taxpayers? Are vulnerable migrants or domestic abuse survivors able to access legal advice? How has the 2012 Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act affected the whole sector over a decade later?

In our survey response to the National Audit Office’s new consultation on legal aid, we demonstrate how legal aid providers have been consistently facing the same problems over the past few years.

The sector is clearly financially unsustainable, since hourly rates are the same today as they were in 1996. Cases are limited by administrative burdens, whole areas of the country have become ‘legal aid deserts,’ and the ‘exceptional case funding’ scheme has become a barrier to access to justice.

The consequences of these ongoing problems are serious for clients:

  • Low-income clients don’t satisfy the out-of-date means test, which hasn’t been updated for the ongoing cost of living crisis
  • Domestic violence survivors are refused legal aid over unfair technicalities
  • Immigration and asylum applicants are left in limbo as the unsuccessful referrals pile up

Eligible individuals are being let down by a system that is on the verge of collapse. And it’s only going to get worse: while the Ministry of Justice estimates that over 2 million more people will qualify for civil legal aid each year, 25% of civil legal aid providers have exited the market over the past decade.