In responding to the Review of Civil Legal Aid (RoCLA), PLP told the Ministry of Justice that it needs to make legal aid sustainable as a matter of urgency.

Read PLP’s full submission

The Ministry of Justice launched their Review of Civil Legal Aid to ‘explore options for improving the long-term sustainability of the civil legal aid system.’ The Review aims to consider every aspect of the civil legal aid system and whether it currently works for users and providers.

As reported by the Law Society Gazette, our response highlighted the problems caused by ‘disproportionate and punitive’ Legal Aid Agency compliance activity. PLP research discovered that one provider was employing five full-time staff just to administer and bill their legal aid work, at a cost of around £200,000 per year.

But the financial risk faced by providers is just one reason that legal aid is in crisis. Our response explained the barriers that prevent individuals from accessing civil legal aid:

  • There are not enough providers to meet demand for services, especially in the South West and North West
  • Some of those who most need access to services are not eligible for them, due to extremely restrictive eligibility criteria
  • Sometimes the service offered under civil legal aid is just too low in quality to effectively help those who need it

Remote legal advice may help in some individual cases but it is not a ‘magic bullet’ solution to the lack of capacity in certain areas. There is no surplus of provision elsewhere in the system and remote delivery of advice is deeply unsuitable for some individuals.

Instead, the immigration and asylum legal aid sector needs to be fairly remunerated for its work and the Legal Aid Agency needs to reconsider the use of fixed fees. As the National Audit Office recently highlighted, it has been 28 years since the Ministry of Justice last increased legal aid fees for civil cases and in fact, it reduced them by 10% in 2011-12. Urgent action is needed to rectify this.

Read the Law Society Gazette on the ‘mountain of evidence’ submitted to the Ministry of Justice.