JSC inquiry into the impact of changes to civil legal aid
Part 1 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) removed specific areas of law from the scope of civil legal aid, with a knock on effect of reducing funding for legal services.
Before changes introduced under LASPO came into effect, around half of Citizens Advice Bureaux held legal aid contracts. In the year before the changes, these bureaux provided specialist advice in approximately 136,000 cases to help people struggling with legal problems relating to debt, welfare benefits, housing, family and relationship breakdown, employment disputes and immigration. Changes introduced under LASPO have withdrawn support for approximately 120,000 of these cases.
This submission to the Justice Select Committee’s inquiry to review the impacts of LASPO one year on presents Citizens Advice’s evidence on the effects on access to justice, and the direct experience of Citizens Advice Bureaux in supporting people amid the changes. This submission focuses on three areas of impact:
- Firstly, the continuing demand for, and reduction in, provision of specialist advice services, resulting in unmet need
- Secondly, a decrease in support for people in navigating the complex justice system, limiting access to justice
- Thirdly, a reduction in support for early intervention to address housing issues, leading to higher likelihood of problems escalating and incurring further costs.
The submission draws on evidence from Citizens Advice’s statistical database, from client case histories, and from a survey of bureaux undertaken in March/April 2014 to inform this response.