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Access to Justice

Contact

James Harrison

for further information about this project.

This project is concerned with mapping the impact of cuts to civil legal aid on vulnerable groups. The aim of this research is to provide a robust evidence base for the impact of the cuts that can be used by others to campaign for change. It is also intended to explore the different structures for the delivery of legal advice that emerge as a result of the cuts, and to evaluate their efficacy in enabling individuals to access justice.

Further Information

The Monash-Warwick Access to Justice Workshops, funded by Monash-Warwick Alliance Seed Fund, brought together academics, practitioners and civil society activists from both jurisdictions to compare the impact of government cuts to funding for civil and criminal legal aid. Some useful resources on these topics can be found here.

It was organised by Natalie Byrom, Asher Flynn, James Harrison and Jacqueline Hodgson

University of Warwick, 19 March 2014

An expert workshop on the cuts to civil and criminal legal aid was held at the University of Warwick on 19 March 2014. The workshop was attended by academics, legal practitioners, funders and civil society actors, all of whom had extensive knowledge of the legal aid changes and their impact in practice.

The report is available here.

Monash University, 21 July 2014

In the Australian context, since the early 2000s there have been significant changes to the eligibility and accessibility of legal assistance as a result of increases in demand and government cuts to funding, underpinned by a rhetoric of austerity. This has resulted in a major increase in self-represented litigants and defendants. The 2013 cuts made to Australian legal aid budgets have effectively removed assistance to some of the most vulnerable individuals coming before the law and forced the closure of Community Legal Centres and some Legal Aid offices, leading to redundancies, and more centralised centres required to handle more clients, with less funds (Chadwick, 2013).

The report is available here.

Centre member Natalie Byrom joined forces with the founders of ilegal to capture the impact of the cuts to civil legal aid on professionals working in the sector and their clients. A survey was launched to explore the long term impact of the £350 million cuts introduced by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) on expertise within the legal aid funded civil law sector. In total, 674 individuals responded. The report was published on 8 April 2013 has received extensive media coverage in the mainstream and legal press.

The report is available here.

Richard Gutch, Secretary to the Low Commission on the Future of Advice and Legal Support, said:
We welcome this survey, which is the first to be published since the legal aid cuts were introduced. It will provide the Commission with valuable evidence to draw on as we develop a strategy for the future provision of Social Welfare Law advice. We would be interested to hear from others about how they are being affected by the cuts.
Natalie Byrom, member of the Centre and author of " The State of the Sector: The impact of cuts to civil legal aid on practitioners and their clients" was interviewed on BBC Radio Linconshire Breakfast show as cuts to legal aid begin to be rolled out.
Listen to the interview here : Natalie Byrom interviewed on BBC Radio Linconshire

A report produced by the Centre for Human Rights in Practice which explores the impact of cuts to civil legal aid has received coverage in the Guardian.

These findings are indicative of the precarious state of the whole legal aid advice sector in this country at the moment. Urgent action is required to protect it. Without such action there will be terrible consequences for vulnerable people across the country and for our legal system itself.
Patrick Torsney, founder of ilegal

A report produced by the Centre for Human Rights in Practice which explores the impact of cuts to civil legal aid on the provision of legal advice in the UK has received coverage in Legal Futures.

Depending on how this is implemented, the move to a charging model could have drastic implications for the sector and the individuals it currently serves. For many not-for-profit providers, this would mark a departure into unknown territory.
Natalie Byrom, Report author

A report produced by the Centre for Human Rights in Practice has indicated that cuts to civil legal aid may result in the creation of "advice deserts" across parts of England and Wales. Further coverage has been written up in The Law Society Gazette.

Legal advice services are most heavily concentrated in London and the south-east of England. But our survey found that it is the rest of the UK that will be disproportionately affected by reductions in legal advice services.
Natalie Byrom, Report author
Advisors giving guidance on housing, debt and welfare law are at the greatest risk of redundancy as a result of legal aid cuts, according to a study.

The above quote is from Housing Today's article.

Marilyn Stowe, resident legal expert on ITV's "This Morning" featured the report on her blog.

People living in rural areas, children, the vulnerable and the disadvantaged were likely to be hardest hit by the cuts.