Justice Select Committee on legal aid plans

The House of Commons Justice Select Committee last week published its report on the Family Justice System. Its detailed views and recommendations are beyond the scope of this site, but I thought it worthwhile highlighting some of the remarks made about legal aid. The committee warns that the government has under-estimated the combined effect of its various reform programmes, and not appreciated the additional costs elsewhere they will cause:


46.  Undertaking changes to legal aid and implementing the recommendations of the Family Justice Review at the same time will be difficult. The Department must look carefully at the interactions between the two sets of proposals, and the cumulative impact on the different elements of the family justice system. The Department must monitor the situation carefully and intervene quickly if problems emerge. The Committee will return to this matter in the light of early experience of the legal aid changes.

156.  We are concerned that the Government may not have budgeted for enough additional mediations in its legal aid proposals. With more than 200,000 people losing eligibility for legal help and representation, the Department’s prediction that only 10,000 extra mediations will be required seems low (albeit more realistic than their initial estimate of 3,300). We welcome the Government’s assurance that it will pay for mediation for all eligible people. However, to help manage the Department’s budget we call on it to re-examine the figures and bring forward more realistic estimates.

224.  The removal of legal aid from applicants in most private family law cases will increase the number of litigants in person in the family courts. It is self-evident that parents are unlikely to give up applications for contact, residence or maintenance for their children simply because they have no access to public funding. We are concerned that the Ministry of Justice does not appear to have appreciated that this is the inevitable outcome of the legal aid reforms.

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Filed under Family, LASPO, Policy

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