Review of Civil Legal Aid

In January 2023, the Ministry of Justice launched a Review of Civil Legal Aid, setting out its proposals to improve the system’s ability to deliver long-term access to justice.

JUSTICE has responded to the Ministry of Justice’s call for evidence. In doing so, we have drawn upon our previous work, including our reports on Solving Housing Disputes, Reforming Benefits Decision-Making and Improving Access to Justice for Separating Families. Whilst acknowledging progress in certain areas, our response highlights critical issues that urgently require improvement:

  • Changes to improve the Civil Legal Aid System
    • Private family fact-finding hearings: Both parties should be eligible for legally aided representation if the court identifies a contested allegation of harm, which is relevant to a child’s welfare. Failing that, vulnerable litigants and witnesses, as well as individuals responding to abuse allegations, will struggle to effectively participate.
    • Housing Advice Providers: There is an urgent need to increase legal aid fees for housing advice providers to address the rapid decline of providers. Housing advice deserts affect huge swathes of the country and are likely to continue worsening unless the sector receives significant investment. This is extremely worrying considering the cost of living crisis, during which more people than ever are struggling to pay rent and are therefore at risk of becoming homeless.
    • Welfare Benefits: Reinstate early legal advice for welfare benefits to help claimants navigate the complex benefits system. In particular, advice and support is crucial for those with certain health conditions and disabilities, non-English speakers, and those who are digitally excluded.

Read our full response here.