Cuts to legal aid ‘costing the government money’

29 Nov 17

Cuts to early legal advice, aimed at saving £450m a year from the legal aid bill, is costing the government money, an umbrella body has claimed. 

The Law Society of England and Wales has released research, conducted by Ipsos MORI, showing late legal advice costs public services more. 

“Without early advice, relatively minor legal problems can escalate, creating health, social and financial problems, placing additional pressure and cost on already stretched public services,” said Law Society vice president Christina Blacklaws.

She added, on release of the report on Monday and launching the Law Society’s early advice campaign: “Anyone who can't afford to pay for early legal advice may struggle to identify solutions – meaning simple issues spiral and can end up in court bringing unnecessary costs to the taxpayer.”

The campaign comes as official figures showed spending on legal aid has fallen sharply from £2.6bn in 2005-06 to £1.5bn last year.

The society argued early legal advice – much of which was removed under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 – should be reinstated.

On average, one in four people who receive early professional legal advice had resolved their problem within 3-4 months after it first occurred.

Although, after nine months only one in four of those who did not receive early legal advice had resolved their issue, according to the research.

The Law Society noted that people who did not receive early advice were 20% less likely than those who did to have had their issue resolved.

Blacklaws added: “The benefits of early advice are clear. We are calling on the government to ensure justice is accessible to those who need it.”

The organisation representing the law profession stated early legal advice was vital in areas such as family and housing law, where it could prevent issues like minor disrepair issues or family breakdown from escalating and eventually impacting public services.

Blacklaws said: “The current situation is unsustainable.

“If early advice was available to those who need it, issues could be resolved before they worsen and become more costly for the individual - and the public purse. 

“We are calling for legal aid for early advice from a lawyer to be reinstated for housing and family cases.”

She said the Law Society was keen to work with the government on this. 

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