Ninety per cent of CAB offices say they now find it much more difficult to help clients in need of legal advice. In addition, the limited legal aid still available takes longer to secure, and as a result the problems facing CAB clients can often deteriorate significantly while they wait a decision on funding.
Meanwhile, the Service reports a 62 per cent increase in online enquiries from people seeking advice about legal aid itself.
In the year to April 2013, when cuts were introduced under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO), Citizens Advice helped in approximately 136,000 cases in which people required legal advice. The service now estimates that around 120,000 of those cases would no longer be eligible for legal aid.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, called on the government to increase its funding of advice services.
“Cuts to legal aid have created an advice gap, stranding people with nowhere to turn.”
“Modern life presents increasingly complex problems and people need help to understand, adjust to, and in many cases challenge decisions.”
The “right advice at the right time” was critical in helping people to solve problems in their lives, she concluded.