The number of legal aid providers across England and Wales has fallen by 20 per cent in the last five years.
This drop was revealed by government figures obtained by Shadow Justice Minister Gloria De Piero. The statistics show that the biggest reduction occurred in Wales, which has lost 29 per cent of providers since 2012. The south-west, north-west and Merseyside also had significant losses with 28, 27 and 24 per cent drops respectively. Perhaps unsurprisingly, London had the smallest reduction of providers with only 13 per cent fewer than it had five years ago.
Overall the 20 per cent fall represents 598 fewer providers of legal aid throughout the country, going from 2,991 to 2,393.
These drops were the result of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act, which severely reduced the number of cases which were eligible for legal aid. In family law, such helps was all-but eliminated. Now the only people who qualify for legal aid in family cases are those who can prove they have been a victim of domestic violence.
In a parliamentary written question submitted following the publication of these figures, De Piero said that how much a person earns “shouldn’t make a difference to whether [they] can get legal advice” but it was “clear that the government’s cuts to legal aid are making it harder for people to access justice”.
She demanded that ministers “stop dragging their feet” on a review of legal aid.
Richard Miller, Head of Justice at the Law Society, said these figures represented “hundreds of thousands of people who can no longer obtain legal aid for matters such as family break up”. The drop in providers also showed “that increasingly it is no longer economically viable for solicitors to do this work” he added.
Photo DaveBleasdale via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.