To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what estimate he has made of the number of people who are unable to afford private legal fees and are ineligible for legal aid; whether his Department has identified areas of the country where there is a lack of legal aid services available across different legal specialisms; and if he will make an assessment of the impact of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (2012) on (a) the number of people who are unable to afford private legal fees and are ineligible for legal aid and (b) the areas where there is a lack of legal aid services available across different legal specialisms.
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the adequacy of pay for people working in legal aid; and if he will make an estimate of the number of Legal Aid providers that have accepted new cases since the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (2012) came into force.
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of the availability of access to housing legal aid; and what assessment he has made of the potential merits of expanding housing legal aid to include (a) welfare benefits advice, (b) early housing advice and (c) advice on disrepair compensation claims.
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the impact of the availability of access to housing legal aid on (a) numbers of evictions, (b) enforcement of tenants’ rights and (c) the number of legal proceedings brought forward relating to housing.
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the impact of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (2012) (a) numbers of successful tenant defences at possessions proceedings, (b) numbers of evictions, (c) homelessness levels and (d) numbers of successful application for local Government homelessness assistance.
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment his Department has made of the potential impact of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (2012) on the (a) availability, (b) effectiveness and (c) durability of legal aid firms providing housing advice services.
In March 2022, the Ministry of Justice consulted on several changes to the civil and criminal legal aid means tests to ensure that legal aid remains accessible to all who need it. When implemented, the changes will increase the number of people eligible for civil legal aid in England and Wales by an additional 2.5 million.
At the Crown Court, the Government has also proposed removing the current £37,500 disposable income threshold; if implemented, this would mean that all defendants at the Crown Court would be eligible for legal aid and so would not have to pay privately, though a proportion may be required to pay a monthly income contribution towards their legal costs.
Whilst the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) introduced changes to the scope of legal aid, legal aid services continued to be delivered following LASPO. The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) publishes statistics regarding new cases completed and started in each period by legal aid scheme with additional breakdowns by region and by Controlled and Licensed Work at tables 9.1-5.
The LAA frequently reviews market capacity to make sure there is adequate provision of legal aid, in all categories of law, throughout England and Wales. The LAA moves quickly, where issues arise, to secure additional provision and to ensure demand for legal aid services, which may vary across different categories of law and across different geographic regions, is met. Legal advice on a range of civil matters including housing, debt, discrimination, and education is available, wherever people are, through the Civil Legal Advice telephone service.
The Ministry of Justice continues to consider the long-term sustainability of the criminal and civil legal aid market. Following publication of our full response to the Criminal Legal Aid Independent Review (CLAIR) on 30 November 2022, we have boosted the system with immediate investment to address the most urgent concerns, including uplifts of 15% to most legal aid fee schemes.
Our plans will put criminal legal aid on a sustainable footing and ensure there is a sustainable supply of practitioners. Criminal legal aid spend is expected to increase to £1.2 billion per year, which is the highest level since 2010.
We have also recently launched a review of civil legal aid to identify evidence-based options which will help inform our longer-term strategy for improving the sustainability and effectiveness of the civil legal aid system.
Concerning legal aid for housing matters, the 2019 Post Implementation Review of Part 1 of LASPO found that individuals experiencing social welfare problems, especially related to housing matters, struggle to resolve their problems early, often leading to a clustering of problems. This in turn requires costly intervention at the courts and increases pressure on social services. In response, the MoJ is amending LASPO to expand the scope of legal aid for people facing the loss of their home to include early legal advice on housing, debt and welfare benefits from 1 August 2023 through the creation of the Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service (HLPAS).
It is hoped that the HLPAS will enable individuals to resolve matters before court proceedings take place, reducing homelessness and pressure on the courts. HLPAS will also support housing legal aid providers, providing payment for the early legal advice and improving renumeration rates for delivering the court duty service. Up to £10m in annual funding has been made available for HLPAS.
In addition, since 31 October 2022 we have been piloting early legal advice on certain housing, debt and welfare benefits matters in Manchester and Middlesbrough to test the impact of early legal advice on resolving an individual’s problem more quickly. The pilot ended on 31 March 2023 and a final evaluation report is expected in July 2023.
Legal aid remains available for disrepair cases when there is a serious threat of illness or injury. Anyone in this position should contact the Civil Legal Advice helpline.
Whilst the MoJ continually monitors the latest data on possession proceedings, we are unable to assess the impact of LASPO on any trends in possession proceedings, evictions, homelessness levels and numbers of successful application for local Government homelessness assistance. This is because we cannot isolate any LASPO impact from changes over the same period.
Information concerning housing legal aid providers can be found here: