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MoJ close to completing review of legal aid for welfare benefits

Ministry of Justice plaqueAccording to the Ministry of Justice, a delayed review of the impact of their controversial legal aid reforms is almost complete after they published a table that demonstrated the alarming decline in the number of people who have been granted public funding in welfare benefits cases over the past decade.

Lucy Frazer, Justice minister at the MoJ was responding to a written question from Chris Ruane, Lamour MP for Vale of Clwyd in North Wales.

Figures from 10 years ago show that there were a total of 135,751 legal help matter starts and 51 civil representation granted certificates during 2007-08. Alarmingly, figures had dropped significantly to just 443 legal help matters and 9 civil representation granted certificates by 2017-18.

Legal help matter starts drastically plummeted in 2013-14

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act was introduced in April 2013, and it is around this time that the decline was at its steepest. There was a total of 82,554 legal help matter starts in 2012-13, but this fell drastically to 163 in 2013-14. Figures were up and down over the following years, but not by any notable amount.

Frazer said that the minister had spent several months conducting a wide-ranging review of the legal aid reforms and had engaged with over 100 relevant organisations and individuals. Frazer claimed that the engagement was finalised towards the end of November last year, and the review is now near completion and due to be published shortly.

Minutes from meeting reveal further information

Minutes for the latest meeting that took place between the Legal Aid Agency and civil legal aid practitioners, chaired by the Law Society, reveal more information on the government’s legal aid statistics.

The minutes, which were published a little earlier in the month, reveal that practitioners are among the most frequent users of legal aid statistics, and that the ministry would appreciate feedback about the format, detail, categorisation, timing, interpretation and other aspects of what is published.

The minutes show that representative bodies have suggested that the number of providers should be published at firm level, rather than at office level. MoJ’s head of legal aid statistics, Richard Field, agreed that the dataset for legal aid providers could be difficult to use, but he also explained that this was the flipside of making a very substantial amount of detailed information readily available.

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