05:13, February 07 171 0 theguardian.com

2019-02-07 05:13:20
MoJ pledges £6.5m for legal aid services as review questions cuts

More face-to-face advice will be provided for social welfare claimants and around £6.5m extra spent supporting legal aid services, the Ministry of Justice has announced.

An official review of the swingeing legal aid cuts imposed in 2013 by the coalition government proposes restoring help to a few areas involving children but admits the savings may simply have shifted costs to other departments.

The 290-page document fulfils a promise by the MoJ to examine the impact of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (Laspo) Act, which reduced annual spending on legal aid by at least £350m.

The review pledges to restore legal aid for separated migrant children, those involved in guardianship cases in the family courts and improve the severely criticised exceptional case funding system, which is supposed to help in cases where human rights could be breached.

An extra £5m will be made available for “innovative technologies” and testing new ways to deliver early advice to those seeking help. Around £1.5m will go to help unrepresented defendants who have flooded into the family courts, in particular, slowing down the justice system.

Advice will be improved for housing cases and possibly given by lawyers working in GP surgeries. The financial eligibility thresholds for those seeking legal aid will also new reviewed, the MoJ said.

The review contains some damaging admissions. It concedes that Laspo was “not entirely successful at discouraging unnecessary and adversarial litigation at public expense”.

The report also states that “it is impossible to say with certainty that the act targeted legal aid at those who most need it”.

Most damagingly it says that there is “limited quantitative evidence to demonstrate” that money saved by cutting legal aid simply transferred costs to other departments and the NHS.More details soon…