Impact of Legal Aid Changes

Apr 18 09:48 2013 Andrew Marshall Print This Article

There has been a lot of talk across the UK legal sector recently about the legal aid changes that have now come into force. Here are some thoughts on the potential impact of these.

There has been a lot of talk across the UK legal sector recently about the legal aid changes that have now come into force. As part of their cost saving strategy,Guest Posting the government is aiming to significantly reduce the amount spent on legal aid each year. Their target is to reduce the previous figure of around £2.2 billion a year by £350 million.


The government’s stated aim is to safeguard legal aid for those who really need it by ensuring there isn’t wastage elsewhere. They have therefore made reforms to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO).


There will be a number of areas of law that will be hit the most, namely family law, employment law, clinical negligence law and immigration law. Those going through divorce or separation are no longer able to claim legal aid in most cases. This includes separations that impact children, something that has been highly criticised. Those taking legal action against a former employer, for example those claiming unfair dismissal, will also be impacted. An area of law which is often referred to when discussing wastage is negligence and these changes will make it more difficult for many to gain compensation in situations of clinical negligence. Another area where there will be an impact is immigration where a person is not detained.


There will be some areas where legal aid will still be available within family law and immigration law. Some involved in family law cases where domestic violence can be proven, child abduction has occurred or someone has been forced into marriage will still be entitled to legal aid. It will also still be available in asylum cases.


There are fears amongst many in the legal sector that these cuts could have a major negative impact on certain areas of law. According to the Guardian, research has suggested that 25 percent of lawyers and advisors fear the knock-on effect will lose them their jobs. Another concern is that many will be unable to afford good legal advice and will take the law into their own hands as a result; that more people will attempt to represent themselves.


A general consensus is that vulnerable people will suffer, with some claiming it is an attack on the poor. While wealthier members of society will always be able to afford legal representation, some cannot, and this could mean that those without the necessary funds will not be able to carry out justifiable legal action in certain circumstances. For example, those impacted by medical negligence might not be able to begin proceedings for compensation which they may be fully entitled to. There has clearly been wastage in this sector, and it is right that this is looked at, but the danger is that it will lead to people not getting the compensation they are entitled to. These changes could lead to people remaining in unhappy marriages, and children remaining in unhappy households, as divorce becomes unaffordable to some. There are suggestions that there will be instances where one party in a separation will be able to afford legal representation while the other will not be able to, meaning the wealthier party is more likely to come out of a divorce better placed.


There certainly is the opportunity to save costs within the legal sector, but is ending legal aid in certain legal sectors really the best way of saving money? When looking to save on costs it is difficult to get the balance right. The reality is that money can be saved in legal aid and there are circumstances where legal aid isn’t required. Rather than targeting whole areas of legislation, though, would it not make more sense to reduce the amount people are entitled to or the number of people who qualify? For example, the threshold of those who can receive financial assistance could be changed. It is important to support those who need it, while not using tax payer’s money unnecessarily. If the government is attempting to safeguard legal aid for those who really need it, why are they taking its availability completely away from certain sectors?   


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About Article Author

Andrew Marshall
Andrew Marshall

I am not a legal professional but have an interest in the legal sector. While not claiming to be an expert, these are some of my thoughts on the legal aid changes. 

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