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Proposals for the Reform of Legal Aid in England and Wales - Ministry of Justice - Closes 14th Feb 2011

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John
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This is an important consultation for people, individuals to submit a response, as it will likely affect the ability to obtain legal aid on matters such as benefits, housing, in fact many social and welfare support matters. See this forum post for more information<.

Proposals for the Reform of Legal Aid in England and Wales


Status: Open

Open date: 15 November 2010

Close date: 14 February 2011

This consultation seeks views on proposals for reform of legal aid in England and Wales. The proposals represent a radical, wide-ranging and ambitious programme of reform which aims to ensure that legal aid is targeted to those who need it most, for those cases in which legal advice or representation is justified.

This consultation is aimed at providers of publicly funded legal services and others with an interest in the justice system.

You are encouraged to use the online questionnaire to provide your response.

Consultation

Impact assessments

Equality impact assessments

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The Equality and Diversity Forum and  a number of its members and other organisations submitted responses to the Ministry of Justice consultation ‘Proposals for the Reform of Legal Aid in England and Wales’.

The consultation was launched on 15 November 2010 and closed on 14 February 2011.

The Ministry of Justice stated that ‘[t]his consultation seeks views on proposals for reform of legal aid in England and Wales. The proposals represent a radical, wide-ranging and ambitious programme of reform which aims to ensure that legal aid is targeted to those who need it most, for those cases in which legal advice or representation is justified.’

Click here for link to Legal Aid consultation

Responses:

Click here for Equality and Diversity Forum response

Click here for Equality and Diversity Forum response (questionnaire)

Click here for Citizens Advice response

Click here for Disability Charities Consortium response (pdf)

Click here for JUSTICE response (questionnaire)

Click here for JUSTICE briefing paper

Click here for Law Centres Federation response (pdf)

Click here for Migrants’ Rights Network submission

Click here for Mind/Rethink response

Click here for National AIDS Trust response (pdf)

Click here for Office of the Children’s Commissioner response

Click here for ‘Sound off for justice’, the Law Society’s internet campaign to educate and engage the public in the defence of legal aid.

Click here for Justice for All campaign website

Click here for information about the proposals on the Rights of Women website

On 15 November 2010, the Ministry of Justice also published a consultation on ‘Proposals for reform of civil litigation funding and costs in England and Wales’. This consultation seeks views on implementing a package of Lord Justice Jackson’s proposals for reforming conditional fee agreements and other aspects of civil litigation funding and costs. It also runs until 14 February 2010.

Click here for link to civil litigation consultation

http://www.edf.org.uk/blog/?p=8344

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kevin
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In a report published today, the Justice Select Committee says that the legal aid system in England and Wales – one of the most expensive in the world – needs reform, but that changes proposed by the Government present a severe challenge to those involved with the justice system.

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The legal aid budget currently costs taxpayers over £2 billion a year. The Government's proposed reforms are intended to reduce the cost of the system by £350 million a year, largely by removing certain areas of law from the scope of legal aid.  The Committee argues that some of those scope changes will need further refinement and suggests other areas where the Government might be able to make savings.

Chair of the Justice Select Committee, Sir Alan Beith MP, said:

"There is a cross-party consensus on the need to reduce the cost of the legal aid budget, which is one of the most expensive in the world.

Concerns remain, however, that there is the potential for vulnerable groups of people to be disproportionately hit by the changes.

The Government’s proposals need considerable further refinement before moving forward, and alternative ways of achieving savings should be examined."

The report warns that there is insufficient information about the likely impact of some of the changes, and many of those involved are unprepared for them. The Government hopes that the not-for-profit sector will step in to provide services, but many of the organisations concerned have said they will not have the funding to do so. 

The Committee also calls on the Government to reconsider its use of domestic violence as a gateway to legal aid funding in family law cases and expresses concerns that the proposals could create a perverse incentive to make false accusations of domestic violence.  It calls on the Government to bring forward alternative proposals by which to focus family law legal aid on the most deserving cases.

The MPs urge the Government to look at other possible ways of reducing legal aid costs. For example, the number of decisions by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) found at tribunal to be incorrect is high and is singled out by the MPs as an area where savings could be made.

There has been a recent dramatic increase in the number of social security appeals, from 242,800 appeals received in 2008–09 to 339,000 appeals in 2009–10 and further increases are expected.  Recent figures show that in 34% of cases cleared at hearings,  a decision was made in favour of the appellant.  

The Justice Committee says it is clear that these statistics represent a significant volume of incorrect decision-making on behalf of those tasked by the DWP to make decisions about benefits. And it calls on the Government to create a financial incentive for public bodies such as the DWP to get decisions right first time, and so avoid expensive court and tribunal cases.

Chair of the Committee, Sir Alan Beith MP, added:

"The Government needs to consider whether public bodies such as the Department for Work and Pensions should be subject to a "polluter pays" approach, where they would have to pay a surcharge as a result of poor decision-making which leads to large numbers of successful appeals.

This would encourage them to get decisions right first time and would save money in the long term."

Further information

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-sele...<

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kevin
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In March 2011, the parliamentary Justice Committee published its report on the the Government’s proposed reforms to legal aid.

The report states: ‘There is a degree of consensus amongst all political parties that the cost of legal aid needs to be reduced, but it is imperative that there is a careful assessment of the impact of the proposed changes on those people most dependent on legal aid. We call on the Government to assess more fully the likely impact of its reforms, for example, on the operation of courts and tribunals, and for public expenditure more generally, before deciding whether to implement them. The Government needs to refine its proposals further before introducing a major change in the way the accessibility of the justice system has come to be viewed.’

Click here< for link to report

Click here< for further information about the proposed changes to legal aid and responses to the proposals

http://www.edf.org.uk/blog/?p=10678<

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anonymous (not verified)
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Government response to the consultation on legal aid reform

In June 2011, the Government published its response to the proposals for the reform of legal aid in England and Wales.

Click here< for Government response and details of consultation

Click here< for Equality and Diversity Forum and other responses to the consultation

http://www.edf.org.uk/blog/?p=12166<

anonymous (not verified)
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DLS Issues Legal Challenge Against the Government over the Legal Aid Bill

An application for permission for a claim for Judicial Review in the High Court against the Secretary of State for Justice has been issued by the Disability Law Service.

The Ministry of Justice is proposing far reaching reforms and cuts to Legal Aid as set out in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill<, presented on 21st June 2011. The results of the Bill’s consultation were published on the same day.

Disability Law Service argues that the Secretary of State’s decision to cut Civil Legal Aid funding for Welfare Benefits is irrational, and that the consultation carried out by the Secretary of State was unlawful. Disability Law Service is also challenging the removal of Wills from Civil Legal Aid along with the implementation of a telephone gateway for Community Care.

Disability Law Service contends that the consultation carried out by the Secretary of State did not fully consider the effect the proposed cuts would have on disabled people; the Secretary of State irrationally asserts that the negative impact of a loss of benefits for the disabled will be only financial, with no other subsequent social or personal impact. This clearly calls into question the validity of the consultation’s Equality Impact Assessments; to have due regard to the needs of those with disabilities as defined by the <Equality Act 2010<.

By removing Welfare Benefits from Legal Aid those individuals, who are the poorest and most vulnerable in society, will have little or no means by which to challenge unfair decisions and no recourse to get advice into what is one of the most convoluted and complex areas of law.

Sean Rivers, Social Welfare Solicitor at the Disability Law Service, said:

‘The consultation by the Secretary of State confirms that at least 58% of those who require advice for welfare benefits appeals are ill or disabled. The consultation confirms that’s only 3% of over 5000 responses to the consultation agreed with the government’s proposals. However the Secretary of State still intends to remove access to a fair hearing for disabled people. As almost every expert in the area of law disagrees with the government’s proposals we find that there is no other option than having this matter considered by the courts’

Linda Clarke, Director of the Disability Law Service, said:

The questionable validity of the consultation’s Impact Assessment and Equality Impact Assessments means that the Disability Law Service has no option but to issue Judicial Review.  The quality of information provided to the Bill’s committee by the Secretary of State has to be fully compliant with their duty under the Equality Act. We are determined to protect the rights of disabled people.

For more information contact:

Sean Rivers
Solicitor, Social Welfare
Disability Law Service
39 - 45 Cavell Street
London E1 2BP
0207 791 9817

Email: socialwelfarelaw@dls.org.uk<    

http://dls.org.uk/Rights/News/2011/september/18.html<

anonymous (not verified)
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The Justice Committee, Chaired by Sir Alan Beith has launched an inquiry on Access to Justice and Sentencing Proposals.

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On 15 December 2010, the Committee will question the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke MP QC, on the court closure programme and the proposed reforms to legal aid and sentencing.

On 15 November 2010, the Ministry of Justice launched Green Papers on the provision of legal aid and the implementation of the Jackson review on civil litigation funding and costs that seek to effect a “fundamental reform of the system”.

The Committee is inviting written evidence with particular reference to the questions set out below, by 6 December 2010.

  •  What impact will the proposed changes have on the number and quality of practitioners, in all areas of law, who offer services funded by legal aid? 
  • The Government predicts that there will be 500,00 fewer cases in the civil courts as a result of its proposed reforms. Which cases will these be and how will the issues they involve be resolved? 
  • What action could the Government be taking on legal aid that is not included in the proposals (for example, on Very High Cost Cases)? 
  • Do the proposals to implement the Jackson report recommendations on civil court funding and costs adequately reflect the contents of that report? 
  • What are the implications of the Government’s proposals?
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It is anticipated that the Government’s proposals on sentencing and rehabilitation and the administration’s response to the consultation on court closures will be released before the Secretary of State appears before the Committee.

The Committee would also welcome written evidence on these proposals once they are released. 

PLEASE BEAR IN MIND THAT THE JUSTICE COMMITTEE IS NOT ABLE TO INVESTIGATE INDIVIDUAL CASES.

  

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News

anonymous (not verified)
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Papers by the CJC

A CJC working party has looked at how access to justice can be improved for individuals, known as litigants-in-person, who either choose not to have or cannot afford legal representation. Its report sets out a range of short and longer term practical recommendations aimed at addressing the problems faced by unrepresented litigants to help them resolve their disputes.

Working Party

Further information about the CJC Working Party which considered these issues and drafted the report<.

http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/about-the-judiciary/advisory-bodies/cjc/self...<

 

anonymous (not verified)
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On 17 November 2011, the House of Lords Constitution Committee published a report on Part 1 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill.

This is the part of the Bill which deals with legal aid. The Committee states that the extent of the proposed cuts to legal aid, and the manner in which they are to be delivered, raises issues around important constitutional principles of access to justice.

Click here< for details

http://www.edf.org.uk/blog/?p=14877<

also see http://www.edf.org.uk/blog/?p=14896<

anonymous (not verified)
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Public support for free legal advice is stronger in London than the rest of the country, finds the London Advice Watch report< from Legal Action Group.

The report publishes the results of a poll of Londoners showing higher support for universal free legal advice than in Legal Action Group's (LAG) previous national poll. It also analyses the current state of the charity advice sector in the capital.

Speaking at yesterday's parliamentary launch of the report Steve Hynes, LAG director, also mentioned the vast majority (85%) of those polled who had received advice found it improved their lives. The report comes as the Government is holding firm against House of Lords pressure to amend damaging proposals to cut legal aid, which would hit London hardest. Steve concluded the Government "knows the cost of legal aid but not its value".

Fiona Bawdon, the report's co-author, highlighted the important role small advice agencies, not affiliated to CAB or Law Centres, play in helping specific communities. Facing the current cuts, she said the "question is not how many agencies will shut, but how many will survive".

Lord Phillips, a Liberal Democrat peer, welcomed the report as reminding us of the crucial important of access to justice through free legal advice. He stated the cuts to legal aid, he is actively considering in the House, are "ill-advised" and that he believed the Lords would reject key elements of the plans if the Government does not give way.

Andy Slaughter MP, shadow Justice Minister, spoke about the impact of cuts in his Hammersmith & Fulham constituency where three advice centres have recently closed - despite a huge need for advice in the borough.

A lively discussion followed as questions were raised on how charities rely on legal aid funding, the Cabinet Office's Advice Review and the impact of legal advice cuts on migrants and other vulnerable groups, such as the partially-sighted.

Read the full report here.<

http://www.justice-for-all.org.uk/News/London-Advice-Watch-reveals-stron...<

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