Family Law Hub

MoJ launches Legal Support Action Plan in wake of LASPO review

Long awaited review of legal aid under LASPO finally published

  • The Justice Minister, David Gauke, has published the long-awaited review of LASPO in which he appears to be rowing back on some of the restrictions imposed by the Act.

    The broad acceptance that the cuts may have gone too far is recognised in his announcement of a Legal Support Action Plan, a package of measures looking at scope, eligibility and fees as follows:

    Scope

    • explore how web-based products, better signposting and join up of support services can provide routes for those seeking help and guidance to resolve their problems. 
    • pilot face to face early legal advice in a specific area of social welfare law and evaluate this against technological solutions, using funding to encourage and support innovation in the delivery of support services in new ways.
    • expand legal aid scope for separated children in immigration matters; 
    • bring forward proposals to expand the scope of legal aid to cover special guardianship orders in private family law.
    • enhance the support offered by Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty's Court and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) for litigants in person
    • launch a new campaign to improve awareness of how people can access support to help them resolve their issues (ideally before they become legal problems);
    • work closely across government, including through existing cross-government groups, to bring together departments and support providers to focus on ways to reduce preventable demand.

    Civil and family eligibility 

    • conduct a review into the thresholds for legal aid entitlement, and their interaction with the wider criteria. 
    • while the review is ongoing the current arrangements to passport all recipients of universal credit through the means test will continue.
    • bring forward proposals for extending eligibility for non-means tested legal aid for parents, or those with parental responsibility, who wish to oppose applications for placement orders or adoption orders in public family law proceedings.

    Fees

    • Review pilot programs where relevant to see how civil and family remuneration rates may be revised. The Government accepts the current regime may need to change.

    The underlying message though is that the Ministry is keen to keep litigants out of court in the first place as in his Introduction to the report, the Secretary of State writes

    Legal aid plays an important role in enabling access to justice, and last year the Government spent £1.6bn on funding legal aid for those who needed it. However, whilst legal aid is, and will remain, a core element of how we help people resolve their legal problems, what we have heard throughout the review is that it is one part of a bigger picture. Publicly funded legal aid and representation is the right support in some circumstances, but not all.

    This review has highlighted that for too long legal support has been focused solely on funding court disputes, with less emphasis on how problems can be resolved earlier and avoid them escalating into more problematic issues that require a court visit.

    Our ambition is to catch problems before this point, intervening at an early stage through services that prioritise the individual and are delivered at the right time, and in the right way for them. 

    The full report is available from the MoJ website.


News, published: 11/02/2019

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Published: 11/02/2019

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