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Huge public support for legal aid

By 7 April 2020Law news, News

Despite severe cutbacks in recent years, the public remains overwhelmingly in favour of legal aid a new report suggests.

Legal needs of Individuals in England and Wales was jointly published by the Law Society and the Legal Services Board. It presents the findings of a major online survey conducted by the polling organisation YouGov last year, featuring input from over 28,000 people on 34 different legal issues: the biggest survey conducted on this topic to date.

A decisive 92 per cent of respondents said they were in favour of legal aid. A significant majority (64 per cent) reported involvement in a legal matter over the last four years, and a little over half of those sought professional assistance. The majority – 85 per cent – of the latter said they were satisfied with the service received, with satisfaction levels reaching 90 per cent for those who had instructed solicitors.

Law Society President Simon Davis recalled the controversial Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, commonly known as LASPO, which severely curtailed eligibility for legal aid, with family law especially hard hit.

He said:

“LASPO had a devastating impact on people’s ability to access justice – with thousands of people rendered ineligible for legal aid overnight. The range of legal issues which qualified for legal aid was cut drastically.”

Mr Davis continued:

“To make matters worse, the means test has not been adjusted for inflation since 2009, meaning that every year, fewer people are financially eligible for legal aid. This has led to a huge influx of people navigating the justice system unrepresented – with no legal advice to help them enforce their rights. Many more people simply give up and live with injustice, which has a corrosive effect on people’s belief in the rule of law.

The responses were assessed according to the experiences each respondent may have had with the legal system.

Read the full report here.

The Law Society is a professional organisation representing solicitors across England and Wales. Meanwhile, the Legal Services Board is an independent organisation which oversees the regulation of lawyers.

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