The Justice Select Committee are undertaking an inquiry into the future of legal aid. The Inquiry's terms of reference are:
- How LASPO has affected access to justice views on the post-implementation review and the criminal legal aid review;
- The role of the Legal Aid Agency;
- Recruitment and retention problems among legal aid professionals;
- The impact of the court reform programme and the increasing use of technology on legal aid services and clients;
- The impact of Covid-19 on legal aid services and clients; and
- What the challenges are for legal aid over the next decade, what reforms are needed and what can be learnt from elsewhere.
LawWorks have prepared a response building on previous evidence that we have submitted to the Justice Select Committee both in relation to the LASPO review (also see our submission to the review itself) and the Committee's inquiry last year on court modernisation.
Key points from our submission are that:-
- the LASPO changes have severely impacted on the supply and availability of free legal help; pro bono cannot and should not replicate or replace this, and there are significant gaps in provision;
- Covid-19 has also caused a significant downtown in work, some client groups have been harder to engage with remotely;
- online and digitised procedures introduced by the welcome court reform programme cannot wholly compensate for long-term underinvestment in our courts and tribunal facilities and operations;
- whilst the future looks challenging (including for recruitment and training), there are oppprtunities for collaboration and policy innovation - the Legal Support Action Plan for example may signal the beginninng of a more positive direction.
We are unable to publish our full submission (as it is subject to Parliamentary Privilege) until the Committee itself publishes submissions to the inquiry, at which point we will be able to add it to this page.