The ability of individuals to resolve their legal problems is vital to a just society and is a fundamental principle underpinning the rule of law. The support people need to do this ranges widely and is dependent on the person and the legal problem they face.
During the last year, the Government has conducted a comprehensive review of the reforms made to the legal aid system under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO). The Legal Support Action Plan builds on the evidence heard throughout this process, creating a new vision for the future of legal support.
Legal aid plays an important role in enabling people to resolve their problems, and last year the Government spent £1.6bn funding legal aid for those people who needed it. This provides crucial support for the most vulnerable in society, ensuring those in need can effectively access justice. It is imperative that such support continues to be available into the future, and to ensure this we are now:
- Launching a review of the legal aid means testing framework and immediately taking action to extend legal aid for those with parental responsibility who wish to oppose applications for placement or adoption orders;
- increasing the scope of legal aid to include separated migrant children in immigration cases, and Special Guardianship Orders in private family law;
- piloting the expansion of legal aid for face-to-face early legal advice in a specific area of social welfare law
- reinstating immediate access to face-to-face legal advice in discrimination, debt and special educational needs cases;
- Commencing a full review of all criminal legal aid schemes.
Efficient and accessible provision of legal aid, however, is only one part of the picture. Our vision, outlined in the Legal Support Action Plan, is a range of complementary legal support, helping people resolve their legal problems at the earliest opportunity, before they escalate, through services that are designed around them. To deliver this, we are also now:
- Investing up to £5m in innovation, harnessing the power of the UK’s thriving LawTech sector to deliver new legal support services;
- Testing how effective legal support at an early stage can avoid an escalation of legal problems, including pilots of new face-to-face, online and telephone legal support services;
- Enhancing the support offered to people accessing the justice system as litigants in person;
- Launching a campaign to improve awareness of how people can access legal support, including legal aid.
This Government is committed to protecting and ensuring access to justice for future generations. We will be led by the evidence, and work closely with people using these services as well as by providers and the experts, to explore different and innovative ways of supporting people.
The Legal Support Action Plan has built on the evidence heard throughout our comprehensive review of reforms to legal aid under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO).