The impact of LASPO on routes to justice

Sigafoos, J, Organ, J, Crawford, B, Eaton, A, Potschulat, M, Sharma, P, Waite, M and Whiteford, M 2018, The impact of LASPO on routes to justice , Project Report, Equality and Human Rights Commission.

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Abstract

This research underlines the emotional, social, financial and mental health impacts for individuals who have attempted to resolve their legal problems without legal aid, following the implementation of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) in 2013. LASPO introduced funding cuts to legal aid and narrowed the scope and financial eligibility criteria, with the result that fewer people could access legal advice and representation for problems in areas such as family, employment and welfare benefits law. We interviewed over 100 people in the Liverpool City Region, with problems in at least one of these areas of law, to understand how LASPO had affected their options for resolving those issues. We also interviewed a number of advice providers and legal aid practitioners, and analysed national data from Citizens Advice. Many participants reported significant financial deprivation as a result of trying but not being able to resolve their legal issues. Some were unable to afford food, adequate housing or other essentials. A lack of preventive legal help led to delays in resolution, which often made problems worse. There was also evidence that costs were passed to other parts of the public sector, including an increased reliance on welfare benefits as a result of unresolved employment issues. Family law • The high cost of legal fees is a key barrier to justice. Some participants who paid for legal advice or representation reported going into debt as a result. • People’s inability to pay for expert or specialist evidence without legal aid may have led to courts making decisions on the basis of insufficient information. • Cuts to legal aid have had a negative impact on children’s lives, especially in relation to child contact cases. Employment law • The main barriers to justice are the high cost of legal representation, the difficulty of navigating the tribunal process without support and a low level of knowledge about employment rights. • Many participants reported that the costs of bringing their claims to tribunal were disproportionate to the value of the claims. This deterred them from bringing claims and made it harder to find a solicitor willing to take their case. • Participants had fewer options for accessing third-sector specialist advice and representation. Those participants who went to tribunal had to represent themselves as a result, and in general they lacked the skills or experience to do this competently. Welfare benefits law • LASPO has significantly reduced the capacity of voluntary sector organisations to provide welfare law advice. There is almost no specialist advice left to provide support to appeal benefits decisions. • The removal of welfare benefits law from the scope of legal aid has exacerbated the impact of recent welfare reforms, which is likely to have affected disabled people disproportionately. Most participants tried multiple routes to resolve a single issue: attempting to resolve problems on their own, trying to access free advice and taking steps to get paid advice or representation before courts or tribunals. But without legal aid, almost all the participants struggled to solve their problems.

Item Type: Monograph (Project Report)
Schools: Schools > Salford Business School
Publisher: Equality and Human Rights Commission
Series Name: Research Report
ISBN: 9781842067512
Related URLs:
Funders: Equality and Human Rights Commission
Depositing User: M Waite
Date Deposited: 28 Oct 2019 09:54
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2019 09:54
URI: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/52830

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