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According to the latest government figures, half of all law centres and not-for-profit legal advice services in England and Wales have shut down during over the last six years. The latest government figures identified in answers from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to parliamentary questions proposed by Richard Burgon, shadow justice secretary, show that the number of local areas offering law centres or agencies offering free legal services have fallen from 94 (2013–14) to only 47 (2019–20). As well as the drop in physical centres, the MoJ law centre funding through legal aid contracts dropped from £12.1m to £7.1m. Following these new figures, we question the implication of cuts to legal aid and what the future may hold for access to justice.
The BBC previously discovered that the depletion of legal aid provisions has inevitably created “legal aid deserts” and a “five-fold rise” in people having to represent themselves in court. Due to the introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO), aid has been redrawn from areas such as family, welfare, housing and debt.
The reduction of legal aid and access to justice has had many repercussions. In many cases LASPO has resulted in access to justice being harmed for some litigants, such as domestic abuse survivors (see:
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Hannah is one of the Future of Law blog’s digital and technical editors. She graduated from Northumbria University with a degree in History and Politics and previously freelanced for News UK, before working as a senior news editor for LexisNexis.
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