Earlier this year, our volunteers reviewed the Legal Aid statistics published by Ministry of Justice and Legal Aid Agency, which indicate that the number of solicitor firms providing civil Legal Aid in the North West have fallen by roughly 34.2% from 2011-2012 to 2017-2018, expenditure for not for profits providing Legal Aid has fallen by roughly 72.7%, and the number of not for profit providers has fallen by 55.9%.
Further analysis of these statistics have hit the headlines again today, as research from the Law Society shows that over half of all local authorities in England and Wales have no provision for housing legal aid services. Over a third (37%) of the population of England and Wales live in a local authority with no housing legal aid providers.
“Reliance on one provider in a large area can lead to several problems, the Society said. Those on incomes low enough to qualify for legal aid are unlikely to be able to afford to travel far to see a solicitor. The sole provider may not have sufficient capacity to help everyone. They will not be able to represent both landlord and tenant. If the firm has acted for the landlord on a non-housing related matter, it would not be able to act for the tenant.
Society president Christina Blacklaws said: ‘More than 21 million people live in a local authority without a single housing legal aid service, leaving pensioners, families with young children, people with disabilities or on low incomes struggling to access the legal advice they are entitled to when they are at their most vulnerable.
‘Anyone trying to resolve a serious housing problem is likely to need face-to-face professional advice urgently – if the nearest legal aid solicitor is in the next county they might as well be on Mars.'” – Coverage in the Law Society Gazette
You can access the Law Society’s interactive map of housing legal aid services here.
The Greater Manchester Law Centre demands the restoration of Legal Aid, to take its rightful place alongside publicly funded and accountable health, social security, transport and housing services. We know that access to legal advice, representation and advocacy can empower people, reduce homelessness and poverty, challenge the hostile environment against claimants and migrants and enforce people’s legal rights.
See how you can support our campaign for free access to justice here.