Legal aid cuts 'not thought through'

20 Nov 2014

Speaking in response to today’s National Audit Office report on the civil legal aid reforms, Jo Edwards, Chair of Resolution, said:

"The MoJ and their colleagues at the Treasury will no doubt welcome the findings of today's report, which sets out the reduction in spending. However, the NAO has confirmed what those of us who work with separating families have been warning of for years: that these cuts were poorly thought through and that they’ve put the courts under more pressure.

"With more people representing themselves, family cases invariably take longer, taking up more of the courts’ time and resource – with the result that the family courts really are at breaking point.

“The reforms have also not had the effect the government stated they would – diverting more separating couples away from the courts. Mediation referrals went down, not up, in the year following the legal aid changes, by some 56%.

"What’s more, the report highlights the unquantifiable impact on other areas of public sector spending. Separation is stressful, and this is made even worse if people don’t have access to legal advice – there is inevitably an impact on their health and well being, and their financial circumstances, for which the state ends up footing the bill elsewhere.

“The Government needs to commit to a full impact assessment as soon as possible in the light of this report. £300m a year sounds like a lot of money, but when you take into account the devastating impact divorce and separation can have on people’s lives, particularly the most vulnerable members of society, then the financial, social, and emotional costs far outweigh the savings.”