Family legal aid lawyers set to become as rare as an NHS dentist

01 Mar 2007

New legal aid fees for family work published today are likely to exacerbate the pressures on a family justice system already buckling under the strain, Andrew Greensmith, Chairman of Resolution said today.

“Far from safeguarding access for the vulnerable to high quality legal advice, these new fees are likely to mean that the hunt in many parts of the country for a legal aid family specialist, becomes as difficult as finding an NHS dentist,” said Mr Greensmith.

Commenting on the new fee schedules, Dave Emmerson, Chair of Resolution’s Legal Aid Taskforce said: “Legal aid work is quite simply in danger of becoming completely un-economic. The stark reality is a massive decline in the number of family legal aid practices from 4,500 in 2000 to 2,800 in 2006”.

The introduction of a regional variation in fees mean that a legal practice in Cornwall will now be paid considerably more for a case involving the same work as a practice operating in the centre of Manchester.

“Resolution recognises the need to compensate for the increased overheads likely to be incurred by practices in London and the South East – but the rationale behind the regional variations implicit in the revised fee structure is unclear,” said Mr Emmerson.

Family courts are already beleaguered with massive delays – and as more and more people find themselves with no choice but to represent themselves the massive backlog of cases and delays within the family courts can only get worse.

“Family cases are one area of the law where speed is absolutely vital. In cases involving children it is of paramount importance that court timetables facilitate rapid access and decision making. This new fee scheme can only exacerbate an already fragile system and will leave children and vulnerable adults at risk,” said Mr Greensmith.

For further information please contact:
Karen Mackay
Office: 020 7403 8985

David Emmerson
Resolution
Mobile: 07976 702597
Office: 0208 514 9000