The Legal Aid Practitioners Group (LAPG) has today launched the Manifesto for Legal Aid, which calls for immediate changes to be made to the legal aid system to improve access to justice for vulnerable groups.
The Manifesto highlights those areas where changes to legal aid – particularly those brought in under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPOA) – have had a seriously adverse impact on those who most need legal advice and representation, such as children, disabled people and victims of domestic violence.
The Manifesto proposes a series of changes to legal aid provision and delivery which would alleviate the worst of the effects on the most vulnerable groups – changes which could be implemented swiftly by the next Government and at little significant cost to the public purse.
Speaking today, Nicola Mackintosh QC (Hon) and Jenny Beck, Co-chairs of LAPG, said:
“The changes to legal aid have resulted in unforeseen inequality and injustice. Vulnerable groups have been particularly hard hit, with many now unable to obtain even the most basic legal advice about their rights, let alone representation. Without legal aid, there is no justice for those unable to pay.
In family law, for example, almost all private cases have now been removed from the scope of legal aid with victims of serious domestic abuse now having to navigate extensive bureaucratic hurdles to get even basic advice about children and finances.
In the 800th anniversary year of Magna Carta this is an important opportunity to make changes to the system to make sure that legal aid serves the people for whom it was always intended.
The proposals in our Manifesto are not excessively ambitious. They are constructive, pragmatic and realistic. Our aim was to look at what could be achievable in the short to medium term of a new Parliament. Many of the proposals could be achieved at little or no extra cost to the Exchequer yet be of enormous importance to vulnerable people.
We want this document to be helpful to the next Government. These small changes could make all the difference to people in need, and we hope that Ministers will consider them carefully when they take up their new posts.”
Click Here to access the manifesto PDF.