Ministry of Justice
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Study into local legal advice announced

Study into local legal advice announced

MINISTRY OF JUSTICE News Release (156/08) issued by COI News Distribution Service. 4 December 2008

A study into the funding and provision of local legal advice has been announced by Ministers.

The Government is keen to assess how recent legal aid reforms and any wider changes to the way in which local advice agencies are funded, have affected the provision of services. The aim is to identify, bring together and analyse the available evidence across England and Wales.

Justice Minister, Lord Bach, has commissioned the study which will examine:
* The impact of the recession and the demand for civil legal advice;
* The impact of civil legal advice fixed fees on local providers - financially and in terms of the type of work they are taking on;
* The initial experience of Community Legal Advice Centres, including the impact on other providers in the area;
* Trends in funding from sources other than the Community Legal Service, including local authority funding, national lottery funding, charities, central government departments, and others.

Lord Bach said:

"Legal aid is one of the fundamental elements underpinning the justice system and an important way of helping poorer members of the community. It enables access to justice for those who cannot afford to pay for legal advice and representation. The Government aims to get the best value for money from the provision of these services, so that as many people as possible can be helped using the available resources."

"The need for legal advice in areas like housing and debt will inevitably increase in these difficult economic times and the Government wants to be sure that the best use of existing resources is being made. This study will improve our understanding of how legal advice is delivered and funded at the local level and establish what further information we may need to inform future decisions."

The study will be informed by a steering group consisting of representatives from various stakeholder groups. Lord Bach will chair the group.

Notes to editors:
1. Membership of the steering group will be announced shortly.

2. The group will submit its report in March.

3. The value of legal aid contracts that have been awarded to the Not for Profit sector by the Legal Services Commission has increased from almost £48 million in 2002/03 to £80 million last year.

4. This has enabled the sector to provide legal aid to an increasing number of people and last year over 250,000 of the 800,000 acts of advice and assistance were delivered by Not for Profit agencies.

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