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Government response to post LASPO assessment - wider objectives for reforms have not failed

Date:15 JUL 2015
The Government has provided a response to the Justice Committee’s Eighth Report of Session 2014–15 regarding the impact of changes to civil legal aid under Part 1 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.

Within the response the Government does not accept the Committee’s assessment that they have largely failed to achieve the wider objectives for reform beyond achieving savings and it feels that as a result of the changes to the scope of civil legal aid, unnecessary and adversarial litigation at public expense has been reduced by 'excluding those matters identified as a lower priority'.

The response has stated that the Exceptional Case Funding (ECF) scheme makes sure that funding will continue to be provided (subject to the statutory means and merits tests) where its absence would breach or would risk breaching an individual’s rights and that it will “carefully consider the judgment of the High Court in the challenge to the ECF scheme (IS v the Director of Legal Aid Casework and the Lord Chancellor).”

The response suggests that rapid action has been taken to address unforeseen consequences of reform. For example, when the uptake in mediation was not as anticipated, the Government states it 'worked quickly with the mediation industry to develop policy solutions'.

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The response has reiterated it will be a priority for the Ministry of Justice to shift the nature of its relationships with stakeholders and it will continue to closely monitor further impacts of the reforms which they say have not had sufficient time to reach a steady state; hence their commitment to a post implementation review of the legal aid reforms within 3 to 5 years of implementation (2016–2018).

The Ministry of Justice and Legal Aid Agency address some specific areas within the response including Litigants in Person, Mediation and the operation of the Legal Aid Agency.

Resolution has responded to the report expressing disappointment at the 'bullish and unapologetic' response from Government to the report. Resolution chair Jo Edwards said the response failed to acknowledge 'the seriousness of the problems caused by the legal aid cuts and the very significant impact on families struggling with separation'.

The full response from Resolution can be found here.

The Government response is available to download here.