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Research indicates that legal aid contributes to significant public savings

Date:22 JUL 2014
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Journals Manager + Online Editor
The Low Commission which earlier this year published its report on a future strategy for social welfare advice, in light of legal aid cuts, has now published a major follow up work on the economic value of social welfare advice. A research review undertaken by Graham Cookson, an economist at the University of Surrey, presents compelling evidence from different sources that social welfare advice saves public services money.

Looking at all work to date on Cost Benefits Analysis (CBA) and Social Return on Investment data, the report finds that legal aid not only pays for itself, but it also makes a significant contribution to families/ households, to local area economics, and also contributes to significant public savings. Different studies done in the UK, US, Canada and Australia have all demonstrated similar findings that for every pound or dollar invested, there’s a multiple of 10 in the savings produced by, for example, keeping people in their homes with jobs and incomes intact rather than having to utilise expensive crisis and emergency services. The review shows that legal advice across different categories of law result in positive outcomes for clients and their households. Finally the review also calls for further evaluation of advice services to establish more data on effectiveness and value for money.

Commenting on the findings Lord Colin Low said:

'This research, carried out independently, demonstrates with hard economics the true value of social welfare advice. It can no longer be argued that funding social welfare advice is too much of a burden on the state. Early and necessary interventions from advice and legal support prevent problems and expense further down the line.

The research also righty calls for more robust and evidence based research on the impact and value of social welfare advice – all too often policy-makers apply ideological assumptions rather than evidence based ones. The funding landscape needs to be based on what works, and what works for the long term.

So our strategy addresses the long term and calls for a 10 year framework for advice and legal support, levering in available funding from across central and local government.'