On Legal Aid, the government’s sums don’t add up

The Tory-led government is planning a major reduction in the scope and availability of Legal Aid, writes shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter MP.

Andy Slaughter MP is the shadow justice minister

The Tory-led government is planning a major reduction in the scope and availability of Legal Aid. One aspect of their planned cuts is to end provision of legal aid for welfare benefit problems, removing funding for the whole legal process, from initial advice services to court counsel.

These cases usually involve appealing against unfair decision making by the Department for Work and Pensions, local councils and other bodies. If these cases cannot be settled outside court, they are heard at First Tier Tribunals. In their Green Paper, the Government defends these cuts by arguing that representing yourself (pdf, see 4.217-4.219) in First Tier Tribunals is simple.

As a former legal practitioner myself, I find this extremely worrying, and over the last few months I have submitted a series of written Parliamentary questions to find the quantitative basis for the government’s claims.

The information I received in answer to these questions reveals  a huge difference between success rates at the First Tier Tribunals for those with and without representation. We have calculated that – had the proposed cuts been in place – 51,223 cases that were successful last year would not have been, due to the lack of representation.

Behind these statistics, each failed appeal represents an individual or family that is likely to be in a position of severe financial stress. Some will be at risk of losing their homes, others will be left housebound and helpless; all will be at risk of accumulating further health, financial, family and civil legal problems.

However, the argument in defence of legal aid is not limited to one of compassion. There is also a powerful economic case.

The net cost to the public purse of this constriction of the justice system will be far more than the cost of providing Legal Aid in the first place. Citizens Advice has calculated the yield (pdf) for every pound spent on Legal Aid and affiliated advisory services. Legal aid expenditure on benefits advice saves the state more money than any other area of civil advice; for every pound spent, the state potentially saves £8.80.

It is nonsensical, both in terms of maintaining equal access to justice and in basic economics, to cut these long established public services.

This is the truth about cuts to welfare Legal Aid. People who rely on legal services would win meritorious cases if they were given the right legal advice. If these proposals are promulgated, people that struggle with the complex process of preparing grounds for appeal, whether because of language issues, special educational needs, mental health problems, or simply because our civil law system is fraught with complicated traditions and terminology, will lose their cases.

The planned cuts will end the average person’s ability to hold the state to account in cases of poor decision-making and will end up costing the state more than it currently spends providing Legal Aid to our country’s most vulnerable.

39 Responses to “On Legal Aid, the government’s sums don’t add up”

  1. Broken OfBritain

    RT @leftfootfwd: On Legal Aid, the government’s sums don’t add up: //bit.ly/htt6qb writes shadow justice minister @HammersmithAndy

  2. James Weston

    RT @leftfootfwd: On Legal Aid, the government’s sums don’t add up: //bit.ly/htt6qb writes shadow justice minister @HammersmithAndy

  3. Imran Ahmed

    RT @leftfootfwd: On Legal Aid, the government’s sums don’t add up: //bit.ly/htt6qb writes shadow justice minister @HammersmithAndy

  4. Andy Slaughter

    RT @leftfootfwd: On Legal Aid, the government’s sums don’t add up: //bit.ly/htt6qb writes shadow justice minister @HammersmithAndy

  5. Sadiq Khan

    On Legal Aid, the government’s sums don’t add up: //bit.ly/htt6qb writes Shadow Justice Minister @HammersmithAndy (via @leftfootfwd)

  6. Lucy Rigby

    RT @SadiqKhan: On Legal Aid, the government’s sums don’t add up: //bit.ly/htt6qb writes Shadow Justice Minister @HammersmithAndy (v …

  7. Sara Ibrahim

    RT @HammersmithAndy: RT @leftfootfwd: On Legal Aid, the government’s sums don’t add up: //bit.ly/htt6qb writes shadow justice minis …

  8. Darren Lewis

    RT @SadiqKhan: On Legal Aid, the government’s sums don’t add up: //bit.ly/htt6qb writes Shadow Justice Minister @HammersmithAndy (v …

  9. Chris Paul

    RT @SadiqKhan: On Legal Aid, the government’s sums don’t add up: //bit.ly/htt6qb writes Shadow Justice Minister @HammersmithAndy (v …

  10. mister buttons

    RT @leftfootfwd: On Legal Aid, the government’s sums don’t add up //bit.ly/dRhMi6

  11. Marcus Chavken

    On Legal Aid, the government's sums don't add up //bit.ly/i6IZ1m

  12. Whitefield Labour

    RT @SadiqKhan: On Legal Aid, the government’s sums don’t add up: //bit.ly/htt6qb writes Shadow Justice Minister @HammersmithAndy (v …

  13. L DTUC

    RT @leftfootfwd: On Legal Aid, the government’s sums don’t add up: //bit.ly/htt6qb writes shadow justice minister @HammersmithAndy

  14. PRO Law

    On Legal Aid, the government's sums don't add up: The Tory-led government is planning a major reduction in the s… //bit.ly/eNGdit

  15. Nick H.

    RT @leftfootfwd: On Legal Aid, the government’s sums don’t add up: //bit.ly/htt6qb writes shadow justice minister @HammersmithAndy

  16. MyProLaw

    On Legal Aid, the government's sums don't add up //bit.ly/geuPOh

  17. JusticeForAll

    RT @SadiqKhan: On Legal Aid, the government’s sums don’t add up: //bit.ly/htt6qb writes Shadow Justice Minister @HammersmithAndy (v …

  18. PRO Legal

    On Legal Aid, the government's sums don't add up: The Tory-led government is planning a major reduction in the s… //bit.ly/ezcOET

  19. WiltsCitizensAdvice

    RT @SadiqKhan: On Legal Aid, the government’s sums don’t add up: //bit.ly/htt6qb writes Shadow Justice Minister @HammersmithAndy (v …

  20. Miriam Said

    RT @mister_buttons: RT @leftfootfwd: On Legal Aid, the government’s sums don’t add up //bit.ly/dRhMi6

  21. steve crozier

    RT @SadiqKhan: On Legal Aid, the government’s sums don’t add up: //bit.ly/htt6qb writes Shadow Justice Minister @HammersmithAndy (v …

  22. Angela Grandstaff

    On Legal Aid, the government's sums don't add up: We have calculated that – had the proposed cuts been in place … //bit.ly/iisjVI

  23. southhamscab

    RT @SadiqKhan: On Legal Aid, the government’s sums don’t add up: //bit.ly/htt6qb writes Shadow Justice Minister @HammersmithAndy (v …

  24. dear

    RT @leftfootfwd: On Legal Aid, the government’s sums don’t add up: //bit.ly/htt6qb writes shadow justice minister @HammersmithAndy

  25. CJA

    RT @SadiqKhan: On Legal Aid, the government’s sums don’t add up: //bit.ly/htt6qb writes Shadow Justice Minister @HammersmithAndy (v …

  26. Mr. Sensible

    Couldn’t agree more, Andy.

    I saw in my local paper last week the story of a family who’ve had to end their case because of the cuts to legal aid.

    It is wrong both from the point of view of economics and of access to justice.

  27. MyProLaw

    On Legal Aid, the government's sums don't add up | Left Foot Forward //bit.ly/ifu0I2

  28. roundclapton

    On Legal Aid, the government’s sums don’t add up. #cuts #savelegalaid #legalaid:
    //tinyurl.com/64fv9u9

  29. subaruoflondon

    RT @leftfootfwd: On Legal Aid, the government’s sums don’t add up: //bit.ly/htt6qb writes shadow justice minister @HammersmithAndy

  30. luvmyyorkiecm

    RT @prolawrssfeed: On Legal Aid, the government's sums don't add up | Left Foot Forward //bit.ly/ifu0I2

  31. Qadeer

    1.i could not agree

  32. Ian Rathbone

    RT @roundclapton: On Legal Aid, the government’s sums don’t add up. #cuts #savelegalaid #legalaid:
    //tinyurl.com/64fv9u9

  33. Tory Press HQ

    Would Labour cut legal aid or not? Ed Miliband Yes. Shadow Justice team No. //bit.ly/e0fvNf So where will they find the £350m saving?

  34. Pete

    “The Tory-led government” yaay, the fight back begins. Labour doing what it does best, meaningless sound bites.

  35. Dan Filson

    Far from being meaningless soundbites, this is about helping real people with real problems, and trying to maintain a focussed legal aid service. By all means review in an orderly way with plenty of consultation, not just with those who have vested interests, but a headlong rush into brutal reshaping is now a characteristic of thie “Tory-led government” and it is becoming sick-making. Whatever happened to evidence-based decision-making?

  36. Weaver Vale cf

    RT @ToryPressHQ: Would Labour cut legal aid or not? Ed Miliband Yes. Shadow Justice team No. //bit.ly/e0fvNf So where will they fi …

  37. Rob

    So if the legal aid cuts will cost the state more than they currently spend on legal aid, I presume Labour can pledge to reverse the cuts. Yes or no, Mr Slaughter?

  38. Yvonne Hossack

    I am a solicitor for disabled people from babies to the oldest in the country. In our recent 3 cases 25 out of 54 people died after hearing bad news that their home was closing or after moving. We are facing the greatest cuts to the poor and there are only 78 Community Care solicitors firms in the country. Is this why our legal aid contract has been terminated just before the Councils budgets are set? it is wrong to steal the little the poor have but particularly when that could hurt or kill them

  39. catherinecox2

    RT @SadiqKhan: On Legal Aid, the government’s sums don’t add up: //bit.ly/htt6qb writes Shadow Justice Minister @HammersmithAndy (v …

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