Response: Review of the impact of changes to civil legal aid under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012

By: John Gallagher  Published: September 2018


Shelter's submission to the MoJ shows that the LASPO changes along with associated administrative changes to the legal aid system are severely compromising our ability to help people resolve their housing and homelessness problems and secure access to justice. An increasingly crisis-driven approach to housing advice in general, and the removal from scope of welfare benefits, and housing benefit in particular, is leaving people to fall through the net and not helping to prevent homelessness.

Summary

Our overall recommendation to the LASPO review is that the scope restrictions in LASPO be substantially relaxed or extended. The end result would be that more people would preserve their homes or be assisted into suitable accommodation when homeless; together with reduced cost to the courts and the justice system; and unquantifiable savings to the public purse arising out of families or individuals keeping a roof over their heads, with all the attendant benefits for the health, education and criminal justice system. .

Our specific recommendations are:

  • Restore legal aid for matters of disrepair and unfitness, including damages-only claims
  • Restore legal aid for advice on legal issues concerning the law of housing
  • Restore legal aid to deal with general debt issues relating to the affordability of residential accommodation
  • Increase legal aid remuneration rates and provide a mechanism for rates to be increased to reflect cost of living/RPI increases
  • Abolish the risk element in funding applications for judicial review under the Legal Aid (Remuneration) Regulations 2014
  • Make the means test for civil legal aid easier to apply  
  • Abolish the capital limit for legal aid for people on passported benefits
  • Reduce the bureaucracy imposed by the Legal Aid Agency and ensure the contract requirements are simplified