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NAO criticise civil legal aids reforms

The National Audit Office have today published an important report assessing the Government's civil legal aid reforms, which they conclude were not sufficiently though through and have had unintended consequences.

The NAO finds that whilst there have been significant savings to the legal aid budget, the cuts have actually gone much deeper than were expected or modelled for, and the effects are that costs have been passed on elsewhere in the Justice system and public services. Meanwhile the remaining legal aid is not well targeted.

You can read the full report here:-

Responding to the report, Lord Low said:

"The NAO’s findings endorse the concerns raised by the Low Commission and others that the Government’s civil legal aid reforms are having unintended consequences – even fewer people are being helped than expected, additional costs have been created for the justice system and other services, mediation has been undermined, and there are parts of the country where there is no free legal help at all.

However, we would like to have seen more from the NAO that the way to achieve better value for money in legal aid as in other public services is to focus resources on prevention – the key weakness of the Government’s reforms all along is that they have massively reduced the capacity of legal advice and support services to intervene early, and this is where the false economy lies.”

Given that the Report found that the MoJ was "on track to exceed spending reduction forecasts by £32 million," the Low Commission have also suggested that this might provide Ministers with enough wriggle room to establish a new supplementary "Advice and Legal Support Fund" as proposed by the Low Commission's original report in order to better support the non-profit advice sector.