To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, with reference to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s response to the Post-Implementation Review of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, what progress his Department has made on implementing the recommendations in that report.
4 June 2020
The Equality and Human Rights Commission made a number of submissions to the Post-Implementation Review (PIR) of LASPO. These focused on fully assessing the impact of LASPO on access to justice and on individuals with protected characteristics; reviewing the means test; reinstating legal aid for initial advice; enhancing the availability of information on legal aid; reforming the exceptional case funding scheme (ECF); addressing potential reductions in access to redress for human rights breaches; and, making changes to the Legal Advice Telephone Gateway (CLA Gateway).
To address issues raised during the PIR, including these, we published a Legal Support Action Plan. This set out the government’s vision for the future of legal support (including legal aid) in England and Wales and committed to implementing changes to both legal aid and legal support to achieve this. Commitments include a review of the legal aid means tests, improvements to the exceptional case funding scheme, piloting the reintroduction of early legal advice in specific categories of law, the removal of the mandatory element of the CLA Gateway, and the launch of a campaign to raise awareness of legal support, including legal aid.
On 21 April 2020, we laid a Statutory Instrument to fulfil our commitment to remove the mandatory element of the CLA Gateway for those seeking legal aid in discrimination, debt and special educational needs matters, reinstating immediate access to face-to-face advice in these cases. This came into force on 15 May 2020. In addition, the Means Test Review was due to report in late Summer 2020 but has since been paused due to the COVID-19 outbreak. We hope to recommence the review and continue to progress other elements of the LSAP in coming weeks as we move towards recovery. We will continue to engage regularly and extensively with stakeholders such as the EHRC as part of this process.