YLAL is concerned that another large legal aid provider has been forced to close its doors.
Last week it was announced by the London Legal Support Trust that the trustees at Law For All had decided to place the not-for-profit advice agency into administration. The statement posted on the agency’s website [http://www.lawforall.org.uk/] states that "changes to the administration of publicly funded legal work have resulted in an unsustainable administrative burden, together with an increasingly complicated funding mechanism - not to mention reduced payments in real terms". The trustees also appear to anticipate trouble ahead with the 10% fee cuts (currently out for consultation with the representative bodies) concluding that "there is no hope of a viable long-term future for Law For All".
This is incredibly sad for the professionals employed by Law For All, but of key concern is the impact on clients seeking advice and representation when facing distressing issues such as eviction, homelessness, repayment of debts, wrongful dismissal and child contact. Law For All won a vast number of "new matter starts" in their October 2010 contract bid. Who will now provide the urgently-needed advice? Are there any advice-providers still in the West London area who can pick up the pieces?
In the circumstances YLAL urges the MoJ to rethink the forthcoming 10% fee cuts . Following the closure of Refugee and Migrant Justice and more recently, Immigration Advisory Service, as another large firm with many vulnerable clients on its books is forced to close its doors, the devastation which further cuts will cause to access to justice is becoming ever more clear.
We are also concerned that this is an inherent problem with the LSC 'bulk-buying' of legal aid services. YLAL would also ask the MoJ to re-think its preferred policy of contracting with one dominant provider in each procurement area when the next contracts are put out for tender.