Quick, Dirty but Important: YLAL’s Research into unmet legal need at Court
Concerned by anecdotal evidence from its members about increasing numbers of litigants in person struggling in the County and Magistrates’ courts, and frustrated by the lack of any research into the impact on clients of the first tranche of the most recent changes to legal aid, Young Legal Aid Lawyers (YLAL) has conducted its own study of court users.
The results are startling: almost two-thirds of respondents were unrepresented. Unmet legal need in civil cases was especially high, with only 10 per cent of respondents represented. The survey revealed that a large number of court users were not even sure whether they were eligible for legal aid or where they could get it.
Our limited resources meant that this study was necessarily only able to provide a ‘snap shot’ impression of unmet legal need on the ground at Court: ‘quick and dirty’ as opposed to a longer, more detailed study. Nevertheless, this study was designed with the assistance of an academic moderator and conducted by dedicated and trained volunteers with a good understanding of the legal aid system, using both quantitative and qualitative data. The results are compelling and show an urgent need for government to commission independent, detailed research into unmet legal need immediately to secure access to justice for all.
Laura Janes, chair of YLAL commented, ‘It is indefensible for government to plough ahead with its programme of widespread, and possibly irreversible, changes to legal aid without obtaining evidence as to the impact on clients. YLAL members have worked tirelessly on this project to show the high levels of unmet legal need faced by our clients. Government should now follow their example by commissioning research and, if necessary, placing a moratorium on the changes to legal aid until that research has been completed.’
Legal Action, the magazine for the Legal Action Group, have published a summary of our findings in the August edition. Download a copy of that article here.
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