Sep 14, 2021 by Foresight
What is Legal Aid?
When people are unable to afford legal representation and therein, access to the court system here in the UK provision is made courtesy of what’s known as legal aid.
The Legal Aid Agency being an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice in the UK, set up to provide legal aid and advice, via a substantial team of nearly 1,500 employees located in offices throughout the country. Primarily the LAA exists to ensure that legal aid services provided by solicitors are readily available to the general public when sought.
Legal Aid: Inception and Background
Legal aid was introduced to the UK in the 1940s, under the Legal Aid and Advice Act 1949. On inception it became the UK’s first state-funded legal aid system, and initially focused on simplifying matters relating to divorce procedures. However, legal aid quickly became an expansive system, whereby financial support could be pursued for a huge scope of criminal as well as civil matters. The common denominator being that ‘small or moderate means could be paid to anyone seeking monetary assistance, while some 80% of the population were eligible.
The Law Society oversaw the administration of the legal aid system at the behest of the state and as a service provision was free to the public. Those with more modest fiscal means received contributions, calculated on a sliding scale. Throughout the 50s and 60s most of the legal aid was spent on family law, yet post-1964 criminal legal aid and social welfare law accounted for more takings from the legal aid pot.
The 1970s proved a turning point for legal aid, as the more disadvantaged in society gained access to funding on the back of the opening of the very first Law Centre in July 1970 in London. Providing advice and consultation on a range of subjects, criminal, social welfare, and housing matters primarily, the unprecedented success of this venture led to the creation of 26 similar specialist centres throughout the UK by the end of the decade.
Mirroring this never-before-witnessed access to the justice system, the dispensation for legal aid increased substantially. Further strengthened by the new ‘Green Form Scheme’ in 1973, where solicitors promptly and simply afforded individuals with low incomes legally aided advice.
Legal Aid Here and Now
Today, as ever, pursuing a legal case can often be an expensive proposition, as well as a potentially daunting one. Which is why legal aid is considered a necessity in terms of those individuals seeking justice who don’t always have the financial means. As well as ensuring a level playing field when it comes to enabling equality before the law, together with the right to both counsel and a fair trial from the outset.
Legal aid in its simplest form is a pot in which those members of society who are unable to fund part or all their own legal costs can draw from. Aimed specifically at people on low incomes, legal aid might also be available when a case is deemed serious.
However, legal aid is declining. It is “in need of urgent reforms to protect the fairness of the justice and to ensure that the most vulnerable can have access to justice” (UK Parliament Committees). The fixed fees and low pay are leaving many Legal Aid firms struggling, and with less and less of the UK public eligible for Legal Aid assistance, with it comes a decline in firms able to offer it. In 2016, only 25% of the population of the UK were eligible for legal aid. Since 2019, solicitors providing legal aid services has reduced by 10%.
Who Can Receive Legal Aid
More common scenarios where legal aid may be offered as a financial lifeline include instances where someone is at risk of losing their home, or in situations where an individual (or their family) are believed to be at risk of abuse or serious harm; for example, being subjected to domestic violence.
In the UK the types of cases where legal aid is more frequently made available by solicitors include:
- Asylum and immigration
- Mental health and capacity
- Community care
- Housing and welfare benefits
As we’ve already highlighted, financial situations and case types largely qualify individuals as to be seen to require legal aid. However, a set of criteria exist to determine validity. Typical means testing involves individual applicants volunteering their income details, family circumstances and living costs, and all applications for legal aid in relation to criminal cases are subject to means testing before a decision is made.
We Provide the Very Best Experts Within Legal Aid Rates
In practice, legal aid takes the form of free, reduced cost or fixed-fee services from solicitors. Which can be an invaluable source of financial relief in family, criminal or immigration court scenarios which are already tense by their very nature.
Foresight has over 15 years experience of providing a service which sensitively accommodates the individual and ever-changing needs of those pivotal to every case, no matter the expert that is need.
Foresight also understand the complexities of legal aid cases and how they impact on solicitors who are at the heart of lawful proceedings. Which is why we provide experts at legal aid agency rates and create and present crucial reports which compete favourably with local authority rates.
We appreciate that budgets will most likely be already stretched when solicitors approach us, helping to explain why we will ensure solicitors are matched with not only the most appropriately per-case qualified and experienced expert from our wide-ranging panel; but the most competitively priced.
And that’s established from the first point of contact with us, as all our experts adhere to the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) rate for their discipline.
Foresight Experts and Legal Aid Provisions
At Foresight our dedicated team will submit a fully itemised quote within one working day, which considers and follows all LAA guidelines when necessary. Allowing the process of funding to be a prompt and straightforward one.
In our capacity as an industry-leading provider we make it our business to help solicitors save time and legal costs by granting criminal, family and immigration law professionals access to our professional and far-reaching expert panel. An expert panel which covers all the above bases, including psychology, psychiatry, forensic IT, cell site and CCTV analysis, and forensic accountancy to name but a few areas of expertise.
Any one of our highly experienced and in-demand experts will support a solicitor’s legal aid case at every step required and deliver this unrivalled service provision within LAA and local authority rates, irrespective of disciplines or deadlines.
Get in touch now for more details of how we can help you….
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