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Ministry of Justice Review of Civil Legal Aid - Consultation Response

Kat Hacker

A key component of HBF's holistic model of specialist care is legal protection. In practical terms this means offering legal support to a client in collaboration with their lawyer. The majority of HBF clients have legal representation funded by legal aid. However, our 2023 acceptance data shows that approximately 37% did not have legal representation despite being eligible for legal aid. Extrapolated across the sector, this suggests that of those who meet our criteria and form part of our core client group, over 1/3 do not have representation under legal aid. However, that is probably an underestimate - as identified by Dr Jo Wilding in November 2022, approximately 50% of asylum applicants were unable to access legal aid representation.

We believe access to justice should be a human right that is guaranteed; however too many charitable funds and resources are spent trying to ensure good quality legal aid representation is secured and we are seeing an increasing gap in the sector as a direct result of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. This response outlines the problems we see and the key changes needed to ensure people seeking asylum and survivors of trafficking can access legal advice and representation, including  increasing rates; reverting to hourly rates; and improving the bureaucracy around legal aid contracts, audit and billing.  Click on the arrow below to read more.