For those who have not yet done so please can you spare a few moments to complete the LA Census to help the project become an authoritative survey. In particular, we would like to hear from more heads of organisations or legal aid departments.
Legal Aid Census: A chance for all publicly funded lawyers to stand up and be counted
We know that the crisis in the justice system was not caused by COVID-19. This was a crisis born of decades of cuts and underfunding. We also know that in the current climate there is a rare and long-overdue opportunity to change this, if we all pull together. There are currently two government reviews underway into the sustainability of Civil and Criminal Legal Aid. Both of these reviews have thrown the responsibility to gather evidence onto the legal aid sector - which is why LAPG is launching its first ever Legal Aid Census, and why they need your support.
We are calling on you all to help us gather robust, irrefutable evidence about the state of the legal aid sector - and bring about the change we all know is needed.
The government's LASPO Post-Implementation Review was a whitewash: it reported that the system is sustainable - with no evidence to back up that up. Information on legal aid providers has been scant since the government ceased collecting data in 2013. Government has resisted calls since LASPO to collect this vital information. Now, as we emerge from the pandemic into the worst recession on record, we need government to take an evidence-based approach to policy-making. We know that in March 2021 there were 2134 organisations providing legal aid and that number has steadily decreased over time. However it is difficult to find accurate, comparative data from earlier periods and what data we do have tells us very little about the viability of the sector. We know very little else about the legal aid ecosystem and how it relates to the justice system as a whole. To make the case for urgent reform, we need to know more: we need to understand who has been driven out of legal aid and why. The barristers who are undertaking this work and how much of it they are doing. We need to have the data to explain why firms are struggling to recruit and why so many have raised concerns about maintaining diversity and about the sustainability of a career in legal aid. We need data from those currently running businesses on the difficulties they face. LAPG believes that this is the largest piece of research ever undertaken into publicly funded law. We want to hear from all barristers, solicitors, paralegals, caseworkers, clerks, legal executives and office managers. From all those aspiring to join the profession and those who have had to leave it. If the reviews currently underway into legal aid are to mean anything, it is now imperative for the legal aid sector to come together to show the true picture of the system.
The Legal Aid Census has been in the planning for over a year and LAPG has been working with an independent group of academics from Newcastle, Cardiff and UCL universities. The data will be analysed over the summer and the report published in the autumn in time for the Treasury Spending Review and to feed into Sir Christopher Bellamy’s Independent Review of Criminal Legal Aid. This research is also closely aligned to and will influence the Westminster Commission Inquiry into the Sustainability of Legal Aid co-ordinated by the APPG on Legal Aid.
Please help us by completing the census and spreading the word as widely as you can. https://appg.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/legalaidcensus2021