LAG reports on the slashing of the numbers of legal aid solicitors up and down the country as a result of the tendering process - from 2400 to 1300 in one fell swoop. It's pretty disastrous. I understand that there are now only approximately 5 firms in the whole of Cornwall able to undertake family work (previously around 20), and only four firms in Exeter. Geographical distance can be a real barrier to access to justice particularly in rural areas with poor public transport and vulnerable impoverished clients. If those figures stand it is not difficult to envisage parents unable to obtain or make full use of legal advice and support even where the state is trying to permanently remove their children. If such things are not precisely what legal aid ought to be all about, what then is legal aid for?
Whilst a number of results have yet to be announced and large numbers of solicitors are likely to appeal decisions refusing them contracts, it seems highly likely that this green and pleasant land may be undergoing something of a desertification as far as access to justice is concerned...
(Thanks to Provincial Solicitor for reminding me that I needed to post on this topic)