[UPDATED 19 AUG 2013 - see end]
A while back I made a Freedom of Information Act request to the Legal Aid Agency for figures in relation to applications for exceptional funding under s10 LASPO. Those of you who are up to speed with legal aid will be familiar with it's provisions (it is the sort of vestigial limb of legal aid), but helpfully the LAA prefaced their response with an explanatory preamble (the LAA doth protest too much?):
"The Government has had to make some tough decisions, which were not embarked on lightly, but these reforms have safeguarded legal aid to ensure lawyers are there for those who really need them. The Ministry of Justice undertook a comprehensive analysis of civil legal aid, and following a detailed consultation, our reforms were implemented by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. In reforming the scope of civil legal aid we took into account the importance of the issue, the litigant’s ability to present their own case (including their vulnerability), the availability of alternative sources of funding, and the availability of other routes to resolution.
We used these factors to prioritise funding so that civil legal aid remains available in the highest priority cases, for example, where people’s life or liberty is at stake, where they are at risk of serious physical harm or immediate loss of htier home, or where children may be taken into care. For cases where legal aid is no longer generally available we have developed an exceptional funding scheme which allows us to fund exceptional cases where we are legally required to do so. The scheme ensures the protection of an individual’s rights to legal aid under the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as those rights to legal aid that are directly enforceable under European Union law."
Yes yes. Tell us the answer.... We've been waiting since 6 June.
And the results for the period between 1 April to 18 June 2013 are.... *drumroll*.....
The number of applications for exceptional funding made (all areas of work) : 212
The number of such applications granted : 5. (2.35%)
The number of such applications refused : 97
The number of such applications rejected : 68
The number of such applications pending (including under appeal) : 42
The number of successful appeals : 1
The number of applications for exceptional funding in family work made: 110
The number of such applications processed : 89
The number of such applications refused : 88
The number of such applications granted : 1 (1.12% of applications processed)
The number of such applications pending (including under appeal) : 21
The number of successful appeals : 0
So, overall 5 applications have been granted of a total of 212 made by 18 June. Of those one is a family case, and one of the 4 non family cases is as the result of a successful appeal.
Perhaps more notable is the (I think) low numbers of applications. Particularly if you consider the number of rejects compared to refusals. I don't in fact know the technical difference between refused and rejected (and yes, I am too lazy to look it up tonight), but have asked the LAA for clarification. I anticipate those who have made applications will be able to tell me the answer - possibly rejections are those sent back as being incorrectly completed or incomplete, whilst refusals are those that have been substantively considered and refused on the merits. If that is right one can anticipate that a proportion of the refusals may be resubmitted applications by the same party. My guess would be that many solicitors are just not in a position to assist potential clients with these applications, which are high risk and time consuming - although I know of at least one large firm which is testing the waters.
I'd be interested to know just how many of the 212 applications had been processed as at the date of my request (6 June) as compared with the figures given for 18 June, which were provided 2 weeks after the due date of 4 July only after prompting.
Anyway, it seems as if this exceptional funding will do exactly what it says on the tin. Truly exceptional cover.
PS You can read the FOI request and response here.
UPDATE : LAA have now clarified that the distinction between refusal and rejection is as anticipated. See here.