The Ministry of Justice has insisted it is working hard to deal with the stresses inflicted on the justice system by increasing numbers of litigants in person.
Government statistics published yesterday revealed the proportion of family court cases with neither side represented was 34% – the highest since legal aid was taken out of scope in many cases in 2013.
The MoJ says funding and support is being made available to deal with people entering the court system on their own – and efforts are being redoubled to keep them out of court in the first place.
A spokesman told the Gazette: ‘We want disputes resolved away from court wherever possible, using approaches like mediation which can be less stressful, quicker and cheaper.
‘It’s long been the case that some people represent themselves in court, but we want to further increase the support available.
‘That is why we are working to provide more advice in person, as well as improved online information, court guides and videos on how to represent yourself in court.’
The MoJ says it has spent £3.45m in the last two years on increased support for litigants in person, led by the advice, voluntary and pro bono sectors.
There are now 17 personal support units based in 13 cities, with the LawWorks Clinics Network opening more outlets to increase the supply of initial legal advice, working with local practitioners and law schools.
The Gazette understands a new service will open next week at the Royal Courts of Justice, with Citizens Advice set to be present there twice a week.
The MoJ says the legal representation status referenced in the statistics reflects whether the applicant or respondent’s representative has been recorded or left blank in the family court case management system.
It is possible, therefore, that those listed as without representation are not necessarily self-representing litigants in person.