Cuts to civil legal aid will leave people unable to pursue their rights and increase the workload of the tribunal system, the senior president of tribunals has warned.

In his 2011 annual report, Robert Carnwath highlighted the likely effect of the proposed cuts on the voluntary sector.

He said: ‘I am very concerned at the implications of removing the majority of civil legal aid, including legal help, without investing in alternatives.

‘For example, citizens advice bureaux play an essential role in explaining welfare benefit decisions, helping appellants decide whether to appeal, and helping them to prepare their case.

‘Without their work, not only will many be left in ignorance of their rights, or without the ability to pursue them, but the load of the tribunals may increase rather than decrease, both because cases will come to the tribunal which could (with proper advice) have been avoided or settled, and because lack of preparation may add to the length of hearings.’

Carnwath’s comments follow concerns over the cuts raised by lord chief justice Lord Judge on behalf of the judiciary last week.

Figures in Carnwath’s annual report showed a rise in claims in the employment, and social security and child support tribunals. He noted that the mental health jurisdiction deals with nearly 30,000 applications and referrals every year, ‘which far exceeds government forecasts’.