Campaigning charity the Legal Action Group has set up a commission to examine the impact of the legal aid cuts and develop a strategy to help ensure public access to justice.
The Low Commission on the Future of Advice and Legal Support is chaired by crossbench peer and disability rights campaigner Lord Low. Its vice chair is Amanda Finlay, former legal services director at the Ministry of Justice.
Over the next year the commission will take evidence on the impact of the government’s funding cuts, which will be felt more keenly after April when the majority of the cuts, aimed at saving £350m, are implemented.
The commission will focus on social welfare law covering advice and legal representation on law relating to asylum, benefits, community care, debt, employment, housing, immigration and other areas of public law, such as special educational needs and judicial review.
It aims to draw up a strategy for access to advice and support on social welfare law in England and Wales, publishing preliminary recommendations in September 2013 and a final report in December 2013, in the hope that it may influence political parties’ manifestos.
The work is funded by the Baring Foundation, Barrow Cadbury Trust, LankellyChase Foundation and the Trust for London.
Lord Low (pictured) said: ‘Access to justice, especially for the poor and vulnerable, is the mark of a civilised society. But the outlook for advice and legal support services is bleak, especially once the cuts take full effect after April 2013.’
He said: ‘The challenge is to develop a strategy which, as far as possible, ensures justice for all, but is affordable in the current climate.’
The commission welcomes written evidence at any time, but is encouraging it to be submitted in two tranches to fit with its own timetable of meetings.
It would like to receive initial background information about the role of advice and evidence on the likely impact of the cuts by the end of January, and further evidence on the actual impact of the cuts and on options for the future by the end of May.