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Law Society highlights severe lack of legal aid providers across England and Wales, including for immigration and asylum

Summary:

Interactive map shows 63% live in region with no local immigration legal aid providers

Date of Publication:
29 September 2021

Law Society highlights severe lack of legal aid providers across England and Wales, including for immigration and asylum

29 September 2021
EIN

A new publication by the Law Society has starkly illustrated the lack of legal aid providers, including for immigration and asylum, in many parts of England and Wales.

The Law Society on Monday released a 35-page report examining legal aid sustainability and viability challenges (see page 19 for immigration). Accompanying the report is a series of interactive legal aid desert maps showing providers by local authority area.

The interactive immigration and asylum legal aid map is here and a basic image of it is below:

Immigration legal aid providers

It shows how across England and Wales, 63% of people (or around 38 million) live in areas that do not have access to a local immigration and asylum legal aid provider (the darkest red areas are those that have no legal aid providers).

The maps were compiled from the directory of legal aid providers published by the Legal Aid Agency, with data as of August 2021.

In its report, the Law Society stated: "The Home Office policy of sending asylum seekers requiring accommodation to 'dispersal areas' around the country means that demand is likely to centre on these areas. These tend to be low cost accommodation areas outside of London and there are concerns that some asylum applicants housed under the dispersal policy may be placed in areas where there is no or insufficient immigration legal aid provision."

I. Stephanie Boyce, the president of the Law Society, said: "Anyone trying to resolve a serious housing, family, welfare, care or immigration problem is likely to need face-to-face professional advice urgently – if the nearest legal aid solicitor is in the next county this can be an insurmountable barrier."

In addition, the Law Society highlights the problems caused by low rates of pay for legal aid, which is leading to an ageing profession and a pending drain of expertise as fewer and fewer new solicitors can afford to go into legal aid work.

The Law Society warns that British justice is at risk, with the civil legal aid system close to breaking point, firms closing and legal aid deserts are growing across the country. It calls on the Government to commit to properly funding legal aid in the upcoming spending review.

I. Stephanie Boyce said: "The government's ongoing spending review presents a clear opportunity to invest in our civil legal aid system. It also presents an opportunity for the government to realise the efficiencies in spending that will come from properly funding early legal advice, ending many problems before they escalate. We are calling upon the government to urgently begin its review of the sustainability of the civil legal aid system. This review must address the financial viability of firms and the level of complexity and bureaucracy within the legal aid system."