On the 1st of April 2013 the UK government put into place dramatic changes to the legal aid system in both England and Wales. The changes were initially met with protest and many of the UK’s biggest law firms also went against the new system and still continue to oppose the dramatic reform today. But just how do these changes affect you?
The changes, which came into action on April 1st, make dramatic changes to the overall UK legal system and which cases can be supported with legal aid (public funding). Cases such as divorce, child contact, welfare benefits, employment, clinical negligence and housing law are no longer supported by legal aid funding. All aiming to save £350 million a year in public spending.
This means that many individuals in England and Wales will no longer be supported in a legal process for any of the above cases; these changes were met with large scale disputes from both individuals and lawyers who claim it is further damaging the UK legal system.
As reported by the BBC, almost all family law advice has been removed from the legal aid scheme which puts further strain on family’s who are unable to fund legal proceedings.
If your legal proceedings began before the 1st April, however, you will continue to gain legal aid support. However, any new legal proceedings which take place after the 1st of April will no longer gain the governments support. Both child custody and family divorces will be affected by this reform.
However, the majority of solicitors are not concerned simply about the specific cases the legal aid scheme no longer supports but instead the self-representation which will dramatically increase in courts across England and Wales. Many solicitors claim this will cause a dramatic decrease in the speed of legal proceedings and have huge effects on the UK court systems.
Many other law firms have concerns over the lateness of legal support. The changes to the system now mean that some claimants may gain legal advice too late due to funding issues; which not only slows the overall legal proceedings but also puts themselves and their families at risk.
While the effects of this reform will become much more obvious in the future many consider this to be a low time for law in the UK.
Ashton Hudson, Online Marketing Executive