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Legal aid applications jump 26% in private family law cases

MIAMs down by 17% in last quarter

The latest legal aid statistics released by the Ministry of Justice show a sharp rise in applications for and grants of legal aid in private law family matters where applicants can show that there is a risk of domestic violence or child abuse.

The LASPO Act removed many areas of civil law from the scope of legal aid, including some areas of private family law, resulting in a large decrease in family legal help workload. This now appears to have stabilised, but family law new matter starts in July to September 2016 were 8% lower than the same quarter of 2015.

Civil representation fell less sharply following LASPO, and the trend had then levelled out, but in July to September 2016 the number of certificates granted was up by 11% compared to the same period of the previous year, largely due to an increase in public law family certificates.

Some areas of family legal aid, in particular domestic violence and public family law, were not affected by scope changes in the LASPO Act and so did not show large decreases in volume when the Act was introduced. In public family law the civil representation workload has increased recently, with 16% more certificates granted in Special Children Act and other public law Children Act proceedings in July to September 2016 than in the same period of the previous year. Legal help matters completed in family public law reduced by 9% over this period however. Public family workloads in civil representation and legal help are higher now than before the LASPO Act was introduced.

From the beginning of 2016 there has been a steep increase in both applications for civil representation and numbers of certificates granted in respect of private family law matters where applicants can show that there is a risk of domestic violence or child abuse. Comparing July to September 2016 with the same period of the previous year, applications were up 26% and the number granted (on decision-based timing) were up 51%.

The proportion of applications granted remained steady at around 70% from the inception of this type of application until the end of 2015, but has increased to over 75% in the three quarters since then. Between 1 April 2013 and 30 September 2016 the Legal Aid Agency received almost 28,000 such applications. During this same period just over 19,000 certificates were granted.

The number of mediation assessments in the latest quarter was 17% down compared to the same period in 2015 and currently stand at about half of pre-LASPO levels. Starts were down by 19% over the same period.

There were 479 applications for Exceptional Case Funding (ECF) received in the latest quarter; the most in a single quarter since the ECF scheme began in 2013. 455 of these had been determined as at 30 November, of which 46% were granted. Of these, 78 determinations related to family law: 24 were granted, 26 refused, 20 rejected, 2 withdrawn, 3 were part-granted and 3 were awaiting a decision.

For the full statistics, click here.