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Restoring state-funding for early legal advice could save money

Call for legal aid for early advice from a lawyer to be reinstated for family cases

Research conducted by Ipsos MORI shows a clear statistical link between getting early legal advice and resolving problems sooner, says the Law Society which commissioned it.

"Without early advice, relatively minor legal problems can escalate, creating health, social and financial problems, placing additional pressure and cost on already stretched public services," said Law Society vice president Christina Blacklaws. Anyone who can't afford to pay for early legal advice may struggle to identify solutions – meaning simple issues spiral and can end up in court bringing unnecessary costs to the taxpayer.

According to the Law Society, the analysis adds weight to the argument that early legal advice – much of which was removed under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) - should be reinstated.

The research states that, on average, one in four people who receive early professional legal advice had resolved their problem within three to four months. For those who did not receive early legal advice, it was not until nine months after the issue had first occurred that one in four had resolved their issue.

This analysis has found that, between an issue arising and the problem being resolved, people who did not receive early advice were 20 per cent less likely than average to have had their issue resolved.

Christina Blacklaws added:

"The benefits of early advice are clear. We are calling on the government to ensure justice is accessible to those who need it."

The Law Society says that early advice is important in family law, but is no longer available for family breakdown and child custody. Because of this mediation referrals have plummeted, putting pressure on courts and therefore public finances.

Christina Blacklaws said:

"The current situation is unsustainable. If early advice was available to those who need it, issues could be resolved before they worsen and become more costly for the individual - and the public purse.

"We are calling for legal aid for early advice from a lawyer to be reinstated for housing and family cases. We are keen to work with the government to address this issue."

On 29 November 2017 the House of Commons held a Westmiinster Hall debate about legal aid. It was led by Paul Sweeney, the Labour Member of Parliament for Glasgow North East. The House of Commons Library published a research briefing on the subject to co-incide with the debate. For the Hansard record of the debate, click here. For the research briefing, click here.

For the Ipsos MORI report, click here and click the link at the foot of the page.

30/11/17 (supplemented 1/12/17)