The launch of the 2024 Standard Civil Contract tender for legal aid work has ignored the needs of the profession and reduced civil legal aid fees by 49.4% in real terms since 1996.
Despite calls for emergency investment in early advice, the government has not provided provisions for £11.3m the Law Society of England and Wales has said is required to “stop legal aid from completely vanishing.”
“We are disappointed the government has not listened to our call for an emergency 15% interim investment in early advice.”
Said Law Society of England and Wales President Lubna Shuja.
“These contracts are being tendered without a pay increase, meaning that for many firms the contracts are not going to be financially viable.
“We know that the public need free legal advice now more than ever, yet legal aid is disappearing.*
“We reiterate our call to the government to shore up the civil legal aid market by implementing an interim 15% for providers of early legal advice, while the Civil Legal Aid Review is ongoing.
“Early legal advice is needed now more than ever, as families are facing eviction or bankruptcy. They need legal advice to prevent homelessness or falling further into debt.”
The bidding process for the 2024 Standard Civil Contract is now open and will cover all categories of civil and family legal aid with new contracts commencing on 1st September 2024.
The Legal Aid Agency has advised that it is making changes to the contract in relation to supervision:
- supervisors may now supervise in more than one category of law
- restriction on the number of offices where a supervisor can supervise has been removed
- remote supervision is allowed
The launch falls the same week influential charity JUSTICE released it’s report into the erosion of the rule of law in the UK; citing cuts to legal aid “decimating” access to justice for “victims, witnesses, small businesses left waiting months if not years for a trial.”
JUSTICE identified that annual public expenditure on legal aid dropped by a quarter between 2009 and March 2022, resulting in ‘legal aid deserts’, with no access to legal advice at all.