Analysing the economic justification for the reforms to social welfare and family law legal aid

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13 Citations (Scopus)


The Ministry of Justice plans on saving £450 million per annum from the legal aid budget through reforms contained in The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. Over 60 per cent of these savings will be found by removing many areas of law and types of problem from the scope of legal aid support. One of the principal justifications for these reforms is the economic imperative; reducing legal aid expenditure is necessary to meet the Government’s fiscal targets. This article examined whether these reforms will generate the substantial savings identified in the Government’s impact assessment, or whether these costs will be passed on to other areas of government. Data from the Civil and Social Justice Survey were used to model the behavioural responses of people no longer eligible for legal aid under the scope changes. Economic costs were estimated for these responses where they will be incurred by the state, although many of these costs are likely to be underestimates. Many costs could not be estimated including, inter alia, the cost of increased criminality where people seek redress outside of the justice system. The analysis focused on family and social welfare law, which together represent 82 per cent of the proposed savings from the scope reforms. Based upon this analysis, the Government is unlikely to save more than 40 per cent of its prediction. At the same time, these minimal savings could generate inequality of access to justice and overburden an already struggling alternative advice sector. A significant uptake in funded mediation within family law is predicted.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Pages (from-to)21-41
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Social Welfare & Family Law
Issue number1
Early online date19 Apr 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • legal aid reform
  • costs
  • knock-on
  • unintended
  • economic


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