Islington has only one legal aid provider for benefits and welfare services

Islington has better legal aid provision than a number of areas of England and Wales, but is still lacking

By Will Grimond, Data Reporter

The Scales of Justice on top of the Old Bailey, London.
Photo: RADAR

Dozens of legal aid providers were operating in Islington as of February, new figures show.

The figures come as a professional body warns large areas of England and Wales have no access to some forms of legal aid.

Legal aid is given to those who cannot afford it to cover the costs of legal advice, mediation and representation – with funding ultimately coming from the Government.

Data from the Legal Aid Agency shows there were 27 legal aid providers in Islington as of February.

However, the Law Society – a professional association for solicitors – has warned key areas of law such as education, welfare, community care, immigration and housing are suffering from a lack of free legal advice and representation.

It estimates 53 million people – or 90% of the population – do not have access to a local legal aid provider for education, and 84% of the population do not have access to one for welfare and benefits issues.

Islington had just one legal aid provider for education law, and had one provider offering welfare and benefits services.

Across England and Wales there were 21 local areas with no legal aid providers whatsoever.

Assistance with crime and family law are the most common types of legal aid, with 1,684 and 1,434 practices offering them respectively.

There were 13 for crime and six for family law in Islington.

The Law Society said a 2012 law which cut the availability of legal aid has had a disastrous impact on the ability of victims to seek justice, with funding for free support drying up in many areas.

The number of legal aid cases dropped from more than 900,000 in 2009-10 to 130,000 in 2021-22, while the number of people going to court without representation trebled.

The Law Society said a decade on, civil legal aid is suffering an “existential crisis”.

Law Society of England and Wales president Lubna Shuja said: “For rights to be real, everyone who qualifies for state-funded legal advice must be able to get that advice when they need it, so that they can uphold and enforce their rights.”

“The survival of these services is in the balance. People can’t get the legal support they need, when they need it,” she added.

Rural areas tend to have worse access to legal support – while London had the most by region when taking account of population, with one legal aid provider for every 11,702 people.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Everyone in England and Wales can access legal help and advice either face-to-face or through the Civil Legal Aid telephone service.”

“Last year, we invested £813 million to make sure civil legal aid gets to those who need it most and are reviewing the sector to ensure the system is sustainable well into the future,” they added.


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