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46% of Brits Don’t Understand Legal Aid or how to get Support

Reviews46% of Brits Don’t Understand Legal Aid or how to get Support

New research by specialist lawyers Bolt Burdon Kemp, has uncovered the key issues that are preventing people in the UK from getting proper access to legal services, with findings suggesting that:

  • Only 27%of the British population was eligible for legal aid in 2007Further cuts since then have exacerbated that number.
  • The regions that have had the highest legal aid expenditure across the years include London, Yorkshire and the Humber, North West England and the West Midlands.
  • 72% oflegal aid clientsare from BAME backgrounds; they’ll be the worst affected if legal aid cuts continue.
  • 46%of the British publicdon’t understand the legal aid system or how to get support and 51% say there are too many barriers to legal aid funding.

A decade without review: Inequality in the legal aid system

  • Only 27% of the British population was eligible for legal aid in 2007. Further cuts since then have exacerbated that number.
  • The regions that have had the highest legal aid expenditure across the years include London, Yorkshire and the Humber, North West England and the West Midlands.
  • 72% of legal aid clients are from BAME backgrounds; they’ll be the worst affected if legal aid cuts continue.
  • 46% of the British public don’t understand the legal aid system or how to get support.

The legal aid system has been decimated over the past 10 years. And, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) in 2013 meant vast swathes of people lost access to legal aid. The legal aid system needs urgent reassessment and reform. Otherwise, as new research from specialist lawyers Bolt Burdon Kemp makes clear, it will be the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in society that’ll be the hardest hit. Review the findings below.

The most deprived areas of the UK need the most legal aid

In 1949, 80% of British people had access to free or affordable legal help. By 2007, this had reduced to only 27%, and in 2013, austerity measures cut this even further. Who is most likely to need legal aid? It’s probably no surprise that the regions in England with the highest legal aid expenditure are also the most deprived.

Below is a table showing the English Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) 2019 rank scores across regions in England (the lower the score, the more deprived the region is deemed to be), and their legal aid expenditure in 2019/20.

Region Sum of IMD rank Expenditure (£’000s)
North East 21,451,474 45,008
Yorkshire and the Humber 47,622,872 88,459


East Midlands 47,662,971 57,915


West Midlands 50,202,889 83,443


South West 59,490,696 66,812


North West 60,694,509 87,954


East of England 68,181,747 50,505


London 73,480,048 231,784


South East 110,593,358 40,451



One of the most deprived regions in England has the highest legal aid expenditure

Yorkshire and the Humber appears in the IMD rank as one of the most deprived areas in England. When compared to the other regions in England with a similar or lower IMD rank, Yorkshire and the Humber’s legal aid expenditure is the highest.

  • £88,459,000 spent on legal aid in Yorkshire and the Humber
  • £83,443,000 spent in the West Midlands
  • £57,915,000 spent in the East Midlands
  • £45,000,000 spent in the North East – the most deprived region in England

There are many explanations for high legal aid expenditure in a specific region:

  • The area has a lot of legal aid providers (such as law firms or not-for-profit organisations).
  • The cases in the area may be more likely to fall under the reduced scope for legal aid following LASPO. Legal aid is now only available for the following types of cases unless under exceptional circumstances: environmental law, asylum, neonatal clinical negligence, mental health law, child welfare, eviction, most judicial reviews.
  • The area has a lot of disadvantaged people who qualify for legal aid based on the stringent eligibility criteria.

The number of legal aid providers overall has fallen over the years

In part due to LASPO-related legal aid cuts, the number of legal aid providers across England and Wales has fallen over the years. In 2011-12 there were 4,257 solicitor firms and not-for-profit organisations providing legal aid work. This saw a rapid drop between 2013 and 2018, down to 2,818. The latest figures show this now stands at 2,900. The full breakdown is below:


Year Number of providers
2011-12 4,257
2012-13 4,178
2013-14 4,282
2014-15 3,783
2015-16 3,359
2016-17 2,985
2017-18 2,818
2018-19 2,947
2019-20 2,900


Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) clients make up the majority of legal aid claimants

Looking closely into the demographics of those who receive legal aid, Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups are featured far more than white groups. The government’s legal aid client diversity data from 2012 onwards shows that this has remained the case for the last 8 years. If further cuts are to be made to legal aid funding, it’ll likely disproportionately affect these minority groups

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