Why We Still Work As Legal Aid Solicitors

At Higgins Miller, we believe that legal support should be available for everyone, irrespective of their income, and that is why we are proud of our status as Legal Aid solicitors. As family law experts we deal with people going through some of the most stressful and upsetting things that life can throw at them, such as divorce, children disputes and cases of domestic violence, and that’s why we understand that engaging in legal action is very rarely something which is decided upon lightly. On the contrary, many people spend their entire lives without having to get involved with legal processes such as hearings and court appearances, and the thought of doing so is extremely daunting. 

Sometimes, however, legal action is the only means open to someone to ensure that justice is served and they are treated fairly, and if the thought of how much that might cost is enough to stop someone pursuing the justice which is rightly theirs, then we think that simply isn’t right. That’s why, in the face of funding cuts and a widespread reduction in availability, we are determined to continue to act as Legal Aid solicitors

The right to Legal Aid delivers two important benefits. First and foremost it provides legal representation for people who would otherwise not be able to afford it. Secondly it protects people from the risk of having to pay an opponent’s legal costs if they happen to lose a case. The right to justice and a fair hearing is something which is enshrined in the Human Rights Act. Our work as Legal Aid solicitors reflects our belief in upholding those rights, even when many law firms across the UK have found themselves unable to do so. According to figures presented to Parliament earlier this year, the number of law firms offering Legal Aid provision dropped by 17% in the years since 2011/12, and in many parts of the country Legal Aid solicitors are virtually impossible to find. This has led, amongst other things, to a massive rise in the number of people appearing in court without any representation whatsoever, a figure amounts to more than 67,000 since 2014. 

We can act as Legal Aid solicitors in mediation or in actual court cases and our motivation is always the same – to ensure that our clients get the support and advice they need irrespective of whether they can afford to pay for it. Legal Aid was first introduced for civil matters in 1950, and at that time more than 80% of the population would have been eligible for some form of means-tested financial assistance. Government cuts to Ministry of Justice funding, which began in 2011, have seen an average of £950m per year taken from budgets, and much of these saving have been driven by a reduction in types of cases eligible for Legal Aid. 

The changes introduced in the past few years meant that, for example, Legal Aid was no longer available for cases involving alleged clinical negligence, most non-asylum immigration cases, cases involving education law (except where issues related to special educational needs were involved), the vast majority of housing and debt-related cases (unless there was a risk of eviction or homelessness) and all employment cases. To give an insight into the impact which the removing of Legal Aid could have on a particular type of case, the number of employment law cases in which clients received initial advice and assistance – often vital to determining whether a client pushes ahead with the case or not – dropped from 31,309 in 2009/10 to zero in 2018, while the number of housing cases for which Legal Aid was provided dropped by 79% in the same period. 

Figures like these make us even more determined to act as Legal Aid solicitors for our local community. For cases involving issues such as asking for a care order to be discharged, dealing with non-molestation orders or matters of child abduction – clearly some of the most stressful issues people could ever have to deal with – Legal Aid can still sometimes be claimed, and as Legal Aid solicitors, we can talk clients through the various matters which decide eligibility. These include the income of the client, their wider assets and the actual merits of the case itself. In cases dealing with a subject such as domestic or child abuse, the client may be asked to provide documented evidence to back up their claim, and our Legal Aid solicitors can offer expert advice on what form that evidence needs to take. The change to Legal Aid provision in recent years has led to many people assuming they won’t be eligible and thus choosing not to take legal action which they have every right to take. Before you take a decision of this kind, get in touch with our Legal Aid solicitors to find out exactly what your rights are. Under the exceptional case funding which is available, some cases which don’t obviously meet the criteria might still be eligible for funding due to special circumstances. If you want to find out more about eligibility for Legal Aid and whether your circumstances are likely to apply please call our Legal Aid Solicitors on 0161 429 7251 or email us at [email protected] We’ve recently passed our Cyber Essential accreditation, something which demonstrates our forward-thinking attitude and determination to remain ahead of the competition. The first 20-minute appraisal is provided free of charge, and we’ll give you the first appointment for a fixed fee, so you don’t have to worry about how much our advice is going to cost.  If you want to explore our wider charging system then please take a look here.

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November 26, 2020

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