Westminster Legal Policy Forum

The future for legal aid in England and Wales - scope, fees and access to justice

Morning, Tuesday, 19th March 2019

Sixty One Whitehall, London SW1A 2ET


Attendees at this timely seminar will discuss the key findings of the Government’s recently published post-implementation review of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO), and the implications for future reform of the legal aid system.

We expect discussion on whether LASPO has been successful in discouraging unnecessary and adversarial litigation as intended, including possible cost impacts elsewhere in government and on the NHS, and looking ahead to ensuring value for money for the tax payer and the future for the system.

Delegates will also look at the future scope of legal aid as the MoJ looks to review the threshold for legal aid access, and the expansion to cover separated migrant children in non-asylum cases.

With the Legal Support Action Plan launching a review on the legal aid means testing framework, delegates will discuss the current system’s thresholds for legal aid entitlement, how to best align the means test with the wider legal aid criteria and the next steps for reform to the system as it looks to support the most serious cases whilst retaining access to justice.

Delegates will also discuss the latest thinking on reforms to the Exceptional Case Funding Scheme as Government considers reforming this to include an emergency procedure for urgent matters following concerns raised by the Joint Select Committee report, which highlighted the need for further support for those using the scheme, particularly due to barriers for applicants, and challenges raised by legal practitioners in providing assistance.

Delegates will discuss fees and the current working pressures for legal aid lawyers, as the Government announce a review of criminal legal aid pay - and as they respond to their Advocates Graduated Fee Scheme (AGFS) consultation.

With government announcing that it will look more widely at the future of criminal legal aid fee schemes with a view to ensuring the sector’s sustainability, we expect discussion on options for further reform - as well as on the issues raised in the consultation, such as retention of the workforce in the sector, following concerns regarding the pay of trainee solicitors in the sector from the Young Legal Aid Lawyers Group, the initial impact of the increase in the AGFS and other legal aid fees.

With the LASPO review finding that stakeholders were concerned with current support for litigants in person (LiP’s) in the sector, delegates will discuss Government’s investment of £3 million that will support LiP’s through online services and guidance through the system, face to face early legal advice and the development of ‘legal support hubs’ to reduce the number of unnecessary cases going through courts.

In addition, the agenda includes discussion on Government’s proposals to improve early intervention through investing £5 million in technology services to assist in the legal aid system and piloting and evaluating policies, including the establishment of the Legal Support Advisory Network, that will aim to bring representatives from the technology and legal sectors together to develop further innovations and initiatives.

Further sessions will consider the future role of services such as mediation, pro-bono and McKenzie Friends in meeting un-met legal need, as well as options for strengthening public legal education.

Guest of Honour

Nick Goodwin

Director, Access to Justice Policy, Ministry of Justice

Guest of Honour

Nick Goodwin

Director, Access to Justice Policy, Ministry of Justice

Keynote Speakers

John McDaid

Chief Executive, Legal Aid Board, Ireland

Lord Bach

Author, Bach Commission: The Right to Justice and Vice-Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Legal Aid

Malcolm Bryant

Head of Exceptional and Complex Cases, Legal Aid Agency


Ellie Reeves MP

Member, House of Commons Justice Select Committee


Julia Salasky

Founder and Chief Executive Officer, CrowdJustice

Richard Atkins QC

Chair, The Bar Council

Christina Blacklaws

President, The Law Society

Steve Hynes

Director, Legal Action Group

Pamela Fitzpatrick

Director, Harrow Law Centre

Mary Banham-Hall

Managing Director, Focus Mediation

Tom Franklin

Chief Executive Officer, Young Citizens

Eileen Pereira

Chief Executive Officer, Personal Support Unit

Catherine Baksi

Freelance Legal Affairs Journalist and Author, Legal Hackette’s Brief