Thank you for contacting me about legal aid.
I am pleased that the Ministry of Justice continues to make provision of £1.7 billion a year in legal aid and that a new Legal Support Action Plan has been announced which will ensure resources are available for those who need it most.
Measures in the action plan include a new focus on the individual and early intervention, as well as greater support for those who need solutions to problems before they become entangled in the legal system. The action plan will allow for an additional £3 million to support those representing themselves through the court system.
The Government continues to make a number of changes to legal aid, including undertaking a comprehensive review of the means test, improving and simplifying the exceptional case funding scheme, making face-to-face advice more readily available in a number of civil matters, and undertaking an awareness campaign for legal aid and legal support.
There will be a full consultation on these fee changes before anything is confirmed next year. This will allow for views and opinions to be heard. It is also the case that the new, increased fee structure has been under consideration for a while and reflects the digitalisation of the tribunal system.
It is vital to consider that these are temporary changes. Immigration and asylum practitioners have been contacted regularly and Ministers will continue to engage through the full consultation on what should replace them by June 2021.
You may be pleased to know that new fee structure will result in practitioners being paid substantially more for their work per hearing than they are currently. Fees have increased from £227 for no hearing and £567 for a hearing to £627 for both.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me and I will continue to closely monitor the developments in the area.