Research reveals early impact of legal aid cuts

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Left to right, Jennifer Sigafoos, Debra Morris, Rachel Howley (from Liverpool Specialist Advice Services, our KE partner) and John Spafford (Business Gateway)

A study by the University of Liverpool found that 91 per cent of charity advice workers believe that they are providing a lower level of service following cuts to legal aid.

It found that the new reality for advice-giving charities in one of the UK’s most deprived areas is that welfare reforms have increased demand for their services, and they cannot meet the ever-growing need.

Researchers from the University’s Charity Law & Policy Unit surveyed 80 advice workers in Liverpool – approximately half of the estimated number – and collected data from advice charities.

Debra Morris, Director of the Unit, said “The lack of access to welfare benefits advice is singled out, with 95 per cent citing this as an area where people need advice but cannot access it.

”All too frequently, determinations of benefit entitlements are incorrect.”

“All too frequently, determinations of benefit entitlements are incorrect. However, legal aid reforms have eliminated funding for challenges to these decisions. It is this sort of specialist case work that is being lost in the charitable advice sector.”

Agencies are shifting from specialist to generalist advice. In addition, agencies are reducing eligibility for their services, their opening hours or the scope of types of matters they can handle.

The study

The study also found that 98 per cent of advisers feel under more pressure in their jobs when trying to meet the needs of their clients.

Co-author, Dr Jennifer Sigafoos, said “Lots of the articles discussing what to do in the wake of legal aid reforms advise people to go to their local CAB for advice. They have not considered that legal aid reforms have affected CAB and independent advice agencies, as well.”

The study was a knowledge exchange partnership with Liverpool Specialist Advice Services.

To read the full report from the study please go to:,of,Legal,Aid,Cuts,on,Advice,Charities,in,Liverpool.pdf

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