Legal Aid Agency Statistics
Statistics released by the Legal Aid Agency have shown that the agency has achieved impressive results when it comes to processing applications for civil legal aid.
There were over 480,000 applications for legal aid between 2018 and 2019, and the LAA has boasted that 91% of civil applications were processed within 20 days, and 100% of criminal applications were processed within 2 days. It has also been reported that 99% of civil and criminal bills are being paid within 15 days.
Not only are the processing capabilities impressive, the LAA has also managed to reduce staffing costs by £2.1m, which helped off set some of the £5.3m increase in non-cash expenditure due to improvements made in the LAA’s digital systems.
‘Protecting the Fund remains a key priority for the Agency’, who remain committed to minimising the error rate and reduce the value of payments on account on outstanding cases by over £19m.
Operating with four strategic objectives, the LAA works to administer a fair and effective operation in the civil family and criminal justice system. They look to:
- Provide simple, timely and reliable access to legal aid
- Build strong relationships across Government and the justice system
- Secure value for money for the taxpayer
- Achieve their full potential through being fair, proud and supportive
From the report, it is clear that the LAA is exceeding targets in all areas, ranging from call answering times to meeting commitments and maintaining their Lexcel qualifications. Even error rates are reducing, currently standing at a very respectable 0.65%.
There has been an increase in expenditure, however the report explains this is due to the varying increases across civil and criminal. There was an overall £34.7m increase in expenditure, the highest being £43.4m in civil representation, which has been blamed on the increase in costs of the Special Children Act cases.
It is encouraging that the Legal Aid Agency is continuing to meet and exceed targets at a time where practitioners are showing their concern regarding the cuts to legal aid.
The importance of access to legal aid is a hot topic of conversation at present, both at an industry level and politically. Labour has reaffirmed their pledge to hold a consultation on how civil legal aid is means tested and act on the criminal legal aid review launched by the Tories. It is the Liberal Democrats that have promised £500 million to “restore legal aid, making the system simpler and more generous.” The Tories have made no mention of Legal Aid.