The measures introduced by HM Treasury have provided some support to the profession. We are working closely with legal practitioners and other providers of legal support across the justice system at official and Ministerial level, to understand their concerns and the immediate and longer-term support needs to keep the justice system running during the crisis and beyond.
The Legal Aid Agency, which administers legal aid on behalf of the Lord Chancellor, has taken steps designed to help support legal aid provision during this period including making money available to draw down as interim payments and halting debt collection.
On 1 May, new hardship payment rules came into force for criminal practitioners allowing them to claim 1 month after they were first instructed instead of 6 months and to lower the threshold for work done on the case from £5,000 to £450. We estimate up to 20,000 cases under the LGFS (Crown Court litigators’ fee scheme) and 27,000 cases under the AGFS (Crown Court advocacy fee scheme) could be eligible under the new provisions, increasing the amount of funding brought forward (when combined with the interim payments already available) from £45m to £140m.
We also recognise the impact of covid-19 on third sector advice organisations. This is why the Government announced that it is allocating £5.4 million in funding to specialist legal advice not for profit organisations, including Law Centres, in addition to the funding that the National Lottery Communities Fund is administering.
We will continue to work with practitioners to support a strong legal services sector, which includes consideration of recruitment and retention within the professions with the ultimate aim of ensuring that the most vulnerable in society are provided with the representation and support they need.