Lies, Damned Lies and…

Once upon a time the number of “acts of legal advice and assistance” was, wrongly, THE barometer of the success of the Community Legal Service. Nowadays this is not so, hence the lack of any significant reaction to the statistics analysed in this interesting article in TLS Gazette.

This headline index, along with the number of Contracts and the number of access points (offices to you and me), is on a marked decline. I think that there are probably some more specific reasons for this, however with the LASPO earthquake but months away a detailed assessment is probably not worth the bother.

I for one am not surprised by the telephone stats – in addition to the general undesirability of phone-only advice you do wonder if this drop in performance is indicative of customer satisfaction. In policy terms nobody can seriously think that this scheme is anything other that a fig leaf in the context of the proposed scope cuts.

The CLAC concept and performance figures, which buck the trend, are more interesting. A model stolen from the now closed “Law for All”, it is one that the LSC have decisively rejected. That it was never going to work as a National solution is now immaterial with integrated social welfare law provision, in a “one stop” environment , being no longer of any interest to the policy makers. The LSC’s flirtation with the advice sector, begun in good faith under a previous Tory Lord Chancellor, ends in acrimony. (Again I’d hazard some more specific guesses about the statistics but see above).

If this seems dismissive it should be remembered that next years proposals have nothing to do with a vision of legal aid and access to justice. Neither were they framed through an evidence based assessment of provision and need. Despite the valiant but futile efforts of the anti-LASPO campaigners, nearly 2 decades of policy innovation and experiment have been destroyed in a single swish of the axe. That this WILL prove self-defeating as a cost-saving measure is the final iniquity.

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