The Legal Aid Market
Challenges for Publicly Funded Immigration and Asylum Legal Representation
Author:

3: Business of Asylum Justice case studies

Author:

The provider base of publicly funded asylum legal services under contract to the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) consists of solicitors’ firms and not-for-profit organisations of different sizes, business models and cultures. The exact number of provider offices changes constantly, usually increasing at the time that new contracts are awarded and declining throughout the contract period. In June 2020, 3,476 offices held a legal aid contract across civil, criminal and family law (down to 3,379 by December 2020). Some of these are multiple offices of the same firm, others are sole offices or practitioners; some offices offer multiple categories of law and others only one. Of these, 279 offices were authorised to offer immigration and asylum legal aid, according to the LAA’s Directory of Legal Aid Providers spreadsheet (dated 17 June 2020).1 This had fallen from a peak of 326 when the contracts were awarded in September 2018, after a low of 231 before those contracts were awarded. It compares with 1,637 offices authorised to do family legal aid work, 1,682 criminal providers, 430 for housing, and 56 for welfare benefits (which is largely outside the scope of legal aid).

These offices are not spread evenly through the country. The LAA divides England and Wales into geographical ‘procurement areas’, which vary in size for different categories of legal aid. For housing and debt, the country is split into 130 procurement areas, often comprising one or two local authority areas. For family law there are 108, whereas for community care there are 12 much larger procurement areas, and just 4 for welfare benefits.

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