On 4 December I announced that I was asking my officials to lead a short study which would bring together the evidence about the issues facing the advice sector on the ground. I asked them to examine:
the impact of the recession and the demand for civil legal advice;
the impact of civil legal advice fixed fees on local providers—financially and in terms of the type of work they are taking on;
the initial experience of community legal advice centres, including the impact on other providers in the area; and
trends in funding from sources other than the community legal service, including local authority funding, national lottery funding, charities, central government departments, and others.
Since my announcement, the study team has held meetings with relevant bodies and interested parties and visited advice providers and funders in Bangor, Bristol, Caernarfon, Cardiff, Cornwall, Cumbria, the East Riding of Yorkshire, the London Boroughs of Camden and Wandsworth, Manchester, Norwich, Plymouth, Portsmouth and Tyne and Wear. These meetings provided invaluable information about what is happening on the ground and about the views of those whose day to day task is to help those suffering from legal problems.
We have been assisted in this task by a steering group including members of the bodies representing the not for profit advice sector and solicitors in private practice, as well as a range of other interested parties and government departments. I am very grateful for the help we have received from the steering group, and from the helpful and constructive attitude they have taken throughout the study.
I look forward to working with the steering group to identify the steps we should take to implement the study’s recommendations. It is my intention that a full action plan will be prepared and published in September. I shall keep both Houses informed of developments in this very important area of work.
Copies of the report will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.