The Demise of Legal Aid? Access to Justice and Social Welfare Law after Austerity
Access to justice in England and Wales has been undermined by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. These cuts to legal aid came as part of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition government’s austerity programme and they represent part of a deeper legacy of antipathy towards state funding of legal services over recent decades. This socio-legal paper draws on interviews across four case studies with those on the frontline of the legal aid sector to draw out the implications of the LASPO cuts, and the wider disdain of successive governments for legal aid, for social welfare law. Vulnerability theory is used to highlight the importance of the legal aid scheme and the threat posed by the cuts. The paper makes an argument that access to justice is a cause that needs to be championed for the good of all in society.
Keywords: access to justice; legal aid; social welfare law; austerity; vulnerability.
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