Legal advice funding changes probed

The Ministry of Justice is examining the effectiveness of recent controversial reforms

Controversial changes to the way the Government funds legal advice services are being examined by the Ministry of Justice, the department has announced.

The ministry said last week that it would look into the effectiveness of recent reforms, such as the introduction of fixed fees for charities and private law firms that are commissioned by the Legal Services Commission.

The study, which will last until March, will also consider the impact of community legal advice centres, through which all LSC and council legal funding is being channelled in some locations.

Charities have opposed fixed fees because they have reduced their income and the new centres have led to a cut in the number and diversity of advice providers.

Trade union Unite is staging a demonstration outside the LSC's London office today to protest at the changes.

Andy Gregg, chief executive of the London Advice Services Alliance, said: "It is encouraging that the Government has finally recognised the need for such a study.

"The introduction of community legal advice centres and fixed fees has had a devastating impact on many local advice providers and their clients.

"The Law Centres Federation has lost six out of a total of 60 law centres because of these changes.

"We hope that the results of the study will lead to a more effective and coordinated approach to the funding and provision of local legal advice."

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