Young cut off from justice: Previously unpublished Government figures show a generation excluded from legal aid following cuts

Our briefing, "A Travesty of Justice: Young people's access to legal aid" can be found here, and the full report by Pleasence and Balmer is published here

The research, which analysed data from The Ministry of Justice’s Legal Problem Resolution Survey 2014-15, reveals that, although 18-24 year olds now face more civil legal problems than over 25s, their access to justice through legal aid has nosedived since the implementation of LASPO. Despite young adults experiencing over 5 million complex legal problems each year, the MOJ’s own survey could only identify one young person (from its sample of over 10,000 adults) who had obtained advice funded by legal aid.

The data reveals the emergence of huge unmet need for legal support among young people aged 18-25 since the introduction of LASPO. Key findings show:

• 18-24 year olds are significantly more likely than over 25s to report one or more legal problems (37% vs 31%) - but the vast majority (84%) get no help whatsoever from any professional adviser or lawyer.
• Four in five (79%) of the common civil legal problems that affect young people, e.g. concerning rented housing, benefits, debt and employment, have been pushed ‘out of scope’ of legal aid by LASPO.
• Vulnerable groups of young people, e.g. young people with mental health problems and young lone parents, have been worst affected by the cuts. Nearly half of young people’s problems removed from scope by LASPO were reported by those with mental health problems on low incomes.

Following work with young people looking at ways to improve their access to justice, Youth Access and JustRights are proposing the creation of a new scheme dedicated to providing high quality, child and young person-focussed legal education, information, advice and representation.

James Kenrick, CEO of Youth Access and co-Chair of JustRights, says:

“We are working hard to show young people that the law is not just there to punish them, but a tool that can be used to protect them and to challenge injustice. But the current state of legal aid flies in the face of that message. Where the state used to provide a lifeline to challenge failings in statutory services and help counter dodgy landlords and employers with scant regard for legal rights, young people are now left to struggle through alone.

“The effective exclusion of a generation from access to justice has major implications for young people’s protection, mental health and wellbeing. But we are also deeply concerned by the implications for the rule of law in this country. How can we honestly say that the law is there to protect us all, when these cuts have tipped the scales of justice so firmly against the most disadvantaged?”


Additional Information

The data discussed in “A Travesty of Justice” are drawn from research undertaken by Prof. Pascoe Pleasence and Dr Nigel Balmer set out in their report Young People and Legal Problems: Findings from the Legal Problem Resolution Survey - also published today.

The Legal Problem Resolution Survey included a sample of 10,058 adults aged 18 and over, whereby respondents were asked about their experience of a broad range of legal problems. The main findings from the survey were published by the Ministry of Justice in 2017.