Access to justice strengthens our democracy and changes people’s lives. 

Law centres fulfil a unique role in enabling access to justice. Specialising in social welfare law and embedded within communities where they can reach the most disadvantaged, they have an in-depth knowledge of the issues people face and understand how the law of everyday life can protect people and communities as intended. They use this knowledge to help people save their homes; keep their jobs; protect their families; access care in the community and much, much more.  

But a lack of investment in the civil justice sector over many years, coupled with passage of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (‘LASPO’), has had a catastrophic impact on access to justice for individuals with social welfare legal problems. In the context of a longstanding programme of austerity, the pandemic and a cost-of-living crisis, the legal aid system is unsustainable in its current form and is failing those most in need  

Ahead of tomorrow’s general election, we are calling on the next government to take action in five key areas to ensure people are treated fairly and protected by their rights. 

1. Take action on access to justice: 

Without a properly funded legal aid system people on low incomes facing legal issues will struggle to get the specialist legal advice they're entitled. 

  • Make legal work sustainable: bolster legal aid through fair pay as recommended by NAO 
  • Finish updating legal aid’s means threshold and commit to uprating it with inflation
  • Fight the cost-of-living crisis: restore legal aid in benefits, housing and debt problems  
  • Ensure local accessibility and national coverage, to end the many legal aid ‘deserts’   
2. Take action on welfare rights 

Too many people are trapped in poverty due to unlawful, unjust and discriminatory policies and practices. By taking action on welfare rights the next Government will be taking action on poverty. 

  • Scrap the two-child benefit limit to reduce child poverty 
  • Lift the benefits cap
  • Scrap unjust sanctions that target people when they are at their most vulnerable 
3. Take action on people’s housing rights 

Everybody has the right to live in decent and safe housing.

  • Abolish no fault evictions – stop the talking, make it happen
  • Take action on poor housing conditions, such as damp and mould which are damaging people’s health
4. Take action to end the inhumane treatment of immigrants in this country  
End the inhumane treatment of immigrants in this country and give them access to their human rights, ending exploitation by criminal gangs through modern slavery, sexual exploitation and trafficking. 
  • Give asylum seekers the right to work, a place to live and access to healthcare
5. Ensure local authorities can deliver vital services to their communities 
Councils around the country are uniquely placed to support local communities and the needs of their residents through the delivery of vital services such as children’s services, community care and homelessness support. 
  • Increase local government funding so they have sufficient resources to meet statutory obligations to provide accommodation, social care and welfare support to those in need 

We are committed to working with all parties to make access to justice a priority and create a fairer, more just society for all.