Ministers have delayed the implementation of its controversial legal aid reform programme under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill by six months. The plans would remove a total of £350 million out of the total £2.2 billion legal aid budget.
The delays which push back the planned start date from October 2012 to April 2013 relate to the following:
- Scrapping the Legal Services Commission which runs the legal aid scheme in England and Wales;
- Creating an obligatory telephone helpline gateway for anyone with a civil (non-crime) claim; and
- Introducing new eligibility criteria for the civil scheme.
According to the Guardian, the decision to postpone the reforms was ‘blamed on the need to reschedule legal contracts although it also comes as the reforms encounter fierce opposition in the Lords and strong criticism from senior judges and social welfare organisations’.