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Legal aid for victims of discrimination: our inquiry

We have launched an inquiry to look at whether legal aid enables people who raise a discrimination complaint in England and Wales to get justice.

About the inquiry

The inquiry will look at whether legal aid for discrimination cases provides effective access to justice for people who have suffered discrimination. It will look at:

  • how discrimination cases are funded by legal aid
  • how many people receive legal aid funding for discrimination claims
  • whether there are barriers to accessing legal aid
  • whether some people experience specific difficulties in accessing legal aid
  • the operation of the telephone service as the access point for most discrimination advice
  • if legal aid provides effective access to justice for people who complain of discrimination
  • whether improvements could be made to reduce barriers and improve access to justice

Our findings and recommendations will inform the UK government’s review of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO).

An inquiry is a way for us to find out more about equality, diversity or human rights within a particular sector or about a specific issue. It is one of our powers.

Terms of reference

Further details about the scope of our inquiry are detailed in our terms of reference:

Why is this important?

Funding for most discrimination cases can only be accessed through the Legal Aid Agency’s Civil Legal Advice (CLA) telephone gateway service.

We are concerned that:

  • initial legal aid for discrimination cases dropped by nearly 60% after the telephone service was introduced
  • despite the telephone service dealing with over 18,000 discrimination cases since 2013, only 16 people were referred for face-to-face advice between 2013 and 2016
  • no-one was referred for face-to-face advice between 2016 and 2017
  • the telephone service may not always be accessible for disabled people and those with limited English language skills
  • despite over 6,000 calls to the service in 2013 to 2014, only four cases were recorded as receiving an award from a court or tribunal
  • very few cases receive legal aid to go to court

Ways to respond

We will be asking people to submit evidence from mid-September, when we will also set out the areas that we are particularly interested in. There will be accessible options for submitting evidence.

Further information

We do not provide legal aid. You can find further information on legal aid on GOV.UK.

Please email the Legal Aid Inquiry team if you have any questions about our inquiry or would like any further information about how you can respond.

Last updated: 18 Sep 2018