The sustainability of the Housing legal aid market

The sustainability of the Housing legal aid market

Frontier has been commissioned by The Law Society to assess the costs and profits associated with providing civil legal aid in England and Wales, in order to understand the implications on fee rates for civil legal aid, and understand what reforms may be necessary to ensure the sustainability of civil legal aid (CLA).

Our interim report on the housing legal aid sector was published today, and forms part of the Law Society’s submission to the government’s review of CLA, which is due to report in March.

The CLA sector has reduced in size considerably over the past decade, as a consequence of several factors including legal reforms, notably the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) which significantly reduced the civil problems within scope. Another relevant factor is the level of legal aid fees which have not increased since 1996.

For this interim report, we worked with housing legal aid providers across the market to understand in-depth their operating model and financial situation. Some key findings include:

  • Housing legal aid is loss-making for the majority of providers that we have engaged with. When adjusting for the recovery of inter-partes costs (at market rates in successful cases), housing legal aid is found to be loss-making for all providers surveyed to date.
  • The costs for providing housing legal aid are significant and increasing, and have not increased for decades
  • There is a high turnover of junior staff, and the absence of supervisors is a limiting factor for legal aid firms
  • Providers are working long hours with high levels of stress and burnout, which is exacerbated by significant levels of administrative cost involved in housing legal aid work

The financial and workforce challenges experienced by the sector call into question the sustainability of housing legal aid provision. Wider research by The Law Society and Frontier shows that access to legal advice on education, welfare, housing, community care and immigration is very limited. If current trends continue, there is a significant risk that access to justice for those in vulnerable positions will worsen further.

Please click here to read the full report. 

As our research is ongoing, we are interested in hearing from you if you are a Housing legal aid provider, or a provider of any other category of legal aid work. Please contact if you would like to take part in this study.