Child protection cases in Bassetlaw received the most civil legal aid funds last year

Child protection cases received most civil legal aid funds in Bassetlaw last year, figures reveal.

Ministry of Justice and Legal Aid Agency statistics show such cases ran up £391,000 in claims over the 2018-19 financial year – equivalent to 71 per cent of the area's civil legal aid costs.

Child protection cases received most civil legal aid funds in Bassetlaw last year, figures reveal.

Child protection cases received most civil legal aid funds in Bassetlaw last year, figures reveal.

Private law cases involving children followed with a claims bill worth £58,600, and domestic violence cases accounted for £30,300.

Legal aid is public money paid to people who can't afford to hire a lawyer.

In total, there were 78 claims for legal aid in Bassetlaw's civil courts over the period, down from 126 five years ago.

They generated costs amounting to £547,000.

Of these funds, 84 per cent were for solicitors, who provide legal advice, and six per cent for the counsels conducting the cases.

A further 10 per cent were disbursements – fees paid to legal representatives that are later claimed back from their clients.

Across England and Wales, legal aid providers dealt with some 69,000 claims in the first three months of this year alone, at an estimated cost of £185 million.

That's eight per cent more than in the same quarter last year.

But the Law Society warned this still falls short of bridging a "gulf in funding" for expert advice.

Simon Davis, ​Society president said: "Make no mistake, swingeing cuts to legal aid mean more and more people have to fend for themselves without expert advice, legal problems are more likely to escalate, and a growing number have no choice but to try and represent themselves in court without support from a solicitor.

"Access to justice for all – regardless of wealth or status – is a cornerstone of society.

"If people cannot access advice or protect their rights, then effectively those rights do not exist."

Between January and March, the number of applications for civil representation backed by evidence of domestic violence or child abuse rose by 17 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2018.

The number of successful applications also went up, from 2,387 to 2,670.

Mr Davis said the increase may have resulted from greater public awareness of domestic abuse and changes to evidence requirements.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "Last year we spent around £750 million on civil legal aid and will always ensure people who need it the most have access to legal support.

"We recently set out a range of new measures to improve legal support and access to legal aid, including efforts to signpost people to earlier support that will help them avoid going to court to settle disputes."