Press release: PLP research indicates insufficient evidence that legal aid Mandatory Telephone Gateway meets Parliamentary and policy intentions

Published: March 2 2015

Press release: PLP research indicates insufficient evidence that legal aid Mandatory Telephone Gateway meets Parliamentary and policy intentions

The Public Law Project (PLP) has today published a research paper on the mandatory Civil Legal Advice telephone advice line (the ‘Gateway’). The research can be accessed here.

As a consequence of Government reforms, individuals seeking initial advice and assistance (‘Legal Help’) in one of the three mandatory areas of law (Debt, Discrimination, and Special Educational Needs) can now only obtain that advice via the Gateway, unless they fall within one of the limited categories of ‘exempt’ individuals. All calls are triaged through an (unqualified) Operator Service, and only those permitted to pass through the Gateway are connected to an adviser.

Parliament was assured that the Gateway would be extended to other areas of law only after its operation had been fully reviewed by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). The MoJ published its review of the Gateway in December 2014.

PLP’s research paper considers the extent to which the MoJ review engages with the key legislative and policy intentions behind the Gateway, as well as the extent to which the Gateway, as implemented, meets those intentions.

PLP’s research findings indicate that there is insufficient evidence that the Gateway is meeting Parliamentary and policy intentions, and that in some areas those intentions may be being undermined.

In particular, from a service user perspective, PLP’s findings indicate:

  • very low levels of awareness of the service on the part of potential users;

  • significantly lower volumes of advice being given than anticipated;

  • an ongoing reduction in volumes of advice being given;

  • callers experience undesirable difficulties navigating the Gateway; and

  • significant numbers of matters concluding without recorded benefit to the client.

In terms of value for money, PLP’s findings also indicate that the Gateway may be a significantly more expensive system for the provision of advice than traditional face-to-face settings.

Notes to editors

1. The Gateway was introduced in April 2013 by the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) and is the only route by which certain legal aid services can be accessed. In the first instance, it has been introduced as mandatory in three areas of law (Debt, Discrimination, and Special Educational Needs).

2. PLP is an independent, national legal charity which aims to improve access to justice for those whose access is restricted by poverty, discrimination or some other form of disadvantage. Its three main objectives are: increasing the accountability of public decision-makers; enhancing the quality of public decision-making; and improving access to justice. PLP undertakes research, policy initiatives, casework and training across the range of public law remedies.

3. PLP conducted the research with the assistance of Myriad Research Ltd, a team of professional researchers with over 50 years’ combined experience in the public, private and charity sectors. More information about their work can be found at http://myriadresearch.co.uk/

4. For further information contact David Oldfield (d.oldfield@publiclawproject.org.uk / 020 7843 1264020 7843 1264).

 

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