Low Commission proposes solutions to legal aid shortfall

August 30, 2013 Money held on trust by law firms could offer a solution to the imminent shortfall in legal aid funding, according to a new report by the Low Commission a body set up by the NGO Legal Action Group and chaired by crossbench peer Lord Low.

The Low Commission’s preliminary report says that the £400m dedicated to advice and legal support services after recent reforms is around £100m short of what is needed to provide basic services each year.

They propose that the government should require firms with profits above an agreed threshold should pay the interest earned on trust accounts into a fund to improve access to justice. The fund could also be the recipient of unclaimed damages in collective actions and of dormant funds held by solicitors in relation to companies that have dissolved, which currently go to the Treasury.  

The report also calls on the government to provide £50m a year from the Big Lottery Fund, and proposes that £50m be provided by national and local statutory, voluntary and commercial funders, such as NHS clinical commissioning groups, housing associations as well as lawyer-funded schemes.

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