Inquiry into legal aid for victims of discrimination

Our action

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

Our inquiry looked 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

What this covered

More details about the scope of the inquiry are in our terms of reference.

You can also find out about the inquiry in easy read format or by watching our British Sign Language video on Youtube.

Why we were involved

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

We were 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

The result

Our report found that people are facing unnecessary barriers to justice and vulnerable individuals are not being supported to bring discrimination claims.

It also examined the effectiveness of the mandatory telephone gateway and made recommendations to government.