Lawyers and campaigners have raised fresh concerns about the government’s approach to providing legal advice to people who need help with discrimination and special educational needs (SEN) cases, after ministers abandoned efforts to award new contracts in those areas.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) had been seeking organisations to take on contracts to provide advice from 1 September on discrimination and education cases through the Civil Legal Advice (CLA) service.
But it has now announced that it has abandoned those efforts because there were not enough “compliant” bids from organisations seeking the new contracts.
There are now fears that the government’s difficulty in finding organisations willing to take on the CLA services from September could make it even harder for disabled people to secure the legal advice they need.
Following the passing of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) in 2013, it became possible to seek government-funded advice and assistance on discrimination and SEN issues only through the CLA telephone “gateway”.
But campaigners say the introduction of the telephone gateway has had a dramatic negative impact on the ability of disabled people – such as those with communication-related impairments, mental health conditions or learning difficulties – to access legal advice and support.
Jeanine Blamires, who gave evidence two years ago to the House of Lords Equality Act 2010 a