Flegg A & Boyle K (2022) The UK's unmet legal needs: a comparative study of legal aid and the social rights gap. Nuffield Foundation. Access to Justice For Social Rights: Addressing The Accountability Gap. London.
This briefing document has been prepared for the Nuffield Foundation project on ‘Access to Justice for Social Rights: Addressing the Accountability Gap’, led by Dr. Katie Boyle. This briefing summarises our work on the accountability gap in relation to social rights and legal aid provision across the UK. Social rights form part of the international human rights framework, including the right to housing, the right to food and fuel and the right to social security. State parties who have signed up to the international framework are under an obligation to protect these rights in the domestic context, this includes the UK. As part of its international obligations, the UK is required to provide access to an effective remedy if there is a failure to meet these obligations. In order to access an effective remedy people require support to access and navigate the legal system, legal aid is often a pre-requisite to enabling such access. Legal aid has in recent years suffered financial cuts, significant cuts to scope in England and Wales, and is increasingly governed by different legislation and practice across the UK’s three legal jurisdictions leading to a complex and obfuscate system. The briefing is set out as a comparative study of the UK’s three legal jurisdictions, namely England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, and assesses the changes to civil legal aid in each jurisdiction as well as considering issues specific and common to each. Importantly, as the project is concerned with access to justice for social rights, legal aid for criminal proceedings is not considered within the briefing.