Legal Services Commission
The LSC was responsible for a budget of around £2 billion annually, and helping over 2 million people with their legal problems across England and Wales each year. It was established under the Access to Justice Act 1999 and in 2000 replaced the Legal Aid Board (founded 30 June 1949). Sponsored by the Ministry of Justice, the LSC helped to protect the fundamental rights of the individual and addressed problems that contribute to social exclusion. The Chair of the LSC was Sir Bill Callaghan and its work was overseen by an independent board of commissioners. The Chief Executive of the LSC was Matthew Coats.
Replacement by Legal Aid Agency
The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 made provision for the abolition of the LSC. The LSC was replaced by the Legal Aid Agency, an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice, on 1 April 2013. The Agency carrys out a similar function to the LSC, although executive agency status differs from the LSC's non-departmental public body status. Independence of decision-making within the Legal Aid Agency is through the post of a Director of Legal Aid Casework, who has independence from the Lord Chancellor in applying directions and guidance to any individual funding decision. Matthew Coats is the Chief Executive of the new Agency, and he is also the Director of Legal Aid Casework.
The LSC was responsible for the development and administration of two service programmes:
- The Civil Legal Service (CLS), which provides services under the Civil Legal Advice (CLA) banner
- The Criminal Defence Service (CDS)
The CLA aims to improve access to quality information and help for civil legal problems, in fields such as family, debt and housing law. CLA provides direct legal advice services to the public via its Community Legal Advice website and helpline, and also provides advice centre offices for low-income individuals and families, who are referred to participating solicitors and advice agencies that are certified through the CLA's Quality Mark scheme.
The CDS provides free legal advice and representation for people facing criminal charges who are unable to pay for legal help. This is supplied through criminal solicitors’ offices and the Public Defender Service.
- Legal aid on gov.uk website
- LSC at Ministry of Justice website
- Legal aid website for legal aid practitioners
- Law Society of England & Wales
- Access to Justice Act 1999