The firms were required to bid to renew their contracts to supply legal aid. According to a survey by family law group Resolution, 40 per cent of firms were unsuccessful and 15 per cent were only partially successful. The 561 firms responding to the survey said they expected up to 542 redundancies.
Family lawyers have voiced concerns about advice deserts in Dorset, Cornwall, Bedfordshire and Lincolnshire. Cornwall now has only five family legal aid providers operating from 11 offices in the Duchy.
Stephen Cobb QC, Chair of the Family Law Bar Association, said: “It is profoundly important to the Bar Council that the outcome of the recent contracting round does not have a deleterious effect on vulnerable members of society who need advice and representation.
“Whilst we recognise the necessity of public savings being made, the impact which cuts will have on the justice system must be properly considered. Denying legal representation in certain geographic areas completely is clearly an unacceptable solution.”
Cobb said many solicitors with “developed expertise in the field of child protection litigation, forced marriage and international cases” were now unable to represent clients in publicly funded cases.
Prominent QCs including Cherie Booth, Henry Setright, James Turner and Jonathan Cohen, warned of the impact on victims of forced marriage and “honour”-based crimes, in a letter to the Guardian in August. The letter states: “Unless appeals ... are upheld ... access to expert lawyers will be for ever lost to those in desperate need but without the ability to pay.”