Right time, right place: improving access to civil justice

This paper discusses access to civil justice in England and Wales, and how policymakers can create a better functioning and more equitable system.


  • Civil justice issues are highly common: around two-thirds of people have experienced them in the last four years.
  • Most are addressed without formal action or legal support, and many are not even recognised as legal in nature.
  • The consequences can be severe: 53% of people experience stress, 33% financial loss, and in extreme cases, people may lose their jobs or turn to drugs or alcohol.
  • Recent changes to legal aid have substantially limited affordable help – the number of publicly-supported cases are a fifth of what they were a decade ago.
  • On the other hand, government efforts to move civil procedures online and make them more convenient and efficient have borne some fruit, though concerns remain over the digitally excluded.


Policymakers should:

  • Reverse cuts to civil legal aid, which some estimates suggest would save the government money by limiting expensive downstream problems.
  • Prioritise early, joined-up interventions, providing resources and incentives for legal and other services to collaborate. An example would be co-locating legal advice clinics with hospitals or GP surgeries.
  • Collect better and more timely data, for example through a biannual Civil Justice Survey for England and Wales.


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