Legal aid provides government-funded legal services for people who meet certain eligibility criteria, largely those who cannot afford to pay themselves. In England and Wales, it is administered by the Legal Aid Agency (LAA), an agency of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). In 2021-22, the LAA spent £1.8bn on legal aid schemes.

Spending on legal aid has reduced since the government introduced the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) in April 2013. Through the legal aid reforms set out in LASPO, MoJ aimed to make significant cost savings and to target legal aid at those who needed it most.

MoJ has since commissioned several reviews of its legal aid schemes. This includes an independent review of the long-term sustainability of the criminal legal aid published in 2021. In 2023 it also announced plans to review the civil legal aid system.


This study will follow up on our 2014 report on civil legal aid. It will examine:

  • what progress government has made in understanding the full costs and cost savings from implementing LASPO
  • how government is ensuring that legal aid provides access to justice as intended
  • how effectively government understands and works with others to manage the financial sustainability of the legal aid sector

NAO Team

Director: Jenny George
Audit Manager: Kemi Duroshola