The Benefit of Legal Aid

Unresolved or poorly resolved legal problems can have a ripple effect on many facets of a person’s life.  I may impact on their health, or their ability to earn a livelihood, live in dignity, or form part of their community.  For those that cannot afford a lawyer, access to legal advice and assistance can not only empower a person to resolve their legal problem, but also to prevent that problem from negatively impacting the other facets of their life. For example, assisting a vulnerable person to resolve their tenancy dispute with a landlord can help prevent subsequent homelessness, disruption of their employment and children’s education, in addition to reducing the prevalence of health and family problems (including breakdowns in family relationships) associated with exposure to prolonged stress and anxiety.

The consequences of an individual experiencing unemployment, health issues, lack of education and homelessness as a result of their legal problem brings a correlating burden to the state as people seek access to social welfare, and increased use of the health system. Beyond the benefits to the individual, legal aid to the poor and vulnerable also helps to reduce the economic impact on the state caused by unresolved or poorly resolved legal issues. For example, legal aid may result in the award of alimony or child support, meaning the beneficiary need not rely on government benefits and has an increased disposable income.  Legal aid may also secure the release of an unlawfully detained person, saving the government the expenses relevant to the detention of that person, and allowing the person to continue generating economic value on the labour market.

When people feel safe in the hands of the justice system they are less likely to resort to taking matters in their own hands. Unresolved or poorly resolved legal problems also negatively impact on the social and democratic fabric of a society when they are the origin of social discontent and distrust of the ability to access the justice system. On the other hand, access to justice through legal aid strengthens the rule of law, increases trust in the justice system and reduces civil unrest.

JCLA has developed a policy paper, which discusses how legal aid is provided and how it benefits all sides involved, which you can access here [Arabic Only].