More people seeking justice are facing the court system as litigants in person without guidance and support. We estimate that in 2019 more than half a million people were unrepresented in court. In the family courts, in the majority of cases at least one party has no access to legal representation in matters relating to separation and divorce, financial arrangements or contact with their children.
The impact of Covid on the administration of justice has been dramatic, including court closures and restrictions on access, with much of the process moving online. As we emerge from the pandemic, there will be no return to pre-Covid patterns or processes. It’s been a busy year for us as we’ve adapted our services to ensure we can continue to empower people going through court alone. You can read about our response in our latest annual report.
There's a long way to go before every person has fair and equal access to justice, but we're committed to supporting people without representation over the next five years and beyond.
Where will we go from here? What lessons can we take from a year of uncertainty and change? During the last 18 months we’ve learnt some really key lessons, and we want to hold on to them going forward. We’ll continue to be there for the most vulnerable people facing Civil and Family Court alone in England and Wales, doing our bit to ensure they can best represent themselves and secure a just and fair hearing.
In fact, over the next five years we’re looking to make some big changes in the way that we work, so that we can double the number of clients we’re working alongside. We’ll use technology to connect with more people, in more places, more cost effectively. We'll invest in recruiting and training more volunteers to empower people dealing with the stressful navigation of the court process. And we’ll continue to ensure that clients are at the heart of all we do, so they know they’re not alone.