This is the front page headline of the Law Society Gazette (13 October 2011) which suggests that the difficult economic climate is leading to a dramatic rise in the number of litigants in person in the civil justice system. The article is based on statistics provided by the Personal Support Unit which works to provide emotional and practical support to individuals who pursue their own claims through the court process. A Civil Justice Working party is due to make recommendations to the Justice Secretary on access to justice this month.
The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA), which deals with student complaints and appeals after internal procedures have been exhausted, has also announced its Pathways 3 consultation this month in which it confirms that "Complaints rose by 33% in 2010 and the annual total will rise again by the end of 2011. This is before the doubling and trebling of tuition fees in Autumn 2012". The OIA is now consulting on a range of strategies to cope with this rising tide of complaints, including: the use of campus ombudsmen, using mediation on campus, setting standards for handling of complaints and appeals, time targets for the resolution of cases, developing a kite-mark system for the accreditation of university complaints processes and setting case fees. Many of the issues in the OIA's Pathways 3 consultation are covered in our briefing "Understanding Disputes & Dispute Resolution", a copy of which is available to clients on request.