We aim to improve outcomes for people who are seeking to resolve legal problems and exercise their rights by facilitating evidence-based change in the justice system. We do this by funding research and development projects relating to all aspects of justice.
In recent years, cuts to the civil and criminal justice system have made justice increasingly difficult to access. We want to understand people’s everyday experiences of the law in this new world, including their knowledge of it and their ability to access appropriate services. We also want to know more about the role and efficacy of the people and organisations responsible for delivering justice, and the functioning of courts and tribunals.
Vulnerable groups, including children and young people, are a particular focus for our research. We want to improve outcomes for children involved in both public and private family law, and in the criminal justice system.
Why justice needs research
Spending on legal aid has shrunk by more than £1bn in five years and by 2019-20 the Ministry of Justice will have seen cuts to its overall budget of 40%. At the same time, the Government is implementing a large and ambitious court reform programme which will make significant changes to how justice is administered. Research is needed to understand the impact of these changes and identify issues that need to be addressed.
The numbers of children involved in both public and private family cases has increased markedly in recent years. As the UK’s largest funder of family justice research, we are funding projects designed to understand the reasons for this increase, and have established the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory to support better outcomes for children through research.
The numbers of people entering the criminal justice system, especially the youth justice system, are falling, but levels of disadvantage (such as the proportion of children in custody who are care experienced) among those remaining in the system seem as entrenched as ever. Research is needed to understand the reasons for young people entering the justice system and the interventions that might prevent it.
What do we fund in justice?
We are currently funding research, development, and analysis projects, with a focus on:
- Family justice, and wider links with child welfare both in public and private law. We have set up the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory to support better outcomes for children in the family justice system in England and Wales by improving the use of data and research evidence in decision-making.
- Youth justice, particularly the factors that lead to young people entering the criminal justice system and interventions that might prevent this.
- Supporting effective early decision-making to avoid downstream legal problems, particularly exploration of the incentives and structures that might encourage such decision-making.
- Participation and rights, particularly the accessibility of the legal system for those who are vulnerable and those who lack legal representation.