More people facing eviction due to financial difficulties will be able to get access to free expert legal advice, the Government today announced.
Reforms to the former Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme (HPCDS) mean that anyone facing eviction or repossession will now receive free early legal advice on housing before appearing in court, as well as continuing to get advice and representation on the day of their hearing.
These reforms will also be backed by over £10m of extra funding for housing legal aid every year.
‘We don’t want anyone to go through the devastating experience of losing their home, which is why we have overhauled the legal aid scheme to ensure anyone that needs it has earlier access to free legal advice,’ said justice minister James Cartlidge.
‘During such a stressful and uncertain period in people’s lives, our raft of reforms will also provide wider, wrap-around care to support individuals and families on money and welfare issues.’
As part of these reforms, individuals with a repossession notice will also receive early legal advice on debt and welfare benefit matters.
The Ministry of Justice will also be introducing a panel of legal experts to assist and train housing legal aid providers where they need further support in resolving more complex legal issues.
Co-chair Housing Law Practitioners Association Simon Mullings said: ‘I welcome the proposals to put in place funded, non-means-tested, early legal advice to those facing possession proceedings.
‘The revised proposals take into account many of the issues we raised in the consultation period for the Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service (HLPAS).
‘While I still continue to advocate for “crisis navigator” support at court and elsewhere, I believe that the HLPAS proposals, if implemented in the right way and aligned to further work by government to shore up the viability of housing providers, can be a significant step towards effective early legal advice.’