Research undertaken by the Law Society shows that the number of legal aid housing advice providers in England and Wales is reducing dramatically creating legal aid ‘advice deserts’. The research shows that almost a third of legal aid areas have only one provider and some areas have no legal aid advice providers at all.
The shortage of advice providers is forcing some people to travel miles to obtain the crucial advice they need to avoid homelessness and eviction, which many can’t afford or are just physically unable to do. This leaves the most vulnerable of people in society at risk such as low income families and individuals and those with physical or mental health problems.
The research also shows that in the last 3 months 17% fewer people got legal aid for a housing matter than in the same period of the previous year. At the same time the Ministry of Justice have revealed that reported household evictions reached record levels in 2015 with those figures rising still in the first quarter of 2016.
People in some of the larger cities in England and Wales such as London, Manchester and Birmingham can also struggle to access legal aid housing advice because the advice providers in those areas are already stretched and do not have the capacity to deal with the increasing numbers of people needing assistance. People facing homelessness or eviction will often need urgent face to face advice to avoid homelessness. Early advice and assistance can make a huge difference to whether someone is able to remain in their home.
Law Society Chief Executive Catherine Dixon said “The impact of homelessness on individuals can be huge - but it also hits the public purse. And, just as legal aid advice deserts have opened up, the demand for housing advice has escalated.”
Stephensons has a specialist housing law team who can provide advice and assistance in relation to possession proceedings, homelessness and other housing related legal issues. We also have a legal aid contract allowing us to provide legal aid advice to those based in the North West. For those outside of that area, including London and those not eligible for Legal Aid we can provide fixed fee services including telephone advice.
If you require legal advice or assistance please contact our team on 0175 321 6399.