The Law Society Gazette has today (July 29th) revealed what they call ‘advice deserts’ for housing matters in the UK. Their heatmap shows that a third of legal aid areas have just one housing solicitor present.
Regions such as Surrey, Shropshire and Suffolk have no legal advice for housing matters available at all. Areas with just one provider are also problematic as they may not have capacity to service the whole area and can be conflicted out due to the firm acting for the landlord in a private matter.
The Law Society’s chief executive Catherine Dixon said early legal advice on housing matters could make the difference between a family being made homeless or not.
She said: ‘People who require legal aid advice for housing issues often need it urgently. Families are unable to access justice because they cannot afford to travel to see the one provider in their area who may be located long distances from where they live.’
Dixon urged the government to urgently commission an independent review into the sustainability of the civil legal aid system.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said legal aid housing advice was available throughout England and Wales, either face-to-face or from the civil legal advice helpline.
The spokesperson added: 'Last year we spent in excess of £1.5bn on legal aid, and have made sure support remains available in the most serious cases, including where people are facing losing their home.
'We are also taking active steps to ensure people are able to access the help they need, when they need it, including identifying new suppliers to safeguard provision.'