The Ministry of Justice has launched a consultation on remodelling the Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme (HPCDS) into a new Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service (HLPAS), incorporating both the existing service of advice and representation at court but also early legal advice before court.
The move is part of efforts to improve the sustainability of what the MoJ called a “vital scheme”.
It added: “Given the vital role the HPCDS plays in ensuring access to justice and the timely resolution of legal problems, the continuation of the service is of paramount importance.”
The consultation proposes several other changes including:
- Expanding the scope of legal aid “so that HLPAS providers can offer early legal advice on social welfare law matters to individuals facing procession proceedings”.
- Contracts for individual courts rather than larger geographical areas.
- Allowing providers to claim for the court duty fee in addition to a Legal Help fee for follow on work.
- Introducing a set attendance fee for all schemes, replacing the existing nil session payment.
The MoJ said that some of these proposals were similar to those consulted on prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic “and were well-received by legal aid providers and other stakeholders”.
It added that the previous consultation was discontinued as the way possession proceedings were being heard underwent significant changes during the pandemic and the Ministry needed to further consider the best approach.
The consultation, Housing Legal Aid: the way forward, will be open for 8 weeks, closing on 20 January 2022.