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MoJ unveils revamped legal support service for tenants facing eviction and repossession

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has announced plans from spring 2023 for a new service to provide free legal support for those at risk of losing their home.

The MoJ said that the programme would involve reforming the former Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme (HPCDS) so that those facing eviction or repossession can receive free early legal advice on housing before appearing in court, as well as continue to get advice and representation on the day of their hearing.

Additionally, individuals with a repossession notice will also receive early legal advice on debt and welfare benefits matters as part of the plans, the MoJ said.

A panel of legal experts to assist and train housing legal aid providers to lend support in resolving more complex legal issues will also be introduced. This is alongside funding for a pilot solicitor training scheme to increase the number of lawyers providing the service.   

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An extra £10m a year of additional funding will be introduced by the government to fund the proposals.

Justice Minister James Cartlidge said: “We don’t want anyone 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.”

He added: “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.”

Co-chair Housing Law Practitioners Association Simon Mullings welcomed the proposals to put in place funded, non-means-tested, early legal advice to those facing possession proceedings.

Mr Mullings said: “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.”

The MoJ intends to introduce the legislation for the proposals this summer and plans for implementation in spring 2023 once the Legal Aid Agency’s contractual tender process has concluded.

Adam Carey

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