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Legal Aid Scheme: Housing

Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN 116520, tabled on 17 November 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the ability of residents in the Wirral local authority area to receive local Legal Aid Housing Advice.

Answered on

23 November 2020

Legal Aid services are commissioned and delivered through procurement areas, rather than local authority areas. For the housing and debt categories of law (which are contracted together), England and Wales is split into 134 procurement areas. In this instance the Wirral procurement area corresponds with Wirral Borough Council.

In the housing and debt categories, the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) aims to have at least one provider in each procurement area. There are currently no legal aid housing providers in the Wirral procurement area. This has been the position since March 2020 and although contracts were recently put out to the market, the LAA received no bids in this area. The LAA will continue to take steps to place services in this area.

There are housing advice services available for residents in Wirral via Civil Legal Aid (CLA), which provides housing and debt legal advice via telephone and email. There are also five legal aid housing and debt providers delivering services through eight offices in the neighbouring procurement area of Liverpool, and it is open to residents of Wirral to access these services. Additionally, there is a Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme (HPCDS) in Birkenhead Court, which provides “on-the-day” emergency advice and advocacy to anyone facing possession proceedings.

Nationally there are currently 12 procurement areas which do not have access to a face-to-face housing and debt legal aid provider. These are listed in the table below, with the corresponding local authorities. The Ministry of Justice does not hold data which would allow us to estimate what proportion of the population in England and Wales live in a local authority area in which there are no housing and debt legal aid providers.

Housing and Debt Procurement Area

Local Authority/Authorities

Bury

Bury Metropolitan Borough Council

City of Kingston upon Hull

Hull City Council

Dorset

Dorset County Council

Doncaster

Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council

East Riding of Yorkshire

East Riding of Yorkshire Council

Leicestershire and Rutland

Leicestershire County Council Rutland County Council

North Hertfordshire

East Hertfordshire District Council North Hertfordshire District Council Stevenage Borough Council Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council

Sandwell

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Shropshire

Shropshire Council Telford and Wrekin Council

Somerset

Bath and North East Somerset Council Somerset County Council

South Tyneside

South Tyneside Council

Wirral

Wirral Borough Council

The LAA regularly monitors capacity and availability of access to services, and takes action where it identifies gaps in services or where demand is greater than the available supply. We have recently concluded a housing and debt tender and will continue to take steps to place services in these areas.

In the meantime, residents in the procurement areas that do not currently have a housing legal aid provider can contact Civil Legal Aid (CLA), which provides housing advice via telephone and email, and/or can obtain advice from a legal aid housing provider in a nearby procurement area.

Named day
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