More than 33,000 people have been helped to tackle family, debt and housing issues due to over £3 million of government investment in legal support.
It has offered support to people facing issues such as house repossession, managing debt, or seeking help over childcare or custody agreements. An evaluation report published shows the majority of those seeking support were women and nearly everyone coming to advisors found the right help.
The early legal advice led to increased income for those who were directed to help like the carers’ allowances, and people reporting feelings of greater independence and improved wellbeing. Justice Minister Lord Bellamy KC said:
“This funding ensures people have somewhere to turn to regardless of their financial circumstances and can avoid stressful court battles.
Now research shows that not only can early legal advice help people solve their problems quickly, but can also improve their finances and health.”
The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has provided over £25 million to organisations providing legal support for litigants in person since 2015. The £3.2 million two year scheme was launched in 2020 between the MOJ and Access to Justice Foundation. Clare Carter, CEO of Access to Justice Foundation, said:
“We are delighted to be continuing our partnership with Ministry of Justice to strive to ensure that people most in need of early legal advice are able to access it.
We know from legal advice charities across England and Wales how crucial this funding has been to help people access income, preserve employment and secure housing. Demand for these services is increasing by up to 50 percent across the sector, so the needs for these funds has never been more acute.”
The research is published as the Lord Chancellor Alex Chalk speaks at the Civil Justice Council National Forum about the importance of early intervention for those facing legal issues.
Law Society of England and Wales president Nick Emmerson said:
“We welcome the recognition from the government that providing support to anyone facing legal issues is a cost-effective investment for the taxpayer. We hope to see further policies and proposals that build on that recognition.
We are pleased that early legal advice has led to positive outcomes. However, it is best used alongside a sustainably funded legal aid system, rather than expecting advice-providers to live hand-to-mouth on precarious government grants.
The Law Society has long called for a more strategic approach to legal support for people who need it. Widening legal aid for early advice in family, housing and debt cases, as well as investing in legal aid services to make the system more sustainable, would better provide people with the access to justice they deserve.”