The Law Society of England and Wales has welcomed a new British Government scheme aimed at helping families facing eviction or repossession.
It has expressed concern, however, about whether there will be enough solicitors available to ensure that the system is effective.
The Ministry of Justice’s new Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service (HLPAS) will provide free legal advice to families facing eviction or repossession.
It says that the advice will be available from the moment a written notice is received by a tenant or homeowner. This could be in the form of an email from a landlord or letter from a mortgage provider.
Law Society of England and Wales President Lubna Shuja said that the organisation supported the HLPAS in principle.
“It is also a welcome recognition of the value of early advice, and the need to address a client’s problems holistically,” she stated.
Shuja added, however, that the society had “continuing concerns” as to whether the system would be effective.
She cited what she called “the increasing legal-aid-advice deserts” caused by long-term underfunding of the system.
“The scheme is provided by solicitors and therefore contingent on the number of solicitors able to do the work. With rising legal-aid-advice deserts, there are fewer and fewer legal-aid practitioners able to give legal advice,” Shuja said.
“Those facing eviction will not be able to access vital legal advice if there is no legal-advice provider in their area,” she concluded.
The society is currently embroiled in a dispute with the British Government over fees paid to solicitors for criminal legal-aid work.