Hannah Batho (Student)
On the 17th October 2022, the government announced some planned changes to the eligibility for legal aid. These changes would not be activated immediately but would provide support in the future for ‘at risk’ people facing domestic abuse or eviction from their home.
Firstly, the government plan to put aside an extra £10m towards legal aid relating to housing issues. This would enable struggling tenants to receive free legal advice before they made an appearance in court. Additionally, it would allow tenants who are facing repossession notices to also receive advice on welfare benefits and debt. This adaption to the current eligibility is predicted to come into play in August 2023.
The Ministry of Justice has stated that, under new protection orders and notices, domestic abuse victims will be able to access provisions from a number of different professionals to help with their situation. The police will be given the power to issue notices which require the abuser to leave the victim’s home. In addition to this, the courts will be able to issue orders which offer more long term protections to the victims. Finally, doctors will have the ability to submit letters of evidence which will assist in victims’ applications for legal aid. Before this can be implemented, the Ministry of Justice wish to carry out a ‘future pilot’ of the protection notices and orders, therefore there is no set date for the reforms to take place.
Additionally, the Ministry also announced that legal aid would be offered to domestic abuse victims who were applying for indefinite leave to remain, as well as to special guardians when pursuing court proceedings regarding parental control.
Currently, some practitioners are concerned with the rapid decline in civil legal aid providers. The Legal Aid Agency disclosed that they would be carrying out a ‘major review’ of the current situation surrounding civil legal aid, however the Legal Aid Practitioners Group stated their concerns that it was already too late to prevent the legal aid sector from declining further. Whilst there may be the possibility of more people getting legal aid if there are less solicitors undertaking this kind of work, then the problem will not be solved.
Here at SULAC we can offer assistance with housing issues and help clients who are experiencing domestic abuse. If you would like an appointment please call 01782 294800 or email SULAC@staffs.ac.uk.