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We know that registered providers like to have a full understanding of issues faced by their tenants. It may be useful therefore for registered providers to understand forthcoming changes to the legal aid system.
The legal aid, sentencing and punishment of offenders bill was granted royal assent on 1 May 2012.
The Ministry of Justice say that this legislation will focus legal aid on cases where legal help is needed most, for example, where they face immediate loss of their home. In the current economic climate, a key driver for reform has been to reduce the £2.1 billion per year legal aid bill for England and Wales.
Legal aid is still available for cases involving:
- Possession of the home
- Eviction from the home (including unlawful eviction)
- Disrepair cases where the disrepair poses a serious risk of harm to health or safety
- Homelessness systems for persons who are homeless or threatened with homelessness
- Injunctions under the Protection From Harassment Act 1997 in the context of housing and ASB matters in the County Court.
The housing possession Court duty scheme will remain.
Areas that will no longer be covered by legal aid which the legislation describes as “out of scope” include:-
- Housing matters, except those where the home is at immediate risk (excluding those who are “squatting”), homelessness assistance, housing disrepair cases that pose a serious risk to life or health and anti-social behaviour cases in the County Court.
- Welfare benefits; except for advice and assistance for welfare benefits appeals in the upper chamber; and advice, assistance, advice and representation for welfare benefits appeals in the higher Courts.
As legal aid is being focused, as described by Justice Secretary Kenneth Clark to “ensure tax payers’ money is being spent where it is most needed and most effective”, it is only right that those faced with loss of their home or whose homes pose a serious risk to their health are protected, and that gang behaviour is fully challenged on our estates. On the other hand it is easy to see that those with less serious housing matters or in need of legal assistance for welfare benefits could fall through the net. Of course this is at a time when there is change to the welfare benefits system with universal tax credits, caps on housing benefits and benefits being paid to tenants directly.
The changes will be implemented on the 1st April 2013.
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted on 06.06.12
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