An early advice scheme introduced by the government in the summer to help tenants at risk of eviction handled 79 claims in the first few weeks of operation, according to latest figures published by the government.

The Housing Loss Prevention Advice Scheme went live in August. As well as replacing the housing possession court duty scheme to provide on-the-day advice and representation in court, HLPAS provides early legal advice on social welfare law matters before court.

Legal aid statistics for July to September show that the early advice service received 79 claims; 2,747 court claims were completed under the previous court duty scheme, and 3,868 court claims were completed under HLPAS.

Law Society president Nick Emmerson said the 79 claims were a ‘welcome reminder’ of the value of early legal advice and the need to address a client’s problems holistically. However, the Society remains concerned whether the new service will be effective in the long term.

Emmerson said: ‘The new early advice service cannot replace the urgent need for long-term funding of the legal aid system. Furthermore, 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 legal aid practitioners able to give legal advice. Those facing eviction will not be able to access early legal advice if there is no provider in their area.

‘Without immediate and lasting investment in legal aid, the government will be unable to reverse the deterioration of access to justice for those unable to afford legal help.’

A major review commissioned by the government on improving the long-term sustainability of the civil legal aid system covers housing. However, any measures to save the shrinking sector may not emerge until late 2024.


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