Early Legal Advice Pilot in Manchester and Middlesbrough from April 2022
Thought it might be useful to start a thread about the Early Legal Advice Pilot that will be running in Manchester and Middlesbrough from April 2022 through to March 2024.
Draft regs have been laid -
-to establish a scheme to pilot the provision of legal aid for certain civil legal services, to be known as the Early Legal Advice Pilot Scheme
- modifying Schedule 1 to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 to bring civil legal services for certain housing, debt, and welfare benefits issues ‘in scope’ of legal aid for the purposes of the pilot scheme.
The explanatory memo to the draft regs outlines -
While research by organisations such as Citizens Advice, Shelter, the Law Society and the Equality and Human Rights Commission was persuasive in suggesting a link between early legal advice and downstream benefits, officials in the department concluded that their findings did not robustly quantify the financial savings for government, nor did they account for the costs of individuals whose problems would not be resolved with early legal advice, or offer sufficient information to inform future policy development.
The policy intention is [therefore] to test the hypotheses put forward by respondents by expanding the scope of legal aid to provide eligible participants with early legal advice and assistance for a total of three hours on any matters within the categories of ‘housing’, ‘debt’ or ‘welfare benefits’.
The pilot scheme seeks to gather evidence to inform future policy development relating to civil legal aid, particularly regarding social welfare law matters. The pilot will gather substantial data about the participants, the outcomes they experience, and the possible cost savings to the government. The data will be used to produce an evaluation of the pilot scheme, which the department intends to publish ...’
See also the parliamentary debates on the draft regs in the Commons Delegated Legislation Committee on 24 February 2022 and in the Lords Grand Committee on 10 March 2022.
Does anyone have any information about who is actually delivering this service and what they are delivering? I’m based in Middlesbrough we don’t know anything and neither does anyone else that I’ve asked!
Not an answer to your question I’m afraid, but this was in the Commons debate:
Having spoken with the Law Society and the Greater Manchester Law Centre ... I am concerned about the capacity of legal aid providers to meet the increased demands that the scheme will create, especially as those areas of law have not been in scope of legal aid for a decade. There are only two welfare benefit legal aid providers in Manchester city, and only two housing and debt legal aid providers in Middlesbrough, one of which also advises on welfare benefit law, meaning that all the new cases in Middlesbrough that arise from the pilot scheme will have to be handled by those two firms.
Well it’s more than I had before so still useful!
We have a map that’s not available through the front end of our advicelocal site that includes details of orgs with legal aid contracts.
Looks like Watson Woodhouse Ltd have debt and housing contracts in your area: