Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Government hands landlords another big favour - Legal aid cuts for housing issues

Upcoming legal aid reforms will mean that Hyndburn constituents experiencing housing and benefits problems are far less likely to be any legal support available for them.

I am deeply concerned about this and that Landlords will be able to bully tenants who now will be unable to access legal advice and protection. A frightening proposition for familes and vulnerable children who need stability and security.

The government is proposing to remove all housing benefits cases and a third of other housing cases from the scope of legal aid. The charity Shelter is alarmed that this is happening at the same time that huge changes are taking place within homelessness legislation, social housing tenure and the housing benefit system.

They anticipate that the reforms will place enormous extra strain on MPs like myself with a disproportionate number of rogue landlords, as more people will be coming to them for help with complex housing and benefits issues.

There are unlikely to be alternative sources of help available and there is no substitute for specialist legal advice when dealing with complex issues in housing and benefits law.

The reforms will cost the government more in the long term as it is far cheaper to provide help at an early stage before issues spiral out of control. Without early intervention there will be an increase in demand for more expensive legal help once problems are at an acute stage.

Social welfare law only uses around 5% of the total legal aid budget and provides extremely good value for money.

For every £1 of legal aid expenditure on housing advice, the state potentially saves £2.34.

For every £1 of legal aid expenditure on debt advice, the state potentially saves £2.98.

For every £1 of legal aid expenditure on benefits advice, the state potentially saves £8.80