On 16 March 2017, YLAL responded to the Ministry of Justice Consultation on the Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme: Commissioning Sustainable Services. Our full consultation response is attached to this page.
The Housing Possession Court Duty Schemes (‘HPCDS’) provide emergency, on the day face-to-face legal advice and representation to anyone facing housing possession proceedings, free of charge and regardless of their financial circumstances. The MoJ consultation paper proposes that the contracts with providers for HPCDS work be consolidated into a smaller number of larger contracts serving a wider geographical area and that a new competitive tender model based on price and quality be introduced.
In summary, YLAL considers that the proposals in the consultation are likely to undermine both the sustainability of the Schemes and the quality of service provided to those in need of advice. A smaller number of larger contracts for HPCDS work could undermine the provision of housing advice across the country by forcing small firms out of business. Furthermore, the proposal to award contracts on the basis of price – i.e. to the lowest bidder – is, in our view, highly likely to reduce the quality of service provided to people in need of housing advice.
YLAL also considers that the proposals may have a detrimental impact on the sustainability of the profession at present and in the future, given the challenges faced by legal aid providers in reacting to fee changes, changes to contracting arrangements and fee cuts. This will inevitably have an impact on future generations of junior and aspiring legal aid lawyers, in housing, social welfare lawyers and other publicly-funded areas of law.
We therefore urge the MoJ and the Legal Aid Agency to reconsider these proposals and to work with representative bodies considering in particular:
- the sustainability of firms providing housing and social welfare advice;
- the need to address emerging gaps in provision of housing and social welfare advice;
- the sustainability of the profession as it is and its ability to react to fee changes, changes to contracting arrangements and fee cuts; and
- the sustainability of the profession in future if legal aid work continues to be poorly remunerated and new lawyers cannot be recruited, and the impact of this on future generations of junior and aspiring legal aid lawyers.
We are grateful to the Legal Aid Practitioners Group and Garden Court Chambers Housing Team for their assistance in preparing this consultation response.
You can read our full response to the consultation below.