The Ministry of Justice has launched a consultation on the Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme.
With the rationale of preserving its sustainability, the proposals include:
- Individual courts having contracts, rather than a contract covering a wider geographical area
- Allowing providers in the Scheme to claim for the Scheme fee as well as fees for any follow-up work with the clients
- Permitting duty advisors to be reimbursed for reasonable travel costs
- Replacing ‘nil session fees’ with a higher attendance fee (i.e. a fee where no clients were seen in a sitting being charged as if 2 clients had attended, rather than just 1 client)
The Housing Duty Advisor’s role is to provide ‘on the day’ advice free-of-charge and representation to Defendants who are facing a possession claim or the execution of a warrant of possession. At present, the Legal Aid Agency funds the provision of the service through contracts with firms of solicitors and third sector organisations, such as housing charities. There are also some local court-based possession Schemes funded by local authorities or charities. Currently, organisations tender for contracts which cover provision of the Scheme within defined geographical regions of the country. This Consultation follows on from a previous survey to which 128 responses were received, mostly from current providers of the Scheme.
Views from stakeholders are being collected by way of an online survey as well as by post. The closing date for responses is 3 January 2020.