An extra £100,000 has been added to an emergency legal support fund to help Birmingham victims of the credit crunch who are facing eviction.
The Government expects to help 1,000-plus city families before April who are threatened by repossessions, evictions and possible homelessness.
The Ministry of Justice set up the emergency fund, which supplements legal aid work, with £250,000 two years ago. But, as more people have come to it for help as the country’s economy has worsened, the budget has expanded.
Public funding for the legal system has become strained, with legal aid “deserts” opening up according to the Law Society. The Birmingham fund – supported by the Ministry of Justice and Legal Services Commission and run by six Birmingham law firms and advice agencies – has helped nearly 2,500 Birmingham families in the last nine months.
Justice minister Lord Bach, on a visit to Birmingham to see housing law in action yesterday, said people from all backgrounds needed support after struggling to pay for their homes.
He said: “The Government is determined to take action now to give people real help to get through these difficult times. A do-nothing approach, to let the recession take its course, would be completely the wrong thing to do. This system has been in existence for a while but we have now found there’s more call for it. There have already been a number of these schemes working in the country. The legal aid budget is under a lot of strain and when people are feeling the pinch we think we need to be able to move quickly. It’s about reacting to the credit crunch.”
There are 88 schemes like the one in Birmingham operating in 113 courts in England and Wales. Nine schemes at county courts in the West Midlands were launched last month to deal with increasing demand for help.
Legal Services commissioner Tina Fahm, who accompanied Lord Bach at the county court in Birmingham, said it was important people realised there were support options for problems.