A new project, set up by Citizens Advice in North Yorkshire, is giving legal help and advice to those who need it to solve problems in their everyday lives, as well as support for those representing themselves in court. Three newly recruited specialist advisers are already helping clients with issues around housing, family law and discrimination.
The aim of the project is to reduce the number of people who need to go to court by giving early legal advice and guidance to those faced with a problem. People who do need to go to court can get help in understanding their rights and in preparing for the day, and for vulnerable clients who would otherwise be unable to go to court, representation will be provided.
Citizens Advice Mid-North Yorkshire, Scarborough District Citizens Advice and Kirklees Citizens Advice and Law Centre have come together in partnership to deliver the ‘Litigants in Person’ project, making sure that residents in North Yorkshire have access to specialist legal advice. This advice covers the areas of Housing, Family Law and Discrimination experienced at work, in housing or in receiving benefits.
As part of a National Project funded by the Ministry of Justice and the Access to Justice Foundation, from a pot of just under £1 million, the local partnership has secured £191,000, over two years. The money pays for desperately needed legal advice given to those who either cannot afford it or are too vulnerable to access the services of a lawyer.
A client who has been helped said:
Before I contacted the project, I had no idea that there might be a legal solution to my problem, nor that there was so much legal action I could take myself – without needing to consult an expensive solicitor. Having specialist support to take this action has been so useful.
Carol Shreeve, Chief Executive Office of Citizens Advice Mid-North Yorkshire, said:
We are delighted to be able to fill the gap in provision of free specialist advice for North Yorkshire. Because of Covid there has been an increase in people needing legal advice, especially as the impact of job losses and business closures hit home. While this project is about preventing people having to go to court, it is also about empowering people, giving them the support and legal advice they need if they are either being discriminated against, are at risk of losing their home or are struggling to navigate a complex family problem, especially if they cannot afford to pay for expert advice or representation.
Anyone needing advice can contact Citizens Advice Mid-North Yorkshire on their free Adviceline 0808 278 7900.