Government finds £3.1m to support litigants in person

The Law Gazette

20 August 2020

The Ministry of Justice has announced a £3.1m grant to provide more support to litigants in person in what it described as a ‘key milestone’ in its legal support action plan.

Not-for-profit organisations will be given funding to provide free legal support to those without legal representation in court. ‘Crucially, alongside helping litigants in person to understand legal processes and their rights within them, they will also be provided with practical support throughout the duration of proceedings,’ the ministry said.

The ministry described the extra cash as a ‘key milestone’ in its legal support action plan, which was published alongside the findings of its post-implementation review of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act in February 2019.

The department said it has already awarded over £500,000 to national charities through the grant, delivering an improved support helpline for clients going through the court process, web-based legal advice helping people on low incomes to access free advice sooner, and an online hub that provides advice for remote hearings.

Around £270,000 has also been diverted for emergency support to organisations helping litigants in person during the pandemic.

Justice minister Alex Chalk said the £3.1m would improve legal support for those representing themselves and help them to navigate the justice system.

The money will be delivered by the MoJ and Access to Justice Foundation.

Lord Goldsmith QC, chair of the foundation, said: ‘The new services covered by the national funding stream will help to ensure that litigants in person have routes to free or affordable legal advice and that people in need are able to access the right type of support, at the right time.

‘We look forward to continuing our work with the MoJ to distribute additional grants to support a wide range of projects at a local and regional level later this year.’

LawWorks chief executive Martin Barnes said the funding would enable the charity to ‘scale up and put on a sustainable basis’ its new Free Legal Answers website. ‘The website will help enable access to initial legal advice for people on low incomes, supported by a network of referral organisations and a growing number of solicitors willing to support people in need through pro bono volunteering,’ he added.

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