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One year on from the welfare reforms, many legal aid advice centres have been forced to close their doors.
BHT’s Hastings Housing Advice Centre has reported a tough year. Many changes have been made to the service to adhere to the new funding restrictions and fewer clients are entitled to legal aid because of it.
But despite their struggle, the team has defied the odds and continued to prevent homelessness in Hastings and St Leonards.
In 2013/14, since the legal aid reform came into play, Hastings Advice Centre has prevented homelessness in over 200 cases.
The team of housing advisers have prevented unlawful evictions from taking place, negotiated repayment plans for families struggling with rent arrears and successfully defended tenants against unlawful landlords.
It has been really difficult for legal aid advice centres across the country and our story is no different at the Hastings Advice Centre.
The cuts to legal aid have meant that our funding has been limited to specific cases and our service hasn’t been able to reach as far.
We are really proud to have managed to save over 200 families from loosing their homes and facing the very real possibility of becoming street homeless.
Jo Wilson, Hastings Advice Centre Manager
Significant changes to legal aid in England and Wales came into effect on 1 April 2013, as part of a plan to reform the system and save £350m a year.
The changes meant some types of case were no longer eligible for public funds – including divorce, child contact, welfare benefits, employment, clinical negligence, and housing law except in very limited circumstances.