Headlines: May 18th, 2009

The Legal Services Commission is to extend its range of services to include family law. Contracts for the new service, which will offer an advice helpline, have been awarded to three English and one Welsh firm of solicitors.

Free help for family related legal problems will be available from the summer. Topics covered include debt, housing, employment, education and welfare benefits problems. Currently the recession is prompting many questions about debt, eviction and redundancy all of which put a strain on relationships. Equally, splitting families can cause housing or debt problems. For people who need help but can’t afford it they will be able to call 0845 345 4 345 to get the support they need.

A successful pilot of the new service received 3,000 calls a month with people wanting family law advice, demonstrating a strong demand for family help. An evaluation of the pilot showed that 100 per cent of clients surveyed would recommend the service and 82 per cent said the advice they received enabled them to resolve their problem.

The pilot showed a wide geographical reach and the helpline has potential to offer access to people in very rural locations who may not easily be able to access face-to-face legal advice. The pilot also reached a diverse client base with 11 per cent of family helpline callers describing themselves as having a disability and 20 per cent came from Black or Minority Ethnic backgrounds.

The firms of solicitors who were successful in securing contracts to deliver the service have a wide range of experience in helping vulnerable people to deal with a range of family problems. The new service will create 40 jobs.