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Legal Aid: Rural Areas

Volume 497: debated on Wednesday 14 October 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what schemes his Department has in place to ensure that those living in rural or isolated areas have access to legal aid lawyers. (292438)

The Legal Service Commission (LSC) regularly monitors access to specialist legal advice. Where particular geographical access issues have been identified, the LSC aims to fill gaps through interim bid rounds. In addition, as part of the impact assessment of all policy changes the LSC carries out rural proofing.

The LSC is also establishing a number of Community Legal Advice Networks in rural locations which will offer integrated advice services, including specialist legal advice in debt, employment, welfare, community care and housing. Clients will be able to obtain face to face advice on tackling their civil legal problems in one or more easily accessible sources.

In addition, the LSC runs the Community Legal Advice helpline (0845 345 4 345) in England and Wales, which provides specialist advice to people who live on a low income or benefits by the telephone on debt, housing, employment, welfare benefits and tax credits, education and family matters. Last year the Community Legal Advice helpline dealt with over 335,000 cases.