source: The Guardian
published: 23 October 2014
A network of in-court advice centres providing support for unrepresented litigants in civil and family law cases is to be funded by the Ministry of Justice and expanded to cover the whole country.
The initiative, launched on Thursday by family justice minister Simon Hughes, is aimed at helping those no longer entitled to legal aid navigate their way through divorce proceedings and other complex claims.
There has been a surge in the number of “litigants in person” – those who do not have lawyers to argue on their behalf. As many as 650,000 people were deprived of support by changes to legal aid, in most cases involving family disputes, welfare benefits, clinical negligence, employment, housing, debt, immigration and education.
The problem is most acute in the family courts where relationship breakdowns often require parents to take immediate action. Hearings have become protracted and judges are forced to intervene repeatedly to explain the legal process. The family law organisation Resolution has described the family courts as being at “breaking point”.