Civil Legal Assistance Office
You can read here about the development of the Civil Legal Assistance Offices in Scotland
Under Part V of the Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 1986 we can employ solicitors to provide civil legal assistance direct to clients and address unmet legal need. We first used the legislation to delivered two phases of innovative pilot projects, between 2002 and 2008, using directly employed solicitors. Following on from the success of these projects and the experience gained and with approval from Kenny MacAskill, Cabinet Secretary for Justice, we opened our first Civil Legal Assistance Office in 2008.
We now have four Civil Legal Assistance Offices (CLAO) in different areas of the country, which address unmet legal needs in different ways, depending on the geographical area or thematic area of need. All of the offices work in partnership and have good relationships with advice agencies and solicitors in private practice to ensure that the service provided by the Civil Legal Assistance Office is complementary to local provision.
Each office acts as a referral hub, referring clients who are eligible for legal aid to a solicitor in private practice who is willing and able to take the case. If a referral to a solicitor in private practice is not possible, the service will take the case on if it has the expertise and capacity to do so and if the case falls within the remit of the particular office.
In addition to facilitating referrals and undertaking casework the offices provide a second tier support service to advice agencies in the area and provide legal training for their staff.
CLAO Highland and Islands
The Civil Legal Assistance Office Highland and Islands opened in Inverness in 2008. The office helps people across Highlands, Moray, Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland who are eligible for legal aid to access legal help from a solicitor in civil cases. Demand for the service has been high since the office opened and additional solicitors have been recruited to help with capacity. CLAO Highland and Islands also operates an office in Lochgilphead in Argyll and Bute, covering unmet general civil work across these geographical areas.
The office provides a broad general civil service; the majority of casework is on Family matters, Housing and Homelessness and Children’s Hearings/Child Protection. The service has been seeking to investigate the apparent demand for the supply of legal services locally in relation to mental health cases and has provided training to local firms.
The Edinburgh and Aberdeen Civil Legal Assistance Offices, which opened in September and October 2009 respectively, following funding from the Scottish Government, focus on meeting the needs of people affected by the economic downturn.
The Aberdeen Office assists people in the Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire area who have unmet civil legal needs relating to the economic downturn. The office has developed good links with the Citizens Advice Bureaux in the area (delivering outreach surgeries) other advice agencies, local solicitors and Council Teams. The office hosts the In Court Advice Project and the Ethnic Minorities Law Centre Grant Funded project.
The Edinburgh office has a similar remit on work relating to the economic downturn. It operates from central Edinburgh and covers Edinburgh and the Lothians. Casework undertaken has included debt, employment, housing and homelessness including eviction and repossession matters, many of them urgent. The CLAO has also built up good links with local advice agencies and has established referral links with private firms.