Grant funding projects to 2012
The first In-court Advice project was established in Edinburgh Sheriff Court in 1997 with funding from the European Commission and managed jointly by Citizen’s Advice Scotland (CAS) and the Scottish Consumer Council (SCC). Its aim was to provide assistance to unrepresented litigants in the sheriff court in small claims, summary and ordinary cause matters. In 1998, it was formally linked to the in-court Mediation project and the two services have worked together since that date. The Edinburgh project was successfully evaluated in 2002 and its funding was continued. For the 2002 research findings, see: www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2002/03/14417/1641
Between November 2003 and March 2004 further pilot projects were introduced into five of the busiest civil courts in Scotland: Aberdeen, Airdrie, Dundee, Hamilton and Kilmarnock sheriff courts. The services were introduced with the aims of:
- Increasing the number of clients seeking advice and assistance
- Increasing client confidence in court proceeding
- Increasing the effectiveness of court hearings
- Increasing general efficiency of the court system
- Decreasing the number of decrees granted in absence of the defender
Funding was also provided to Paisley Law Centre (now Renfrewshire Law Centre) for an advice and representation service to tenants facing eviction in Paisley Sheriff Court.
A further evaluation of the In-court Advice projects was carried out in 2005 www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2006/01/24132154/0
The Scottish Government announced on 21 November 2008 that more help would be available for people facing legal problems such as repossession as a result of the economic downturn. This announcement proposed that we would assume responsibility for the funding of the in-court advice projects, by way of our grant funding powers from 1st April 2009.
Economic Downturn Programme – 2009 - 2012
We sought applications for a grant funding programme from organisations such as advice agencies, charities and solicitors to apply for grants to provide new or enhanced legal advice or representation services, directly aimed at people in most need.
The programme focussed on assisting people with the effects of the economic downturn during May and June 2009. We administered 16 projects between 1st October 2009 and 30th September 2012.This programme included projects which operate at courts across Scotland for mortgage repossession and tenanted eviction cases. The programme included a mix of lay advice projects and solicitor projects.
Home Owner and Debtor Protection
The Home Owner and Debtor Protection (Scotland) Act was passed following the recommendations of the Debt Action Forum and Repossessions Working Group, which we chaired. The legislation has implication for mortgage rights cases which are required to call in court following completion of a pre-action protocol. This means that if someone’s home is under threat of repossession an agreed procedure should be followed before it reaches court.
In October 2010, in partnership with a range of other organisations we developed a package of training and awareness raising for lay advisers, to help prepare the advice sector for the implementation of the Homeowner and Debtor Protection Act 2010. As part of this work, we commissioned the development of a dedicated information and resource website to help both the advice sector and the public understand the legislative changes affecting repossession actions in Scotland and where to go for help and advice.
More information can be found at www.keepingyourhome.co.uk.
For more information about our grant funding programme please contact Raphael Bleakley on 0131 240 1883.
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