Ruth said: "Legal Aid was withdrawn for housing advice by the Government in 2012/13. Areas you can no longer receive legal aid includes rent and mortgage arrears that may ultimately result in possession proceedings, early stage disputes between landlords and tenants, and housing benefit advice.
"As an elected Councillor for 25 years before becoming an MP I know how important good quality, early professional help is in preventing homelessness, indebtedness and other problems. And how important early advice is too, to prevent issues escalating and causing stress to families, and cost to the public purse. Yet at a time when we’ve seen escalating problems for people trying to keep their homes:
· The acute shortage of social housing through right-to-buy and ending of Government funding for new Council and other social rent housing at a time when demand for housing is increasing
· The related escalation of private sector rents beyond the means of average wage earners’
let alone those on low wages – in my constituency rents are 3-4 times that of Council rents
· The related use of one-term tenancies as landlords can afford to get possession and then rent to someone able to pay a higher rent
· The escalation of zero hours and low-paid self-employment
· The cutbacks in many benefits and tax credits meaning less to live on for many
· The draconian Universal Credit rules which apart from providing less to live on than legacy benefits, expect a claimant to wait for 5 weeks with no money.
It’s hardly surprising that more people need more help with housing and debt.
I am really pleased that the Labour Party, in April announced its new policy to restore legal advice in all house cases, which could help up to 50,000 households per year. It would almost certainly mean a lower volume of cases going to court as they could be resolved earlier; with wider benefits and savings including health caused by significant disrepair, fewer people becoming homeless and fewer leaving rent arrears and mortgage debts unaddressed.
Click play above to watch my full speech which explains real life stories of people affected and why the government should restore legal advice in all house cases.