The Legal Services Commission (LSC) joined forces with charity Crisis over the festive period to offer homeless people free legal advice to help them make a new start in 2006.
The legal advice project was part of the 34th Crisis Open Christmas scheme, which ran for a week up to New Year.
Under the scheme, a range of services were provided out of six venues around London, including the London Arena. Services offered to people living on the streets included the opportunity to see a doctor or a dentist, talk to a counsellor or even to have their hair cut.
The LSC joined the initiative for the first time by providing 25 of its staff who were qualified to provide legal advice. According to Crisis, the advice service was ready to offer help to up to 1,400 homeless people on a range of matters, including housing law, homelessness, benefits and welfare rights.
In a separate initiative, the LSC launched its own debt awareness campaign to assist the debt-ridden over Christmas, predicting that overspending could be catastrophic for more than six-million families.
Mike Jeacock, executive director of service delivery at the LSC, says: “Half of all households with serious debt problems have an annual income of less than £7,500, so Christmas debt can mean a choice between not eating or having the power cut off when the bills arrive in January.”
The LSC’s debt awareness campaign included road shows targeting Christmas shoppers in shopping centres through advice centres and information leaflets detailing top tips for a debt-free Christmas.
“It’s difficult to avoid expense at this time of year, but tackling debt problems early is the key to staying afloat,” says Jeacock. “The two important messages here are to keep track of your spending and know how much you owe, and if you can’t manage repayments then seek debt advice early. There’s much that can be done to avoid eviction or disconnection from utilities.”
LSC London regional director Martin Seel says: “We’re delighted to be working in partnership with Crisis this year to provide legal advice services to London’s homeless, who are among the most vulnerable people in society. For many of the guests of Crisis Open Christmas, this is their only opportunity to receive essential legal advice, which will help them rebuild their lives and make a new start in 2006.”