Swansea-based firm Ty Arian Ltd, which trades under the name T A Law, is to close its social welfare law (SWL) practice at the end of May after 10 years. The practice specialises in welfare benefits, housing and debt cases.
According to solicitor Helen Williams, who is a director of the firm, it is being forced to shut its doors not through lack of demand, but because the cuts under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) have made it impossible to provide a financially viable SWL service.
Williams told Legal Action that when the firm first opened in May 2009, demand for its service ‘mushroomed and we grew very quickly from 30 staff to almost 100’. She said that potential clients are still ringing the firm from all over England and Wales as they are desperate for advice and have ‘nowhere left to turn’ due to the lack of advice services locally.
Until the LASPO cuts, the firm was able to provide a service in SWL that, according to Williams, cost on average £100 per case and allowed it to give ‘preventative advice and thus avoided the financial cost of court proceedings and the human cost of housing evictions and families in crisis’.
Ten years ago, there were, on average, around 160,000 non-family legal help (initial advice) cases in England and Wales being opened each quarter. This has reduced to under 30,000 per quarter post-LASPO. All but a few hundred benefits cases were taken out of scope and debt cases were transferred to the mandatory telephone gateway service. While housing cases in which the client is in danger of losing their home remain in scope, the number of these has recently been falling by around three per cent each quarter.1See the latest MoJ stats.
‘As a firm, we endeavoured to fight the cuts year on year to try and stay in business so that we could continue to help in welfare benefit and housing cases,’ said Williams. ‘I am sorry to say that we have lost our battle and are about to become another victim of the LASPO cuts.’