Consumer champion Martin Lewis has donated nearly £60,000 to support a new helpline for litigants in person in the family and civil courts.
The helpline has been set up by the charity Support Through Court (formerly the Personal Support Unit), and will operate five days a week from Birmingham City University’s law clinic.
The launch follows a successful four-month pilot last year, when over 3,000 calls about housing, money claims, divorce and child arrangements were handled by volunteers.
The helpline has been funded by trusts and foundations, and Support Through Court patron Martin Lewis, who has donated £57,685 to ensure the helpline can run for the next two years.
He said: “Too many people now go through court alone, without legal aid, leaving us with a deficit of justice. Support Through Court has done great work for many years, and I’m a big fan of helplines, so I am delighted to be involved in making this happen, as an efficient way to help more people get such crucial back-up.”
Support Through Court currently operates with around 750 volunteers in 20 court centres, but chief executive Eileen Pereira said that left 90% of courts across England and Wales uncovered.
“The helpline will go far in contributing directly to empowering more people who have to navigate the complex and stressful court system on their own,” she said.
When he became a patron in late 2018, Mr Lewis said: “People are being forced to represent themselves, even though most have a very limited understanding of the court system and the law. That is not a properly functioning legal system, and it makes you question whether they will get justice, when it matters most.
“People need support and someone to stand by their side… Civil justice is not a well-known or popular cause, but the emotional and often financial toll on people facing court alone is significant…
“It is vital that those facing these extremely difficult situations receive guidance and support at a time of crisis.”