HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has announced plans to trial longer opening hours at its service centres.

The centres, which deal with matters such as divorce, probate, social security and child support, are now due to be open between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday and from 8am to 2pm on Saturdays. Previously, opening hours were weekdays between 9am and 5pm.

The first two service centres opened in Stoke and Birmingham in January 2019 and Justice Minister Chris Philp said they had are already made “a real difference” to the administration of justice, with more than 500,000 queries being answered in the past year alone.

He added: “Opening them for longer will ensure people receive the support they need without disrupting their busy lives. We want to make sure the court system provides the best service for those who use it.”

Service centres were introduced as part of HMCTS’s £1bn programme to reform courts and tribunals and took on some of the work formerly carried out by probate registries. HMCTS says the extended opening hours will now help it to gauge the demand for services outside normal working hours.

A third centre is due to open in Loughborough in the spring.