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Law For All collapse prompts access to justice fears

‘Far-reaching fallout’ for social welfare advice across country

1 August 2011

Law For All, the largest not-for-profit social welfare legal advice provider in England, has gone into administration, prompting further concerns over reduced access to justice for local communities.

“The fallout will be far reaching, not just for their own clients but probably, given the number of social welfare law consortia they were partners in, for all their consortium partners across the country,” said Patrick Torsney, founder of legal aid online forum iLegal.

“In a number of areas they were the key partner, providing, for example, the housing element of the three social welfare law category consortium,” Torsney added.

Bob Nightingale, chief executive of the London Legal Support Trust, voiced similar concerns, saying that Law For All’s collapse was symptomatic of the predicament in which the sector found itself, with more providers facing serious financial difficulties that could see half of them close in the near future.

“Increased bureaucracy is partly to blame for the difficulties providers face, with many of them just living hand to mouth,” he told Solicitors Journal. “And that’s even before the ten per cent cuts come in October; half of them will probably go after that.”

The charity’s old website has been taken down and replaced with an announcement confirming the appointment of admin-istrators – Anthony Batty & Company LLP.

“Recent years have proved extremely difficult as changes to the administration of publicly funded legal work have resulted in an unsustainable administrative burden, together with an increasingly complicated funding mechanism – not to mention reduced payments in real terms,” the notice says.

“These factors, combined with current plans by the government to cut legal aid payments by a further ten per cent this autumn, and to almost completely end legal aid in October 2012, have led the trustees, reluctantly, to conclude that there is no hope of a viable long-term future for Law For All.”

Law For All’s closure comes just over a year after that of the Refugee Migrant Justice (RMJ) and that of the Immigration Advisory Service (IAS) a fortnight ago.

The Legal Services Commission said it had not been aware that the trustees were considering placing the charity into administration until late on Thursday 28 July and regretted it had not been involved in discussions at an earlier stage.

“We have been working with Law for All regarding operational issues for several months to see if they could continue. They have clearly taken the view that they cannot, but did not advise us of this before going into administration,” a spokesperson said.

He added: “We are disappointed that Law for All did not inform us of their plans to enter administration, as we could have taken steps earlier to ensure their clients continue to get advice.”

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Legal Aid