Free legal advice sector appeals for emergency funding
The Access to Justice Foundation (AJF) and London Legal Support Trust (LLST) have launched the Emergency Advice Appeal today.
The Access to Justice Foundation (AJF) and London Legal Support Trust (LLST) have launched the Emergency Advice Appeal today (Tuesday 7 April) to raise funds for social welfare law charities.
The two organisations say that the Covid-19 pandemic is pushing an already fragile free legal advice sector to breaking point and have established a match-funding appeal to help stimulate donations to the sector.
The emergency appeal aims to kick start a National Advice Fund to protect potentially half of front-line legal advice centres from permanent closure or, those that remain, from being forced to reduce staff and services.
The free legal services provide advice and support, helping provide access to justice to represent marginalised groups.
It is estimated that Law Centres alone save the government around £48m a year, helping people to avoid debt, keep their homes and their source of income, according to the AJF and LLST.
Services which have been identified as at risk include Law Centres, specialist independent agencies and some local Citizens Advice services.
AJF CEO Ruth Daniel (pictured) said: “The Covid-19 epidemic has put further stress on what is already a fragile sector. Following years of cuts, the sector is now close to breaking point. Many agencies will be forced to close over the next two to twelve months unless urgent action is taken by the wider social justice community.
“The National Advice Fund will protect the thousands of vulnerable people who rely on free legal advice services. Most of these people are already extremely vulnerable and are unemployed or on low pay, have disabilities or health conditions or are from excluded or impoverished communities. It is paramount that they have the legal support they need at this time of crisis.”
LLST CEO Nezahat Cihan added: “In London alone we are already seeing a rapid increase in unemployment and the associated problems of debt and mishandled benefits claims. As ever, this will be followed by homelessness and mental health problems. London legal advice agencies are needed now more than ever, but their resources are already stretched to the limit.”
The first £200,000 of donations to the Emergency Advice Appeal will be matched.