SBA, the charity for solicitors and their families, is launching a £1m personal hardship fund to aid practitioners in serious financial difficulty following the outbreak of Covid-19.
It comes as its barrister equivalent, the Barristers Benevolent Association (BBA), has launched an appeal for funds to support members of the Bar.
Open to anyone who is or has been on the roll of solicitors, the SBA fund is aimed at those most in need, meaning applicants cannot have accessible savings within their household of more than £2,500.
It is also expected that applicants will have taken advantage of available help, such as mortgage payment holidays, and will have started the process of applying for any applicable welfare benefits.
Once applications open, solicitors will be able to apply for support for reasons where, for example, they have been placed on statutory sick pay due to self-isolation, their employment status has been changed and they are not supported by the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme, or they are self-employed, unable to practise and ineligible for government help or cannot manage during the delay in the help reaching them.
SBA awarded nearly £1m to solicitors in need last year. Chief executive Nick Gallagher said: “The situation many currently find themselves in is unexpected, stressful and many will be feeling that there is no light at the end of the tunnel, so it’s imperative the charity provides as much help as possible for those in need.
“The creation of this extra fund, initially of £1m, could provide a financial cushion and peace of mind vital to so many at this time.”
The BBA appeal – launched with a “substantial donation” from the four Inns of Court – aims to help both barristers who have contracted the virus and are unable to support themselves and their families, as well as those members of the Bar – “particularly but not exclusively those who do publicly funded work” – who find themselves with serious financial problems.
It said: “The BBA is well aware of barristers in, or who expect to be shortly in, severe financial difficulties even if they are in the fortunate position of being a member of a set of chambers which is expected to continue; some chambers have already made the decision to close and others are considering their future.
“A number of chambers cannot pay their outgoings such as rent because their members cannot pay their chambers’ expenses.”
The BBA said government assistance will not be available to many barristers or will come too late. “We estimate that a substantial number of members of the Bar are likely to find themselves in severe financial difficulties.”