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Financial problems force major legal charity to close doors

Shut: Charity forced to close down

A major London-based legal charity has shut its doors due to a worsening financial position, not long after unveiling ambitions for greater national coverage and digital services.

Advising Communities had a turnover of £1.3m according to its most recent accounts to 31 March 2018, and employed 31 staff, with a further 85 volunteers.

In a notice on the charity’s website, the trustees said they were advised that the financial position meant it needed to “cease trading in order to limit further liabilities” and appoint an insolvency practitioner.

“We are also very sorry that we will be unable to continue our work with residents of Southwark, Lambeth, Lewisham, Wandsworth and across all London boroughs and that we have been unable to give more notice to our clients and stakeholders.”

Starting life in 1997 at Blackfriars Advice Centre, it changed first to Advising London and then, two years ago, to Advising Communities.

Having initially focused on south-east London, it provided a pan-London advice service for individuals, and have launched a legal and technical advice and support service for organisations across the UK.

Its funding came primarily from the London Borough of Southwark, the Money Advice Service and the Big Lottery Fund.

In 2017/18, Advising Communities resolved 7,000 legal issues and carried out 15,000 pieces of work, and also trained 2,543 people. In addition, 850 organisations across England and Wales were signed up to receive information and support from us, with 200 subscribing to the charity’s paid-for advice and information service.

The annual report painted a rosy picture. It said: “We have managed to slowly grow the organisation despite a very challenging funding environment where many other organisations have reduced large amounts of services and have ever reducing income.

“With our buildings now fit for a purpose and meeting the high standards that our clients deserve, we are in an excellent position to grow our tradable income.

“The initial outlay for the building was high but having a high-quality space for 25 years provides us with an excellent opportunity to grow our client base and develop opportunities for the future.”

It envisaged earnt income countering expected falling levels of local authority income, and introducing a range of new digital services to would extend its national reach.

The charity was looking at digital triage, peer-to-peer learning, webinars and e learning training modules.