The Solicitors’ Charity has said that, for the first time ever, most of its new cases involve ethnic minority solicitors.
In a report on the £1m given to solicitors in need last year, the charity also said that, for the first time in five years, more men requested help than women.
The Solicitors’ Charity, the operating name of the Solicitors Benevolent Association, said that a third of the grants awarded in 2021 were one-off awards for items like wheelchairs, boilers, cookers and carpets.
A further 342 solicitors were helped to access mental wellbeing advice, 43 debt and financial advice and 17 career counselling.
Two-thirds (67%) of all cases, existing and new, involved White solicitors, but only 46% of new cases.
Asian solicitors accounted for 27% of new cases and Black solicitors 23%, with the remaining 4% coming from unspecified minority backgrounds. Most of those helped by the charity (57%) worked for small law firms or sole practices.
A majority of new requests (54%) came from male solicitors. The age profile of those receiving help last year was younger than in the previous year, with seven in ten new applicants under 60.
The charity said this could be “a knock-on effect of more people hearing about us during the pandemic”.
A large majority of those asking for help had health problems. A significant minority (16%) had a chronic or serious health condition or a disability, 28% had “multiple health conditions and/or disabilities” while 27% were experiencing mental health issues.
Nick Gallagher, chief executive of The Solicitors’ Charity, said it collaborated with LawCare last year on mental health and wellbeing, and with career transition specialists Renovo on career counselling.
“As we move forward out of the pandemic, we take heart that we have been there for solicitors in unprecedented difficult situations.
“We recognise that the recent events will continue to impact our profession for a long time, but we are prepared for the future.”
Total spending last year came to over £1.02m, compared to £1.12m in 2020 during the worst of the pandemic and £943,300 in 2019.
Mr Gallagher added: “We support solicitors in more ways than just providing financial support.”
The charity is also looking at introducing a mentoring scheme as part of the practical support it could offer the profession to improve mental wellbeing.
Writing following a meeting of the charity’s reference panel – a sounding board made up of solicitors from across the profession – Mr Gallagher said there was interest in it helping firms to offer employee assistance programmes.
“It is clear that money is a big factor in providing [such programmes] and The Solicitors’ Charity is keen to explore ways that it can help more firms to offer this in the future.
“Whether that be part funding these programmes, or campaigning to get firms to group together and offer a wider support service that could be collectively funded, it’s definitely something that we will be exploring.”
The group highlighted too the need to equip trainee solicitors with tools on how to cope with stress and other issues.
Mr Gallagher said: “We are currently scoping out a new volunteering programme, which will have a mentoring scheme as part of it.”