Seven legal advice services in England and Wales have received support in the latest round of grants from the Access to Justice Foundation, which has been boosted by a major pledge from a well-known London law firm.
The foundation raised money through sponsored activities – particularly the annual legal walks – pro bono costs orders, unclaimed client accounts, and donations from law firms.
London litigation powerhouse Stewarts Law has pledged to give £250,000 a year for five years to support the foundation, on top of the £1m it has already donated in the previous four years.
The most recent recipients were:
- Citizens Advice Barnet, which will use the grant to boost staff capacity and specialist training;
- The You Trust, an holistic charity which will develop specialist debt, housing and welfare benefits advice in Portsmouth and also work with local domestic abuse services;
- Suffolk Law Centre, which will put the funding towards developing a mobile specialist triage advice service to reach rural communities not currently able to access legal advices services;
- Citizens Advice Devon, a consortium of seven local Citizens Advice covering the county which wants to create a new legal advice project worker post, and strengthen their internal capacity to deliver specialist legal advice. This includes developing next steps for establishing a new law centre and a team of legal apprentices, and developing a training programme;
- Citizens Advice Central Dorset and Dorset Race Equality Council, a partnership that aims to improve the availability of specialist discrimination advice and employment advice across the county, including improving access into rural communities through video conferencing and the development of pro bono initiatives; and
- Speakeasy Law Centre, based in Cardiff, which will use the grant for senior staff costs in order to develop services across Wales, particularly in the advice deserts of mid, north and west Wales. This will be achieved through looking at the role technology could play and establishing and developing relationships with other providers across Wales (including non-advice organisations) to help understand what people need; and
- Citizens Advice Mid-North Yorkshire, whose funding will cover a new role of specialist case worker and also allow it to deliver support from local offices and outreach locations.
There have also been grants for Just Right Scotland – which wants to help vulnerable EU citizens obtain evidence and make applications under the EU Settlement Scheme – Fife Law Centre, to provide legal advice and representation for criminal injuries compensation claims, and the Scottish Child Law Centre, which needs to upgrade its technology.
Writing last week in The Times, former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, who chairs the foundation’s board, countered arguments that supporting free legal advice let the government off the hook from funding services.
He argued that the legal sector should actually increase its “culture of philanthropy and pro bono”, as this would in turn increase “public awareness about the lack of services and the impact that this has on lives”.