The COVID-19 pandemic has uncovered what the free legal advice and professional legal services sector have feared and campaigned about, for many years.
Due to the lack of adequate investment and insufficient funding, there is an extremely fragile and inconsistent level of free legal advice provision in the UK, with frontline charities forced to deal with increasing calls for immediate assistance, against a backdrop of ever shrinking resources.
Advice deserts are an ever-increasing concern and people are falling through the cracks, losing their homes, health, families and livelihoods, often simply due to their being unable to access the help they need early enough.
Recent announcements in relation to rising energy bills and interest rates herald an ever worsening situation, with many of those facing the heating or eating dilemma already pushed out of seeking paid for legal advice.
With your help, the Access to Justice Foundation will raise and distribute the essential funding required to pay for the provision of a sustainable range of free legal advice services across the whole of the UK.
Helping the disadvantaged gain access to the legal support they need, at the earliest possible stage, is proven to prevent the development and/or escalation of social welfare issues, such as homelessness, unemployment, family breakdown, debt and poverty.
As one advice recipient put it: “Please keep doing what you are doing, the advice I received quite literally saved my life. I couldn’t fight the system on my own because I was so ill”. With your support we will not only keep doing what we are doing but increase the support available to meet growing demand.
Your law firm can help the Access to Justice Foundation (the Foundation) provide essential funds to support the front-line specialist free legal advice agencies working to save the homes, families, livelihoods, jobs and improve the long-term health and wellbeing of the most vulnerable people in your community.
How can you help?
We have one simple request, when reviewing client account balance ledgers and residual client balances are found which, despite your reasonable efforts, cannot be returned to a client, we ask you to choose to donate them to the Foundation.
Donations of this kind are permitted by SRA Account Rules, clearing these balances to prevent holding balances for longer than necessary meets compliance requirements.
Importantly, an SRA approved indemnity is available in respect of donations, which means your donation is risk free. We will put the funds to active use and, should a client later be traced, the indemnified donations can be returned to your firm.
We invited donor firms to share some of the reasons they chose to support to the Foundation:
- You make sure that grants are distributed where needed most, and there’s a lot of need.
- You do some amazing work, hopefully more law firms will pull together & donate.
- Pooling our balances with others’ helps more people and has greater impact.
- It is simple to do, it helps with SRA compliance and is completely risk free.
- We want to live our organisation’s ethos, actions speak louder.
- Your online tools and resources make it simple and straightforward to do*.
- If the legal sector doesn’t help support people gain access to justice, who will?
*For further guidance, or to find out how we can help you start your donor journey, click here.
Don’t let your Residual Client Balances go to waste
People without financial means, deserve to have their voices heard, to exercise their rights, to challenge discrimination and to hold decision-makers accountable, with your help more of them will have the opportunity to do so.
Your risk-free donations help to ensure that people in your community, who are facing the most challenging of times, are given access to free specialist legal advice and guidance at the time that they need it most.
Get in touch
For more information on the Access to Justice Foundation, and how your firm can get involved, click here.