An emergency appeal has been launched today by The Access to Justice Foundation and others, to kick-start a new National Advice Fund to help support an ‘already fragile sector’ through the COVID-19 epidemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic is pushing an already fragile free legal advice sector to breaking point, grant-making charities supporting access to justice have warned.
The Access to Justice Foundation, the London Legal Support Trust and funding partners have come together to create an Emergency Advice Appeal, an emergency national appeal for legal advice.
It is appealing for donations to be made by the legal profession and others, with the first £200,000 of donations made to the Fund.
This means that any donation you make will be doubled and will enable more advice services to continue to help the people most in need.
Want to ensure your donation supports centre in Wales?
If you select ‘Wales’ in the preference of region form on the donation page, the money will be allocated to support free legal advice centres in Wales.
Please give generously
The Access to Justice Foundation has asked law firms in Wales to give generously; either a single gift or a regular donation to provide vital funding to keep advice services open, staffed, and able to reach the people in their communities that urgently need legal advice.
Ruth Daniel, CEO at the Access to Justice Foundation, said:
“The National Advice Fund will protect the thousands of vulnerable people who rely on free legal advice services.
“Most of these people are already extremely vulnerable and are unemployed or on low pay, have disabilities or health conditions or are from excluded or impoverished communities. It is paramount that they have the legal support they need at this time of crisis.”
The Emergency Advice Appeal was set up and is administered by The Access to Justice Foundation and the London Legal Support Trust.
The AtJF said that unless urgent action is taken, half of the front-line legal advice centres will permanently close and those that remain will be forced to reduce staff and services.
This is particularly an issue for Wales which has already seen pro bono clinics operationally ‘pause’ due to Covid-19 due to social distancing with many more threatened due to funding issues.
Many of these services advise, support and represent marginalised groups, ensuring any legal issues they face are solved quickly. The need for help with employment, debt and benefits is rising dramatically, and do not impact on other, more costly, parts of the justice system.
It is estimated that Law Centres alone save the UK Government around £48m a year, helping people to avoid debt, keep their homes and their source of income. Losing these and other vital advice services could place a further burden on the public purse.
Services that have been identified as at risk include Law Centres, specialist independent agencies and some local Citizens Advice services. Many of these organisations need funding to cover the basics to keep functioning and adapt to home working measures. Without a rapid cash injection, these services will cease to exist.
How to donate
Anyone wanting to make a donation should visit atjf.org.uk/emergencyappeal
Please give generously, either a single gift or a regular donation to provide vital funding to keep advice services open, staffed, and able to reach the people in their communities that urgently need legal advice.
If you have any questions, about giving or how you and your firm could support further, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.