A north London law centre has received a much needed fundraising boost from City law firms. The City of London Solicitors’ Company has pledged to commit £10,000 a year for the next three years to support Haringey Law Centre’s ‘Dealing with Debt’ project.
As Haringey’s new development officer Miranda Grell explains in an article for LegalVoice, the law centre managed to keep its doors open despite having no income for six months last year and with staff including the manager Victor Amadigwe not being paid a salary after its local authority grant was cut.
‘In Haringey, there was a perception within the local authority that its work could just as easily be done by Citizens Advice,’ writes Grell. ‘Those who understand what law centres actually do know that’s just not true.’
‘Law centres are providers of specialist legal advice and their lawyers have rights of audience in the county courts, all the way up to the UK Supreme Court. Citizens Advice is a wonderful generalist advice service, but it cannot satisfy the growing local and national demand for free and independent specialist legal advice. Working with my new Haringey colleagues, that’s the message I hope to begin getting across to political and strategic decision-makers in the borough.’
Last week Nick Hughes of the City of London Solicitors’ Company’s charities committee and members visited the law centre to launch the scheme which will fund a debt advice worker to deal with four to five debt cases each month.
‘The Dealing with Debt project at Haringey Law Centre is the first legal project to receive a three-year funding commitment from the City of London Solicitors’ Company charitable fund,’ commented Hughes. ‘It is a sad truth that dealing with the complexities of debt can become too much, and increasingly it is only through services like these that people can get the professional help they need. We are proud to be able to support Haringey Law Centre with its vital work in its local community.’
The charitable fund was established in 1965 and has a capital base in excess of £500,000. It makes awards each year of over £40,000 for charitable purposes with either a legal or geographical connection with the City and neighbouring areas. It also runs an educational trust which supports a new social project the City Solicitors Horizons together with the Legal Education Foundation and 18 City law firms. City Solicitors Horizons is an initiative aimed at improving access to the legal profession for university students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
‘In these difficult financial times, demand for specialist debt advice is increasing but unfortunately the number of organisations able to provide advice is decreasing,’ said Victor Amadigwe. ‘We are very grateful to the City of London Solicitors’ Company for awarding this grant to Haringey Law Centre. The grant awarded will enable Haringey Law Centre to continue assisting local residents struggling to cope with serious priority and non-priority debts. We thank everyone at The City of London Solicitors’ Company for supporting and championing access to justice in Haringey.’
The law centre is also talking to Debevoise and Plimpton LLP about support for clients with welfare benefits appeals. It has also received computers from Freshfield through a Law Centre Network scheme. The City firm upgrades its computers every two years and then distributes the old computers available to law centres.
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