JusticeWatch: Sharing Solutions

Sharing Solutions Conference
Sign up for a conference aimed at people working in the access to justice sector. It takes place on Tuesday May 21, 2019 at Allen & Overy’s London office. It is a collaboration between LegalVoice, the Advice Service Alliance, the LIP Support Strategy and the Access to Justice Foundation.

Attending the conference is free though a refundable £20 deposit fee will be taken (repaid on attendance of the conference). Travel grants will be available for charitable organisations based further than 50 miles from London.

Please see below for a draft timetable. More here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advice deserts
More than half local authorities in England and Wales have no publicly funded legal advice for housing, according to the Law Society.

According to the solicitors’ group its latest analysis reveals ‘catastrophic legal aid deserts’ and ‘the vanishing number of providers in each local authority area – 184 have no such service and a further 81 have just one provider’.

‘Whole counties are without any housing legal aid – Suffolk, for instance – while other areas have just one provider,’ reckons the Law Society. ‘In Cornwall, one law firm serves a population of over half a million spread over 1,300 square miles.’

‘People facing homelessness or trying to challenge a rogue landlord increasingly can’t get the expert legal advice they desperately need,’ commented Law Society president Christina Blacklaws. ‘More than 21 million people live in a local authority without a single housing legal aid service, leaving pensioners, families with young children, people with disabilities or on low incomes struggling to access the legal advice they are entitled to when they are at their most vulnerable.’

Meanwhile the Law Society’s Gazette reported that an ‘advice desert’ could emerge in South Wales when Swansea-based TA Law closes in June. Helen Williams, the firm’s MD and 2005 legal aid lawyer of the year winner in social and welfare law, told the Gazette that the firm was ‘devastated’. ‘Pre-LASPO, the firm had around 100 staff,’ the Gazette reported. ‘When LASPO came in, the firm had to restructure, relocate and make redundancies, going down to about 30 staff.’

‘As social welfare lawyers we have seen the human cost. Families in crisis, about to be made homeless – nine times out of 10 they have got other debts they’re trying to manage. If you’re able to go in early and avoid possession proceedings, and try to manage their debt, get some disability benefit paid (quite often, for instance, they go back to work), it avoids a downward spiral.’
Helen Williams, TA Law

Last chance to nominate your legal aid lawyer of the year

Hackney Community Law Centre to fight cut
Meanwhile, The Times reported that Hackney Community Law Centre is to challenge the decision of a Labour-run council to cut its funding by 45 per cent. ‘From May, Hackney borough council will reduce the annual advice funding it gives to the 40-year-old Hackney Community Law Centre (HCLC) from about £200,000 to £115,000. The cut will force it to make one of its 13 staff redundant, Ian Rathbone, the centre’s chairman, told The Times.’

 

 

 

About Jon Robins

Jon is a journalist and has written about the law and justice for the national papers and specialist press for more than 15 years. Jon is a visiting journalism lecturer at Winchester University, a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln and patron of Hackney Community Law Centre. He has won the Bar Council’s legal reporter of the year award twice (2015 and 2005). Jon is editor and co-founder of LegalVoice

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