More than £11.5m has been awarded to free legal advice agencies to help them weather the pandemic and cope with a ‘dramatic surge in demand’ from local communities.
The Community Justice Fund has paid out £11,536,308 in its first round of funding to 178 legal advice organisations across the UK. The fund is a joint initiative established during the pandemic between Advice UK, Law Centres Network, Citizens Advice, front line advice organisations, and a group of independent funders.
Some £5.4m was provided by the Ministry of Justice and the National Lottery Community Fund donated £5m.
Grants were awarded to organisations between May and September 2020, including law centres, local Citizens Advice, independent advice agencies and national charities. A second round of funding is planned.
The grant goes some way to plug the gap left by civil legal aid cuts imposed by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.
Ruth Daniel, chief executive of the Access to Justice Foundation, said: ‘The pandemic has shone a spotlight both on the importance of the sector and its fragility, and we are aware that this is only the beginning of support required for the challenging times ahead. We are currently forward-planning and actively fundraising for the second round of Community Justice Fund grants.
‘We’re very interested in hearing from outside parties looking to support our longer-term ambition to strengthen the sector and ensure it remains sustainable for those who need it both during the crisis and in the future.’