Law centres and legal advice agencies are being invited to apply for up to £100,000 in grants from a £5m pot to support social welfare specialists through the Covid-19 pandemic.

Six grant-giving foundations have teamed up to create a Community Justice Fund – the Access to Justice Foundation, Therium Access, Legal Education Foundation, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, AB Charitable Trust and Indigo Trust.

The fund was first mentioned by the Treasury when it announced a £5.4m coronavirus support package for the legal advice sector. Of that cash, £2.4m went to the fund and £3m went to the Law Centres Network.

A ‘streamlined’ application process has been set up and the first lot of grants will be paid within two weeks. Grant applications can be backdated to 1 April to cover urgent, unplanned spending.

The fund is being hosted by the Access to Justice Foundation. The panels deciding the applications will be made up of the funders, who will make recommendations to the foundation’s board. The Law Centres Network has aligned the £3m it received from the Treasury with the Community Justice Fund. It will have its own assessment panel but there will be a single portal for applying.

Julie Bishop, director of Law Centres Network, said: ‘We welcome the speed with which funders have come together and understood the desperate situation we are in. Law centres and other legal charities live on a knife edge and it takes very little to knock them over. The funders have spoken to us to understand what's needed and when. They are trusting the organisations to understand their own needs and how best this funding can help. That is very welcome.’

The Community Justice Fund comprises £2.4m from the Treasury, £100,000 from the Access to Justice Foundation, £100,000 from Therium Access, £300,00 from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, £100,000 from the Indigo Trust, £150,000 from the AB Charitable Trust, and £250,000 from the Legal Education Foundation. There are also contributions of £75,000 from the Law Society, £50,000 from magic circle firm Linklaters, £25,000 from Allen & Overy, another magic circle firm, and £25,000 from the London Legal Support Trust.