A pro bono charity has hit the jackpot after securing National Lottery funding to improve access to justice in Wales.
LawWorks has been given a £422,760 grant from the National Lottery Community Fund to start a new phase of its LawWorks Cymru work. The charity wants to expand the network of independent clinics, particularly in healthcare and community mental health settings.
Over the past three years, the Wales team has been involved in setting up eight clinics, in Cardiff, Newport, Penarth, Pontarddulais and Swansea. These include Cardiff Lawyers Care, Women Connect First Legal Advice Clinic and Swansea Law Clinic.
LawWorks connects volunteer lawyers with people needing legal advice who are ineligible for legal aid and cannot afford to pay, and with not-for-profit organisations to support their communities. This is the third time that the charity has received lottery funding.
Martin Barnes, chief executive of LawWorks, said: ‘LawWorks currently supports a network of 40 independent pro bono clinics in Wales, where volunteers provide free legal advice on issues such as housing, welfare benefits, employment and family law. The grant will enable LawWorks to continue to support and develop existing and new clinics, enabling some of the most vulnerable in the community to access vital legal advice. This need has become even greater during the current Covid-19 pandemic.’
Jeremy Miles MS, counsel general for Wales, said: ‘Lawyers, voluntary organisations and charities have long been a source of free legal advice and assistance to people who are not eligible for legal aid or who cannot pay for the advice that they need. The Commission on Justice in Wales, in its review of Wales’s justice system, recognised that without this safety net there is a risk that people are denied proper access to justice and that the rule of law is undermined.
‘I am delighted that the National Lottery Community Fund is supporting LawWorks with grant funding over five years. This will make a significant contribution to the valuable work of LawWorks in Wales, supporting its network of voluntary lawyers and improving access to advice services for many vulnerable people.’
Wales has been hit hard by government cuts to legal aid, evidenced last year when Swansea-based TA Law, which helped 90,000 vulnerable people over a decade with welfare benefit, was forced to close its doors for good. Justice campaigners revealed in June that they were looking at the possibility of opening a law centre in north Wales.