A north London law centre is hoping a funding boost from City solicitors will help it avoid closure. The City of London Solicitors’ Company has pledged £30,000 over three years to help support a dedicated debt advice worker at Haringey Law Centre.
The funding is a shot in the arm for the centre, which faced closure when its £100,000-a-year local authority funding was withdrawn last spring.
Development officer Miranda Grell said: ‘The law centre is only still open because Victor Amadigwe, the manager and supervising solicitor, stayed on after the council funding was withdrawn, supported by some of the former staff, volunteers and trustees.
‘Victor is not receiving a salary. If he leaves and no other supervising solicitor is prepared to take over for no pay (at least for the foreseeable future) then the centre will close.’
Amadigwe said: ‘We are very grateful to the City of London Solicitors’ Company. In these difficult financial times, demand for specialist debt advice is increasing but unfortunately the number of organisations able to provide advice is decreasing.’
Grell said the law centre is still trying to provide an employment service delivered by a retired barrister, who comes into the centre once a fortnight, though she added that this was ‘not nearly enough time’ due to a high demand for employment advice.
The centre is also talking to international firm Debevoise & Plimpton about starting a welfare benefits service. As a qualified housing and immigration solicitor, Amadigwe still tries to provide help in these areas as much as he can. The law centre has a legal aid contract to provide asylum law matters but is trying to get a contract to provide housing advice as well.
Grell praised the support Haringey has received from the Law Centres Network. She said: ‘Following the closure of Barnet and Enfield law centres, [network] director Julie Bishop is determined that Haringey Law Centre stays open.’
Efforts include seconding Grell, who is a development officer at Hackney Community Law Centre, for two days a week. The network has also helped broker the delivery of new computers from magic circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and is ‘actively supporting’ the centre’s discussions with the Legal Aid Agency.