A law centre that opened last year in a county hit hard by legal aid reforms has helped more than 2,300 people, it has been revealed.
Suffolk Law Centre has published its first annual report, unveiled at its annual general meeting on Tuesday.
According to the report, the centre's legal advice clinic, which provides specialist, free legal advice in family, employment, housing, immigration, general law and person injury, was contacted by 1,399 people.
Another flagship service, Tackling Discrimination in the East, helped 235 people and negotiated nearly £115,000 in settlements. Successes include helping a wheelchair user persuade a bank to improve disabled access in its car park, and several pubs and shops to install entrance ramps.
Suffolk Family Law Support Service, which has a weekly helpdesk at Ipswich Magistrates' Court on family court day, helped 233 clients.
Hamil Clarke MBE, chair of the centre's trustees, said: 'In our first operational year, we have faced some immediate challenges. We bid for, and were granted, our first ever legal aid contract - housing. Whilst our core services were funded for 2018-19, we knew we would soon be reaching the end of our three-year grants for both TDE and LAC. Thankfully, Audrey and her team have worked tirelessly on all these areas and more.'
Three years ago Suffolk had no legal aid housing or immigration solicitors. Earlier this year, the Law Society identified Mid Suffolk as a local authority district with no legal aid housing provider.
Clarke said: 'Having been awarded a housing legal aid contract for Suffolk, we struggled to recruit a suitably qualified housing lawyer, but I am pleased to say that we expect to be in a position to take up the contract [this month].'
Not all the advice gaps in the region have been filled, Clarke said, 'but we are making really good progress towards meeting the legal advice needs of the most vulnerable'.
Meanwhile Ealing Law Centre, in London, celebrated its sixth anniversary last week. The centre has handled more than 4,300 cases since its inception, including helping people to stay in their homes, obtain the welfare benefits they are entitled to, and resolve their complex immigration problems.