A law centre which opened its doors last year is among the first recipients of a global litigation funder’s £1m-a-year grant-giving scheme to help provide access to justice.

Suffolk Law Centre is one of four organisations to be awarded a grant by Therium Access, claimed to be an ‘industry first’ not-for-profit initiative set up by Therium founders and solicitors John Byrne and Neil Purslow.

The other recipients are the Personal Support Unit, which provides free, independent advice to people facing proceedings without legal representation, LawWorks, which connects volunteers with people needing legal advice, and Crosslight Advice, which provides specialist debt advice and support.

The four were revealed at an event held at Therium’s London office last night, attended by Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Charles Falconer QC), former Labour lord chancellor and chair of Therium Access’s advisory committee. 

Falconer said hearing about the four groups’ work ‘is like a microcosm of how bad things are’. He said £1bn had been taken out of legal aid ‘by Chris Grayling and his cohort’. He did not expect Therium to make up the gap - ‘but what they have done will make a real difference’, telling the four recipients to ‘spend it well and keep on coming back for more’.

Audrey Ludwig, Suffolk Law Centre’s director of legal services, said the money will help the centre, whose services include weekly advice clinics, a family support court helpdesk and discrimination casework, continue its work.

Eileen Pereira, the Personal Support Unit’s chief executive, said the grant will help to support its new delivery model, ‘enabling us to reach more people in more places’.

LawWorks’ chief executive, Martin Barnes, said the money will fund its project to support solicitors providing pro bono advice and representation for social security benefit tribunal appeals.

Bruce Connell, chief executive of Crosslight Advice, said the grant will fund the costs, for a year, of a site in a deprived area of West London, where volunteers can provide debt advice and support.

When Therium Access was announced in March, the litigation funder said the not-for-profit initiative was an industry first. Falconer told the event that he was ‘absolutely sure there will be others who follow’.

The deadline for the next round of applications is 30 August. The Gazette was told last night that 20% of the £1m will be kept for emergency cases.

Meanwhile in the US, litigation funder Validity Finance announced an Equal Access Fellowship. Two first-year law students from diverse backgrounds will be offered paid fellowships, where they will spend the summer at Validity’s New York office, and can split their time working for a pro bono organisation of their choice.