Ministry of Justice responds to increase in demand for free legal advice
The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has recently published a new report explaining how government funding has been directed to maintaining and expanding access to free legal advice. Through the Covid-19 Specialist Advice Services Scheme (CSASS), the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport together with the MOJ awarded £5.4 million to the Law Centres Network and Community Justice Fund (CJF) in 2020/2021.
The funding is aimed at supporting not-for-profit specialist legal advice organisations and Law Centres to remain operational and adapt their services, through investing in technology, to deliver support remotely and hire more staff to keep up with demand. The MOJ has committed renewed ‘seed investment’ into the CJF over the financial year 2021/22.
The report’s key findings are:
- 72 organisations received funding and remained operational despite the challenges created by the pandemic.
- The average size of the grants made was £71,000. The largest expenditure was on wages for staff where 71 per cent of funds were spent, indicating that the grants were primarily used by grantees to remain operational.
- Grantees reported more activity than in the corresponding year prior to the pandemic – most had seen an increase in free legal advice support offered to clients in areas of social welfare (namely housing, employment, and debt).
- Grantees embraced remote means of communication allowing them to continue to deliver services despite restrictions – telephone was used most frequently when restrictions were in place, however, online means including email and chat functions were also adopted.
- Organisations are anticipating using a blended approach to delivery going forward – this will be dictated by client need.
A copy of the report can be found here
At Barker Gotelee, our family department has seen a steady rise in the need of people seeking legal advice from an early outset on how best to tackle the issues they are facing on a relationship breakdown or with their ex-partner concerning their children. In limited circumstances we can offer a free consultation but where this is not possible, our consultation is a fixed price and there is no obligation to instruct us any further at the end.
Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors in Ipswich.