The east Anglian county of Suffolk is a known 'advice desert', where local legal assistance is hard to come by. This is about to change - for the better.
At the Law Centres Network's annual general meeting in Glasgow last Friday (10 November), members have approved the application of a new organisation to join them and become Suffolk Law Centre.
The new Law Centre is an initiative of an existing organisation, the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE), which is a long-time collaborator of Law Centres and LCN. Suffolk Law Centre will be a semi-autonomous part of ISCRE and offer new legal assistance services to disadvantaged people that are currently not available in this large county.
The Legal Education Foundation, a charitable funder, has supported ISCRE's preparation work for setting up the new Law Centre. The people of Suffolk have also chipped in, making private donations in support of a dedicated crowdfunding campaign.
Nimrod Ben-Cnaan, head of policy and profile at the Law Centres Network, said:
"This grassroots local initiative is a bold move to address pressing need for legal assistance in Suffolk. It shows how the Law Centre model, of local not-for-profit law practices, is still seen as an effective way of widening people's access to justice - even after seven years of austerity cuts. If you have no local Law Centre, follow Suffolk's lead, contact us and build up a new one."
The name 'Law Centre' denotes a specific model of service delivery, and is protected by a trade mark. In England and Wales, only law practices that are members of the Law Centres Network and abide by its rules can call themselves a Law Centre.