Legal charity LawWorks has announced it will expand its services in Wales having received a grant of £422,760 from the National Lottery Community Fund.
It will expand its network of independent clinics, which provide free legal advice, with a focus on increasing healthcare and community mental health clinics across the country.
In the last three years, eight new clinics have been established, the number of volunteers in clinics has doubled, and the number of clients receiving free legal advice and support from clinics in LawWorks’ network in Wales reached a total of over 7,000, the charity said.
Martin Barnes, Chief Executive of LawWorks, said: “We are absolutely delighted to receive a five-year grant from The National Lottery Community Fund for LawWorks Cymru. LawWorks currently supports a network of 40 independent pro bono clinics in Wales, where volunteers provide free legal advice on issues such as housing, welfare benefits, employment and family law. The grant will enable LawWorks to continue to support and develop existing and new clinics, enabling some of the most vulnerable in the community to access vital legal advice. This need has become even greater during the current COVID-19 pandemic.”
Jeremy Miles MS, Counsel General and Minister for European Transition, said: “Lawyers, voluntary organisations and charities have long been a source of free legal advice and assistance to people who are not eligible for legal aid or who cannot pay for the advice that they need. The Commission on Justice in Wales, in its review of Wales’s justice system, recognised that without this safety net there is a risk that people are denied proper access to justice and that the Rule of Law is undermined.
“I am delighted that NLCF is supporting LawWorks with grant funding over five years. This will make a significant contribution to the valuable work of LawWorks in Wales, supporting its network of voluntary lawyers and improving access to advice services for many vulnerable people.”
The Commission on Justice in Wales 2019 report called for justice to be “determined and delivered in Wales” through a separate Welsh jurisdiction. As part of its analysis, the report suggested that cuts in legal aid in 2012 reduced access to justice in Wales.
The report suggested that access to legal advice in Wales was lacking, highlighting the existence of ‘advice deserts’ in rural and post-industrial areas. It also claimed that a lack of funding also posed a serious risk to the sustainability of legal practice in the country.