The Yorkshire Legal Support Trust – how we can help
Access to legal advice makes an enormous difference to people’s lives, reducing poverty and suffering. Successive cuts in public funding for free legal help have had a huge impact on the most vulnerable in society and whilst we cannot seek to fill the gap left by these cuts, helping vulnerable people must be a priority.
The Access to Justice Foundation aims to help these people by raising funds and distributing them to organisations that support those who need legal help but cannot access legal aid or afford to pay.
As a lawyer you will know that access to justice is about people who need help to enforce their rights. From the case of a landlord who won’t fix the damp in a rental property, resulting in cockroaches in the children’s lunch boxes, to the mother, a victim of domestic violence, who was told by the local authority that her children could be put into foster care but that they would not house her because whilst her children and husband were British, she was not. Without the means to enforce the rights that people have, the rights themselves are meaningless. Free legal advice provision is vital. With access to even a one off piece of legal advice, many of these issues could be avoided.
The Access to Justice Foundation is working closely with the pro bono and free legal advice sector to help secure the free legal advice services that exist and to extend services to parts of the country where none exist so that vulnerable people can access the help they need in order to enforce their rights.
There are three main ways lawyers can help the Access to Justice Foundation:
- Unclaimed Client Accounts – It’s Not Just Peanuts
Unclaimed client account balances become an annoyance for firms as they must be analysed and explained to auditors each year. Law firms can donate these dormant client account monies to the Foundation. The Foundation is able to provide indemnities for these donated funds. Individually, dormant client accounts may only hold small amounts of money, but the money can really add up. In 2015 this project raised over £200,000.
2) Pro Bono Cost Orders
If a civil case is won with pro bono help, pro bono costs can be ordered by the court, or included in settlements. The costs cover any period when free representation was provided and the amount is based on what a paying client would recover. The costs must be paid to the ATJ Foundation (s194 of the Legal Services Act 2007). We then distribute the money to projects that give free legal help. Claiming pro bono costs is a straightforward process; for more information see our website.
3) Legal Support Trust Events
The third way you can support the Foundation is by taking part in one of our fundraising events for the Yorkshire Legal Support Trust, who support local advice services in the Yorkshire area. The York Legal Walk is taking place on 2nd May 2017, and is a great opportunity for colleagues to come together to raise money for free legal advice charities.
For more information about any of these projects and for contact details please see our website here.