Post by Colin Henderson on Jan 19, 2017 13:12:36 GMT
What other law firm would refuse to charge its impoverished clients and yet be able to represent them by the simple expedient of its staff agreeing to work indefinitely without pay?
A recent article in the Gazette opened a window on the self-sacrifice of staff, particularly the supervising solicitor and debt worker, at a North London Law Centre determined not to shut its door after losing all local authority funding nearly a year ago: "A London law centre is hoping a funding boost from City solicitors will help it avoid closure. The City of London Solicitors’ Company has pledged £30,000 over three years to help support a dedicated debt advice worker at Haringey Law Centre. The funding is a shot in the arm for the centre, which faced closure when its £100,000-a-year local authority funding was withdrawn last spring.
Development officer Miranda Grell said: ‘The law centre is only still open because Victor Amadigwe, the manager and supervising solicitor, stayed on after the council funding was withdrawn, supported by some of the former staff, volunteers and trustees. Victor is not receiving a salary. If he leaves and no other supervising solicitor is prepared to take over for no pay (at least for the foreseeable future) then the centre will close.’
Amadigwe said: ‘We are very grateful to the City of London Solicitors’ Company. In these difficult financial times, demand for specialist debt advice is increasing but unfortunately the number of organisations able to provide advice is decreasing.’
Grell said the law centre is still trying to provide an employment service delivered by a retired barrister, who comes into the centre once a fortnight, though she added that this was ‘not nearly enough time’ due to a high demand for employment advice."
The fortitude of the few remaining social welfare lawyers never ceases to amaze me, but I wonder how much debt advice can be delivered in London for just £10k a year. I do hope the Agency give Victor and co. the contracts they need, but more than that I hope they get other core funding as legal aid is not a sustainable source any longer. For a longer read from Miranda Grell here is a piece in Legal Voice: All law centres learn to live with financial uncertainty but Haringey Law Centre has faced more funding difficulties than most. Between May and December 2016, the centre in north London had no income whatsoever. Prior to May, it had received a local authority grant, but in spring last year, the law centre became one of many voluntary agencies in the north London borough of Haringey not to be recommissioned. The local Age UK closed as a result.
There is no doubt that Haringey Law Centre would have also closed were it not for the staggering commitment of some of its staff and volunteers. Despite no longer receiving a salary the likes of manager Victor, debt worker Kwaku and others, have stayed on to try to keep the service going. Haringey Law Centre is no longer able to open five days a week. However, from the constant stream of local people still turning up and non-stop referrals from Citizens Advice, its services are still clearly needed.