Every year The Access to Justice Foundation organises a series of Legal Walks with The Legal Support Trusts in various regions around the country (apart from the walks in London and the South East which are looked after by our good friends at the London Legal Support Trust).
From Cornwall to Glasgow, these walks are a fantastic opportunity to raise vital funds for fee legal advice services across the UK and for the legal profession to show support for a sector, which has been pushed to breaking point in recent years with increasing cuts to Legal Aid, coupled with the closure of legal advice centres around the UK.
This situation has been made significantly worse by the impact of COVID-19 which has lead to an increase in demand for the services of advice agencies, at critical time when they are faced with increasing costs caused by the movement to remote working and an uncertainty of income.
The Foundation has had to replace the fundraising Legal Walks that it is responsible for this year with a new virtual challenge: Go the Extra Mile for Justice. We hope those of you who would normally walk will join us to raise funds for the sector at this critical time, and if you have never done one of our walks before, now is the perfect time to make a difference.
Read on to see why we need to Go the Extra Mile for Justice and how you can get involved.
What is the current situation?
Access to justice is a fundamental human right, no matter who you are, or how much money you have. Everyone deserves access to justice.
Since the implementation of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO), the number of people eligible for legal aid in civil cases has dropped, which has had a huge impact on vulnerable people and the ability of those on low incomes to access justice.
Whilst there are free legal support services across the country that can help people with their legal needs for free or at a reduced cost, the Law Society has identified “legal aid deserts” in large regions of England and Wales, where there are few or no legal aid providers in certain areas of welfare advice. With the impact of coronavirus, more of these services are at risk of closure.
Without effective access to justice, vulnerable people and marginalised communities are unable to enforce their rights, which can lead to to issues of poverty, homelessness, ill health, unemployment and broken households, as well as many other social and personal difficulties.
The situation is critical, and we need to do something about it.
How do the Legal Walks help?
At last year’s regional Legal Walks, we raised £150,000 to be distributed to access to justice charities in the UK. This was an amazing achievement and we could not have done it without the passion and support of the legal profession.
Like many charities, due to COVID-19 and the social distancing measures the government implemented to keep us all safe, we have had to make the very sad decision to postpone our regional Legal Walks in 2020.
What are the effects of cancelling the walks?
For the Access to Justice Foundation, this is a loss of 1/3 of our fundraising income that could not have come at a more critical time. At present, free legal advice services are under unprecedented pressure, as demand for legal advice services increases to cater for people who have had their lives thrown in to turmoil due to the repercussions of this virus. For many of these services, client numbers are expected to increase beyond capacity as we see further lockdown restrictions eased and thousands of people needing support and advice in areas such as housing, debt, employment, family law and immigration.
How can you help?
We urgently need your help to support the UK’s not-for-profit legal advice services at this critical time.
This is why we have set up a new virtual fundraising challenge: Go the Extra Mile for Justice to try and raise £200,000 by the end of the year to support these vital services.
Our target is ambitious, we know this. But with your help we think we can smash it and make a real difference to vulnerable people and disadvantaged communities who need access to justice now more than ever.
The Go the Extra Mile for Justice challenge
We hope that as many of you as possible will help us raise vital funds for access to justice charities and free legal advice services across the UK by taking part in your own virtual fundraising challenge.
There are three great ways you can get involved:
Set up your own fundraising challenge by first choosing a method (run, walk, cycle, swim, row, climb – the options are endless!), then choose a distance (1 mile, 10, 100 – the choice is yours!), ask friends, family and colleagues to sponsor and then sign up!
Short on time? No problem. You can go a mile using any method you like (walk, swim, run etc.) and then donate £10 to Go the Extra Mile for Justice. Once you’ve gone your mile and given £10, you can nominate 10 friends to do the same. With one mile and one post, you’ll have helped to raise £100!
You can show your support for Go the Extra Mile for Justice by donating via the website. Any money you can give is much appreciated and makes a huge difference to the not-for-profit advice sector and those who rely on them.
For further details or to sign up, visit: atjf.org.uk/go-the-extra-mile-for-justice
We have every intention of bringing the Legal Walks back in 2021, but as with most events, this will be dependent on government guidelines and the situation next year. Your safety is our number one priority, so the Legal Walks will only go ahead if we are 100% confident that it is safe to do so.
Until then, we really hope that you will help us and Go the Extra Mile for Justice.
We very much appreciate your support in making sure the free legal advice services continue to provide help, support and access to justice for everyone who needs them.