The Emergency Advice Appeal, a joint initiative by the Access to Justice Foundation and the London Legal Support Trust, to help the legal advice sector during the COVID-19 pandemic has now raised over £442,665, hitting its fundraising target of £400,000.

The funds raised via the Emergency Advice Appeal, launched on 7th April 2020, will make a huge difference to specialist legal advice centres, providing immediate financial support to prevent widespread closures, keeping them viable and able to protect the most vulnerable members of society during this time of national crisis.

The appeal was established to fundraise for the Community Justice Fund (CJF), a joint initiative between the Access to Justice Foundation and five other leading social justice organisations. The CJF was founded to provide immediate funding and other support to specialist social welfare law advice agencies dealing with the immediate impact of the pandemic, as well providing longer term support as a catalyst for the sector’s wider renewal.

The Emergency Advice Appeal received fantastic support across the wider social justice community, with individual supporters and legal organisations coming together to fundraise, through virtual walks, runs and quizzes set up to raise money for the appeal. Generous donations were given by the Law Society, Linklaters, Allen and Overy, Leigh Day, Hogan Lovells, CILEx, Brabners, Womble Bond Dickinson and Mills and Reeve. The first £200,000 raised was matched by the Access to Justice Foundation and others in the funding community.

Over £600,000 from the Community Justice Fund has already been awarded to applicants, with individual grants of between £30,000 and £100,000 given to specialist legal advice charities across the UK. Grantees include: Child Poverty Action Group, Disability Law Service, Brighton Housing Trust, Just for Kids Law, Welsh Housing Aid, the Mary Ward Legal Centre, Norfolk Community Law Centre and JustRight Scotland.

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) works to prevent and end child poverty – for good. 4.2 million children, nearly one in three, are currently living in poverty, with this figure expected to rise to 5.2 million by 2022. Following the impact of COVID-19 and subsequent lockdown, the vital services offered by CPAG were put at risk. The £75,000 grant awarded to the charity from the Community Justice Fund will ensure that the organisation can continue to: support advisers digitally as well as on the phone and email; bring test cases so that families get the support they need from our social security system, and provide staff with equipment needed to work remotely to keep their services running for the advice sector which relies on them to help families and children in poverty.

Ruth Daniel, CEO of The Access to Justice Foundation, said:

“We’re absolutely thrilled with the response to the Emergency Advice Appeal and would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has given their time and support to help us reach our target. In these unprecedented times, access to free legal advice is more essential than ever, so we’re really grateful for the generosity we have seen from our supporters in this time of national emergency. Whilst the appeal has played an essential role in providing emergency funding to legal advice organisations impacted by COVID-19, we know that our work is far from over. We’re keen to continue our fundraising initiatives to support the Community Justice Fund and help the legal advice service sector through the longer term impacts of this pandemic.”

Nezahat Cihan, CEO of the London Legal Support Trust, said:

“In these very difficult times, who would understand the need for legal advice better than the legal community itself. We are delighted to see such a response to our appeal. Every penny that is donated will go to help homeless people, women who desperately need to flee from domestic violence, elderly that need care, people with no recourse to public funds and many others that are desperately in need of legal advice. We thank all those who have contributed so far and urge others to support this vital appeal with any amount that they can.”

Simon Davis, President of the Law Society, said:

“Access to Justice underpins the Rule of Law. Legal rights and obligations are mere dust if there are no means to uphold them. I am delighted that the Law Society and so many others have helped the Foundation reach this fundraising milestone.”

The Community Justice Fund is a joint initiative between Advice UK, Law Centres Network and Citizens Advice and a group of independent funders (the AB Charitable Trust, Access to Justice Foundation, Indigo Trust, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, The Legal Education Foundation and Therium Access). It is hosted by The Access to Justice Foundation.

For further information on the Community Justice Fund, to donate, or apply for a grant, visit www.communityjusticefund.org.uk.