Community Justice Fund

The Community Justice Fund (CJF) was a joint initiative focused on supporting the provision of specialist social welfare legal advice across the UK, it operated from 2020-2024. Its legacy is the Improving Lives Through Advice (ILTA) programme which is delivered by The Access to Justice Foundation.

About the Community Justice Fund

Originally set up in response to the Covid 19 pandemic in 2020, the Community Justice Fund raised £17.3m and made 420 grants to advice giving charities all across the UK.

The CJF was a collaborative funding initiative which provided a vehicle to bring together funders to support the sector in mitigating the impact of the pandemic and subsequent cost of living crisis.

Community Justice Fund partners

The Community Justice Fund was a joint initiative between the advice sector and a group of independent funders. It was hosted by The Access to Justice Foundation.

Evidence and learning

In addition to providing vital funding to support people, places, and communities most in need, the Community Justice Fund also produced a range of learning pieces on the impact of the cost of living crisis on both the organisations, and the people they were supporting.

The CJF demonstrated how funders can collaborate to design processes which support organisations applying for funding

This can be through:

  • A single portal for applications,
  • Sharing information on due diligence,
  • Applying a flexible funding approach to how we work with our grantees,
  • Ensuring that monitoring and evaluation requirements are proportionate and do not produce undue burden on a sector struggling with the impacts of increased demand and staffing challenges,
  • Involving organisations in designing processes, and
  • Committing to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in grant making.

49% of CJF wave one grantees were led by people with lived experience of the issues addressed by advice services.

The CJF demonstrated how funders can collaborate to design processes which support organisations applying for funding

The Cost of Living Survey (August 2022) demonstrated that:

  • Organisations were seeing an increase in demand of as much as 48%, and in some cases much more.
  • A quarter of organisations surveyed responded to the crisis by providing emergency vouchers (for food, fuel, energy etc.)
  • Over half of organisations surveyed were concerned about staff poverty
  • Over half of organisations surveyed were concerned about their ability to fund salary increases

The advice sector faces a £15-£20 million shortfall when trying to meet the immediate new demand which has been significantly exacerbated by the cost of living crisis

The funding provided by CJF enabled advice organisations to address wider societal issues:

  • Early access to legal support can prevent clients reaching crisis point and needing additional longer-term support i.e., Health and Social Care, Justice System, Homelessness Services
  • Access to advice can improve health and wellbeing, recognising the detrimental effects challenges such as debt, poverty and discrimination can have on a person’s health.
  • Enables citizens to challenge inequality and discrimination by improving legal capability and understanding of one’s rights.

The analysis of grant applications in October 2022 highlighted the common barriers people, places, and communities experience when trying to access justice:

  • Language Barriers
  • Requested services not being available.
  • Accessibility particularly for people with disabilities
  • Digital Exclusion
  • Cultural Barriers

This evidence base enables us to make the case for further investment

Our research shows that the not-for-profit specialist advice sector is facing a £17.5 million funding deficit in 2022-23. This will result in over 36,800 vulnerable people losing access to specialist advice, and as a consequence many of them will fall into crisis.

We found that there is a need for multi-year, flexible funding to:

  • Ensure the sustainability of the sector particularly in light of soaring costs and increasing demand.
  • Provide opportunities for development and growth to manage demand and the increasing complexity of client situations.
  • Cope with the challenges of recruiting and retaining staff whether through salary increases, development opportunities or support.
  • Support the development of partnerships and networks locally, regionally, and nationally.
  • Understand levels of need and how advice reaches marginalised communities or those most in need.
  • Continue to provide Funder Plus support to organisations.

92 individual managers and over 50 organisations were supported under the CJF Funder Plus programme. We can improve the sustainability of the sector though improved management and effective governance.

Funding enables organisations to address barriers to access to justice by:

  • Taking advice to the community and partnering with community organisations
  • Carrying out regular client and community profile analysis to understand who is not using legal services and target them.
  • Providing language translation and interpretation services e.g., through recruiting multilingual staff
  • Improving website navigation, content, and readability.

Funding advice makes savings to the public purse:

Organisations supported by the Community Justice Fund help 483,000 clients a year. The average net benefit to Treasury for each client helped is £8,000, while the average cost of advice provision is just £510 per person. This equates to a net benefit to the public purse of £4 billion per year.