On Monday 27 March, the Community Justice Fund publishes its third annual review of the financial health of the free legal advice sector in order to give a broad indication of the issues faced by advice services at the frontline. The report makes clear that Community Justice Fund grantee charities face greater financial challenges this year than at the outbreak of Covid in March 2020.
There are indications that the funding gap faced by the advice sector has doubled from £15m to £30m in the last year. This figure is based on the ability to sustain existing services, and does not meet the needs of new and increased demand due to the cost of living crisis, which has had a greater impact on the availability of frontline advice than the pandemic.
Nearly 43,000 people who are most impacted by the cost of living crisis will potentially go without the advice and assistance they need. In large part, this is due to the fact that organisations are seeing an increase in demand by as much as 48% and in some cases much more. To meet immediate new demand, the sector needs at least an additional £15-£20 million.
In addition, existing issues around workforce recruitment, retention, and staff wellbeing are being exacerbated by both an increase in demand and a further squeeze on resources. The most effective way to address these issues would be longer-term investment in the core costs of running advice organisations.
The Access to Justice Foundation is committed to providing unrestricted grants wherever possible to support organisations and their workforces. The Foundation promotes the development of multi-year grants to frontline advice agencies to enable them to continue to run effective services.