Advice providers in Brixton are working with Lambeth council to pick up the pieces after the announcement yesterday (16 July) that the Lambeth Law Centre is to close with immediate effect.
Brixton Advice Centre (BAC) on Railton Road is expected to try to help maintain continuity, but workload pressures are bound to increase.
The London legal advice charity Advising Communities went into liquidation with the loss of more than 20 jobs earlier this year.
“It’s really tough for everyone, and the impact on BAC as well as the few other advice providers left in Lambeth, will be significant,” said BAC director Patrick Torsney.
“This is a real wake-up call to local and national government about the pressures the advice sector is under right now.”
Half of all law and legal advice centres in England and Wales have closed in the past six years, according figures released by the ministry of justice to Labour party justice spokesman Richard Burgon.
Government funding for law centres has fallen from £12.1 million to £7.1 million over the past seven years.
The trustees of Lambeth Law Centre, that was based in Mowll Street off the Brixton Road, said it had faced financial pressures caused by legal aid cuts and increased operating costs.
Support from charitable had helped the centre to address these pressures, but the funding shortfall, and issues with VAT calculations had put the law centre in an impossible financial position.
“Having failed to secure emergency funding to keep the law centre going, we were left with no choice but to decide on closure,” the trustees said.
The centre team is working to notify all current clients and are to transfer cases to other advisers in the borough or nearby.
Transfers of staff to other advisers like BAC which is based on Railton Rad are being discussed.
In December 2017 the Lambeth Law Centre’s Public Interest Law Unit won an important case against the Home Office when a judicial review ruled that it had been acting unlawfully to deport rough sleepers from the European Union.
Lambeth Law Centre began life as North Lambeth Law Centre in 1981 and changed its name after the closure of other law centres in the borough in 1997. It registered as a charity in 1998.
It employed 18 people and provided free advice, casework and representation in areas including housing, immigration, money, welfare rights, employment and discrimination.
It was managed by a board of directors, elected from individuals and representatives of Lambeth organisations.