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The fight for survival fifty years on: a brief synopsis on Law centres in the UK

The fight for survival fifty years on: a brief synopsis on Law centres in the UK

Riaz, Ayesha (2022) The fight for survival fifty years on: a brief synopsis on Law centres in the UK. The Cambridge Journal of Law, Politics and Art, 2. pp. 233-241. ISSN 2754-0294 (Online)

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Law centres are providers of legal aid and have been in existence since the early 1970s. Their main role has been to assist those that reside within their local communities. They specialise predominantly in social welfare or ‘poverty’ law as their legal representatives possess detailed knowledge about the problems their local residents face. This article is divided into timeframes and will consider the development of law centres in the UK from 1945 to 2021. Between 1945 and 1970, the Labour Party under Clement Atlee passed the Legal Aid and Advice Act 1949, which enabled legal aid to be funded by the state. The first law centre was created in 1970. Between 1970 and 1986, there was an exponential growth in law centres in the UK; however, the Law Society (of England and Wales) and the State were not supportive of them. Between 1986 and 1997, this article considers the further funding cuts that were made to law centres by the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher and John Major. Between 1997 and 2010, the New Labour Party (under Tony Blair) was slightly flexible as they attempted to introduce the Community Legal Partnership Scheme (CLPS), which lacked a clear policy and coordinated funding method, so it failed. Between 2010 and 2021, the Conservative Government decided to further cut funding for law centres, but they have survived through mobilising their efforts in seeking funding from other organisations. The article submits that it was not just the State but also the Law Society’s lack of support for law centres that thwarted their development. This lack of continuity in their development can be traced back to the specific antagonistic relationships between the State, the Law Society on the one hand and the law centres on the other. The Law Society was more concerned about protecting the profession for financial reasons than the public throughout this movement. Secondly, there has never been a clear policy on law centres which has been exacerbated by the lack of a coordinated method of funding throughout the history of this movement. Having a policy would have aided their development as there would have been a clearer funding mechanism in place from the very beginning, which could have also led to uniformity in their operations. It is remarkable how far law centres have developed in terms of the services they offer to the most marginalised section of society despite the insurmountable challenges they have faced over the years due to a lack of funding, policy, and their antagonistic relationship with the State.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Law Centres; UK
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
K Law > K Law (General)
K Law > KD England and Wales
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences > School of Law & Criminology (LAC)
Related URLs:
Last Modified: 19 May 2023 11:53

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