Law centres are to receive a grant of £3m from the government as part of its emergency support for charities during the coronavirus crisis.
The Law Centres Network (LCN) will distribute the grant to its local law centres across England and Wales.
The LCN said: “This will allow them to continue defending the rights of over 200,000 people a year, who live in communities badly affected by COVID-19, to protect their homes, access financial support and benefits, get vital health and care services, keep their jobs, get paid what they have earnt and challenge discrimination.”
It added that the funding would replace legal aid income lost due to coronavirus-related restrictions, such as the closure of half the courts in the country and the suspension of housing possession proceedings.
The LCN added that law centres had remained open and continued to serve their clients and communities, while adapting face-to-face services to social distancing. “However, as small charities, the loss of income due to the pandemic was threatening their work and existence, on the eve of the movement’s 50th anniversary.”
Justice Minister Alex Chalk said: “Law centres and charities in the advice sector play a vital role in helping people access justice and resolve their legal problems. That is why they should be supported to continue to operate safely and effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Helen Rogers, chair of trustees of the Law Centres Network, said: “We thank the government for this vital support, which will allow law centres to continue to defend people’s homes, lives and livelihoods. The pandemic’s uneven impact is a grim reminder of the deep inequality in our society that affects every aspect of life. This support recognises the key role of legal assistance in reducing inequality and bringing justice for all.”