A survey by the London Voluntary Service Council (LVSC) has found that over half (51%) of voluntary and community organisations have had to close services over the last year and a similar number (54%) expected further closures over the next year. The Big Squeeze report flagged up various problems affecting the not-for-profit legal advice sector including the demise of Refugee Migrant Justice in 2010 which ‘left thousands of people needing to seek alternative assistance on partially progressed cases’. The largest remaining charity in that sector, the Immigration Advisory Service called in the administrators over the summer as did Law for All, the UK’s largest not-for-profit social welfare law firm.
The LVSC flagged up the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill which proposes the removal of most social welfare law categories from the legal aid scheme including welfare benefits, employment, debt, housing and immigration. The report said: ‘The Ministry of Justice estimate at least 75% of cuts will fall on voluntary providers, which could lead to the closure of a third of law centres. Despite 5,000 responses to the consultation, of which 90% “disagreed with the proposals”, the Government is pressing ahead.’ The Law Centres Federation has also announced that 18 of the 56 law centres were under risk of closure.