Community legal services
Community legal services are a unique body of professional legal opinion and legal advice available within communities across the UK. Community legal services are available for anyone, but are primarily targeted at those on low income or in receipt of benefits.
There are various sources of community legal services. The Citizens Advice Bureau is a charity funded by donations from individuals and companies as well as by national funding from the Legal Services Commission and the National Lottery. The Community Legal Advice service is another government funded service offering free community legal services.
Community legal services provide legal advice in a wide range of common legal areas, including:
- Debt and financial problems
- Welfare benefit problems
- Tax credits
- Housing issues
- Employment law
- Education issues
- Family law including divorce
Community legal services are offered in a variety of ways, including via telephone lines and over the internet. There are also walk-in centres operated by the Citizens Advice Bureau nationally and Community Legal Advice in certain areas.
The purpose of community legal services is to provide proper, professional legal advice to all.
Access to justice is an important feature of government policy, and getting good legal advice is a right that is designed to be available to all, not just those who can afford it.
Formal, free legal advice is termed Legal Aid in the UK, and was originally created by the Legal Aid and Advice Act 1949. Today the UK government spends around £2bn on free legal advice.
In 2013 there were major changes to community legal services after the government committed to reducing the legal aid bill by some £350m per year.
For example, since 1 April 2013 community legal services have not been able to provide free advice on most divorce cases (except those where there is evidence of domestic abuse), nor most medical negligence cases (apart from those involving pregnancy, labour and the first eight weeks of life).
If you would like to obtain legal advice on community legal services, Contact Law can put you in touch with a local specialist solicitor free of charge. So, if you have any questions or would like our help in finding local solicitors please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.