Bid to raise £40,000 to offer justice to everyone who needs it in Suffolk

Supporters of the Suffolk Law Centre campaign. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Supporters of the Suffolk Law Centre campaign. Picture: GREGG BROWN

A campaign is underway to raise money to open a law centre in our county to provide justice to everyone who needs it, regardless of background or wealth.

Supporters of the Suffolk Law Centre campaign. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Supporters of the Suffolk Law Centre campaign. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The drive is spearheaded by the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE) and backed by the Ipswich Star and East Anglian Daily Times.

The facility will be part of the national Law Centres Network and will provide free legal advice, casework and representation to people who cannot afford a solicitor.

The Legal Education Foundation has offered a £32,000 seed grant towards the project but a further £40,000 needs to be raised in order to bring the dream to reality.

Audrey Ludwig, director of legal services at ISCRE and key driver behind the project, said: “This is not about fat cat lawyers. We want to make a real difference in Suffolk. It’s a piece of the jigsaw that’s missing.”

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Suffolk is a “legal advice desert”, Mrs Ludwig said, because it has no current legal aid providers in housing or asylum law.

An estimated 600 people face eviction in Suffolk each year and there are also large migrant communities in towns like Ipswich.

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ISCRE already runs free law advice clinics where people are able to sit with a solicitor for half an hour. Last year, 420 people used this service.

Meanwhile, research from Citizens Advice shows GPs spend 19% of their time dealing with social issues that are not principally about health.

Mrs Ludwig said a law centre could help lift this load on frontline services and also tackle issues like homelessness and unemployment.

“In our experience if you can solve their legal problems, their mental wellbeing improves and their ability to work improves,” she said.

Sue Wardell, business development officer at ISCRE, said a law centre would offer the opportunity for people to get help early before problems escalate.

“People are dealing with the stress and that then impacts on other areas of their life,” she said. “Early legal advice can provide a huge domino effect. We will also be able to educate people about their rights.”

Although Suffolk Law Centre will be based at the ISCRE offices in Ipswich, it will be an autonomous charity and open to people across Suffolk.

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