Advising in Austerity

Project Details

Description

This project examines the role the advice sector plays in developing public understanding of law and legality, as well as the crisis facing advice services on a daily basis, an issue that requires a radical rethinking of how services are delivered.

Advice services provide a pivotal point at which citizens can engage law in everyday life; our research shows the importance of the encounter between client and adviser in identifying possibilities for translating problems into possible legal actions. Threats to advice services provision will have a critical impact on already precarious communities, undercutting the ability of people to stand up for their rights, and deal with their everyday problems.

The Local Citizens Advice (LCA) is, for many, the only lifeline in dealing with a myriad of everyday problems and crises - from losing a job, mounting debts, threats of eviction or the demands of caring for elderly relatives or sick children. Yet these LCA’s are themselves faced with a crisis in demand spurred by the roll out of Universal Credit, benefit sanctions and appeals, increasingly precarious employment contracts and immigration uncertainties. Dealing with ever more complex client problems is coupled with a resourcing crisis as local authorities, who provide ‘core funding’ for most LCA’s, make ever deeper budget cuts. Many LCA’s have also been affected by the loss of legal aid funds, since much of the work they do in employment, housing and social security law has been removed from scope for legal aid eligibility since 2013.

For LCA’s, relationships with university law clinics and law centres provide enormous potential for counteracting some of the threats to service provision. Such relationships have been developing over recent years in an ad-hoc way, as one-to-one responses to local demands. There is however much to be done to unlock the potential of closer collaboration, in particular by developing understanding of the barriers to successful engagement of students in advice services, and sharing knowledge of practice to help practitioners overcome these barriers. The ‘Advising in Austerity’ project draws together models of practice, identifying the possibilities for closer collaboration between legal education and advice sector organisations.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date1/05/171/03/18

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