UK: Legal help website faces uncertain future after funding ends

The Law Society Gazette

The charity behind an award-winning legal help website has launched an urgent appeal for funds following the sudden end of government funding after more than a decade.

Advicenow, run by Law For Life, provides practical information on the law and people’s rights. It won a Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year award in the access to justice through IT category in 2017.

The website received 1,250,000 visits and more than 1.9 million page views last year. A third of users identified as disabled and 51% were from low-income households.

For over a decade Law for Life has been receiving direct and indirect core funding from the Ministry of Justice to maintain the website. However, the charity recently discovered that its application for an Improving Outcomes Through Legal Support grant to keep the website going and maintain all existing resources was unsuccessful.

The grant programme is administered on behalf of the ministry by the Access to Justice Foundation.

Law for Life chief executive Dr Lisa Wintersteiger said: ‘For over a decade since the legal aid cuts, the government has been funding us and sending people to Advicenow as the primary digital portal for litigants in person in England and Wales. At a time of unprecedented challenge for the many people who just cannot afford a lawyer, the decision to turn the lights off within one month is an abject failure of custodianship.’

Chief executive Clare Carter told the Gazette that the foundation had £10m to allocate in the last funding round. The foundation received 221 applications asking for a total of £35m. Grants were awarded to 59 applicants.

Carter said: ‘For many years now there has been a large and growing gap between the financial needs of the frontline advice sector and the amount of money which we and other grant-making organisations in the sector have available to allocate. The cost-of-living crisis has exacerbated this problem.

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