Wednesday, 5 May 2010

CLACs - an update

CLACs - Community Legal Advice Centres - were dreamed up by the Legal Services Commission as a way of reducing the huge amounts spent on legal aid.
Local authorities which used to fund advice charities like CAB now had to put this service out to tender, seeking bids from partnerships between solicitors and advice organisations. When the second and third of these contracts, in Leicester and Hull, were won by A4e in partnership with Howells solicitors, it looked like the LSC was thinking that perhaps it wasn't such a good idea after all. A group called the Legal Action Group said that plans for more were to be delayed or abandoned. But the LSC was adamant that this was not the case. In a docment published last November it insisted that "although the LSC believes that joint commissioning with other funders is the best model for achieving truly integrated services, the LSC is only likely to commission further Community Legal Advice services, such as centres or networks, in a limited number of new areas between 2010 and 2013. That assumes the LSC is satisfied with the outcome of the 2010 tender."
There are now five CLACs (Derby and Portsmouth have been added, but A4e is not involved in either) as well as similar arrangements in the East Riding of Yorkshire and in West Sussex, where no information is available about which organisations are involved. Five more CLACs are planned, in Barking & Dagenham, Gloucestershire, Manchester, Sunderland and Wakefield,and the Gateshead CLAC is coming up for re-tendering. It will be interesting to see whether A4e, or any other private company, wants to get involved. Meanwhile, the A4e-run Hull CLAC reports advising more than 15,000 people in its 18 months of operation, and achieving positive outcomes for 75% of those people.

1 comment:

  1. Although the Legal Services Commission (LSC) professes a wish to work with not for profit providers in the area of social welfare law its policies (marketisation) and practices are inimical to small independent legal advice providers. Large commercial firms or the largest 'social enterprises' like A4E may very well be all that survives - very bad news for social justice.


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