Legal surgeries supporting community after Commissioner grant12 February, 2020
An East Lancashire based project is helping provide legal advice and support to those who otherwise would not be able to access it, after a grant from the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Community Action Fund.
Delivered by Lancashire Collaborative Ministry in partnership with Lancaster University and the Open University, the sessions are initially scheduled to run for a three-month trial period and will engage with dozens of people from the local area.
The areas of law focused on during the sessions include housing, debt, consumer advice and family.
Held at Rawtenstall Unitarian Church, the sessions have already engaged with dozens of people in the local area. Those who have received help have either contacted the team themselves or been referred by partners including Rossendale Borough Council and the local MP’s office.
Following the pilots, if these are successful the project will be established indefinitely. The group is also linking in with the recently launched social action network Our Lancashire.
Visiting one of the sessions, the Commissioner heard from the law students providing advice with support from their tutors on how they are able to assist members of the public and why the service is having such a large benefit for the community.
“Cuts to legal aid and an inability for many to seek advice when they need it has left a real gap for many people in our neighbourhoods. The uptake for this service goes to show the need is there and it’s great that my Community Action Fund has been able to support its development.
“Investing funds recovered from Proceeds of Crime in this way, removing funds from those who seek to blight our communities and using it to strengthen them, sends a clear signal about the type of place that Lancashire is and recognises the positive role that the various community organisations up and down the county play.
“It helps build confident communities and supports vulnerable people who may otherwise not be able to seek help on the issues that are affecting them, which are key priorities in my Police and Crime Plan.”
Marta Pacini from the Lancashire Collaborative Ministry who is heavily involved in the project said:
“We are very grateful to the Open University and Lancaster University Law staff and students for enabling us to provide a much needed free service to our local community.
“The Police and Crime Commissioner’s grant was instrumental in helping us purchase the appropriate equipment to create a professional service, where clients’ privacy and comfort can be ensured.
“We are very proud of the project’s reception and impact so far, and we are already investigating more avenues for working with Lancashire Police through the support of our local Our Lancashire officers.”