Bristol Law Centre:
The Bristol Law Centre is a charity which provides pro bono legal advice and represents clients in court. Their specialism is social welfare law and they currently help over 2,400 people access free legal aid. They are committed to providing fair and equal access to justice to everyone in the community. The law centre is also committed to providing legal education and training and work collaboratively with partners to push for changes to public policy that promote equality and justice.
Since 2010, Bristol Law Centre have made huge progress promoting access to justice and providing legal aid within the community. Each year their ambit increases, and their influence is expanding perpetually, thus fulfilling their aim to educate more people about their legal rights. In a survey conducted by BLC 89% of clients felt their legal issue was completely resolved and 96% of clients would recommend BLC to others. Between 2018 and 2019 BLC achieved a 94% success at PIP and ESA appeals, consequently gaining £1.4m for clients. BLC also launched new services such as their EDIC & Immigration drop in in order to combat wider social injustices and reach the wider community.
Their dedication to pursuing equal access to justice in society reflects our core principles as a society and we are hugely appreciative of their continuing commitment to our society. Furthermore, BLC started a campaign to increase access to justice through people using Legal Expenses Insurance (LEI). This campaign was hugely successful and fulfilled the aim of ensuring access to justice in the community. In 2019 Bristol Law Centre published a major report, ‘Balancing the Advice Needs of Bristol 2019’. The report illustrates the need for social welfare legal advice in Bristol, “looking at: the key needs of Bristol’s citizens; the needs of communities; the impact of legislative change in particular the withdrawal of legal aid in many areas of law; legislative change and the impact on Bristol and response by advice agencies; opportunities and developments as they relate to technological solutions and how Bristol’s’ advice agencies respond to the key strategies of the city”.
Their ambit covers legal aid in a variety of forms: legal representation in court, free legal advice, legal aid education and the law centre hosts a number of student volunteers aiming to provide them with a well-rounded legal education and use their pro-bono expertise to support clients. The aid they provide must not be understated, their zealous attitude towards combatting social injustice drives the Bristol Law Centre to champion legal rights.
Diversity and Inclusion:
At the Pro Bono Society, we wanted to choose an organisation which echoed our core values. BLC are committed to promoting diversity and inclusion through their provision of free legal aid in the community. BLC’s aim is to reduce the disparity of accessibly legal aid apparent in the UK’s hierarchical system by providing free legal aid to those who require it. Subsequently less people are marginalised from society due to their inability to access legal aid.
A shared principle of both PBS and the Bristol Law Centre is that everyone should be able to access legal aid irrespective of their, financial position, age, gender, race, or physical capability. By removing barriers to legal aid society will become more inclusive and equal. BLC also works collaboratively with the university of Bristol to promote diversity within legal education which subsequently influences the diversity within the legal system.
No area of the law should be defined by age, gender, race, physical ability, or financial prosperity. The law should be widely accessible and promote equal opportunities for all. Together with the BLC, our society aims to champion legal rights and have a tangible impact on society. We are honoured to work with the BLC, and we hope our society will embrace BLC’S dedication to championing pro bono issues and relentless spirit concerning the fight for universal access to justice.
Morgan Buckley, General Secretary 2020-21