Legal Advice for Everyone; Advertising Feature: COMMUNITY LEGAL SERVICE
ANYONE with legal worries can find good quality help and advice, thanks to a Government initiative which has gone from strength to strength since it was launched two years ago this month.
The Community Legal Service (CLS) is part of a drive to open up legal services and make it easier for people to find the help they need if they have problems.
The CLS brings together into local networks the different agencies which can help. These include solicitors, The Citizens' Advice Bureau, law centres, local authority services and community centres.
They are all working together to make sure people don't have to struggle with legal worries by themselves, directing them to professional help or advice, some of which may be free.
The CLS networks are organised and supported by the Legal Services Commission (LSC), which has replaced the Legal Aid Board, and works with local authorities. Together they already spend more than pounds 1bn a year on civil legal services. The Government's Legal Aid - for people who cannot afford to pay legal costs for themselves - is provided through the CLS.
The Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, who launched the CLS two years ago this month, said: "If people have problems such as mounting debts, worries about welfare benefits or threats of eviction and need legal help or advice, they should not have to struggle to find it. I am committed to making it much easier for everyone to get good quality help when they need it.
"In two years, the CLS has made enormous progress in developing local networks which are helping more and more people to resolve disputes, enforce their rights or seek the protection of the courts. My target was that 95pc of people in England and Wales should live in areas covered by CLA Partnerships by April this year.
"Thanks to the enthusiastic support of more than 370 local authorities, we passed that target last autumn. …