An increase in the number of people looking for free guidance on family-related legal problems has led The University of Law in Chester and the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) to launch a free email advice service.
Last month Resolution, the country’s largest association of family law practitioners, warned that cuts to legal aid would mean that each year 200,000 people with family law problems would be unable to access legal advice and support.1
The new Family Email Advice Line (FEAL) will give members of the local community in the North West region help free-of-charge on all aspects of family law, including family breakdown, child custody and child contact.
The number of family law enquiries received by the pro bono Legal Advice Clinic at The University of Law, Chester is already growing and pro bono experts at the University expect this trend to continue.
Heather Eadsforth, University of Law Chester pro bono supervisor, said: “The recent legal aid cuts are likely to cause an increase in the number of people coming to us for family law advice. However this has been a growing issue even before the cuts took hold as the economic downturn has meant that fewer people are able to engage the services of solicitors.
“With our new FEAL service we aim to help meet this need by providing free and rapid advice to everybody regardless of financial circumstances.”
The University of Law in Chester and the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) launch the Family Email Advice Line (FEAL). Left to right: Paul Nicholls, Chief Executive of Cheshire West CAB, Sameer Khan, student FEAL volunteer and Heather Eadsforth, Pro Bono Supervisor at The University of Law, Chester.
Clients are first referred to FEAL by Cheshire West CAB and their cases are allocated to student volunteers from The University of Law, who are studying family law as part of their Legal Practice Course. Under the careful supervision of fully qualified solicitors, the students draft advice and send this to the clients via email.
Paul Nicholls, Chief Executive of Cheshire West CAB said: ““We are approached by people facing multiple problems as a result of relationship breakdown. The withdrawal of legal aid will make it impossible for most of these people to access the help they need. For that reason, we value highly this partnership with The University of Law and its staff and students. This pro bono service will play an important part in bridging the gap left by government cuts.”
FEAL is part of The University of Law’s award-winning pro bono work, which provides legal advice to members of the local community, who may otherwise be unable to afford it. It also enables students to gain practical experience of legal work, under the guidance of qualified solicitors.
The new scheme is in addition to The University of Law Chester’s pioneering Contact 4 Kids service, which helps family members struggling to maintain contact with children during family breakdowns by providing free information and legal advice and, when necessary, supporting people through the court process.
1 Cuts to legal aid leave 200,000 people at risk of marital purgatory (Resolution Press Release - April 2013)