Fundraising for Norfolk charity that ensures access to justice

A charity which offers free, independent and confidential legal advice, is working to ensure access to justice and equality across Norfolk.

The Norfolk Community Law Service (NCLS) has a team of volunteer local solicitors giving free advice on a range of subjects.

And this month two of the solicitors who work with the service have been testing themselves to the limit in a different way as they look to raise money for the charity.

The NCLS offers a range of free services including debt advice, domestic abuse advice and support, and advice and representation for migrant workers on their employment and benefit rights. It also has a free legal advice rota which covers general legal matters, family and employment issues.

Ros Brown, general manager, said: 'We are just trying to ensure people who need legal advice can exercise their rights even if they can't afford to pay. We particularly target clients who are not eligible for legal aid but still can't afford to pay.'

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Ms Brown said that one of its most successful schemes is mediating between Norwich City Council and tenants in arrears.

Every Tuesday and Friday, the office, at Boardman House, in Redwell Street, Norwich, is opened up from noon as two qualified lawyers are on hand to give advice.

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On Tuesday one gives general advice while the other provides specialist advice on family legal matters, while on Friday there is specialist advice on employment legal matters together with the general advice.

It was founded in 1985 as the Norwich and District Legal Services Committee to meet the legal needs of people across the region, with a committee of unpaid volunteers working to meet the gaps in legal service provision.

Today NCLS employs 10 members of staff and has between 70 and 80 volunteers, comprising both lawyers and students, and serves the whole county.

Ms Brown said that since the recession hit they had noticed a particular increase in demand for the employment, family and general advice services, but added there would be a substantial increase in demand if proposals to change the legal aid system were brought in.

The charity works closely with a wide range of other charities, advice services and councils, and heads the Norfolk Community Advice Network. It receives grants from groups including councils as well as the Big Lottery Fund, however donations make a big difference to their work and Ms Brown said she was particularly grateful to all those who work hard to raise more money and the charity's profile.

Two solicitors who already volunteer for the charity have been giving up more of their time as they take part in separate tests of endurance to help raise money and awareness.

Sally Davenport, of law firm Working Law Solicitors, has already taken part in the Great North Run, while Victoria McNeill, of Norfolk Public Law at Norfolk County Council, is walking the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Ms Davenport has been working as an advisory service solicitor two days a week for the last five years, and has just helped to launch a pilot scheme in Cromer.

She is also on the committee of the Supporters of Norfolk Community Law Service that was set up in 2010 to raise funds and awareness for the charity.

On Saturday, Ms McNeill, of Rushall, near Harleston, started walking the Western Isles, of Scotland. She will be doing this until tomorrow as she raises money and celebrates her 50th birthday.

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