As a result of reductions nationally, Bristol City Council has cut funding to advice agencies by a total of £160k in 2018, this follows a 12.2% reduction in 2017/18.
The bottom line is that the six agencies affected will help far fewer people. Most have already reduced opening hours, made redundancies, and cut outreach services. Agencies have already reported a drop in the number of clients they have been able to support and anticipate that ongoing cuts will affect thousands more.
Our work helps people most in need, who otherwise could not access free and independent advice to enable them to keep their home, job, independence, income. We often prevent people needing crisis support and are viewed as vital community services “without your support I don’t know what I would have done”. Areas covered include debt advice, benefit advice & appeals, housing, immigration and asylum, mental health, community care, employment and discrimination.
This Thursday, 17th May, staff and volunteers from advice agencies and law firms will be walking 10k around Bristol in a Legal Walk, organized by South West Legal Trust. Legal walks are a national initiative, and Ginette Corr, Director of Avon & Bristol Law Centre says “this year almost all our team are walking. We are walking against a background of increasing barriers to people being able to access justice - a fundamental foundation of any democratic society”.
Bristol is already a city of extreme inequality, something we know the Mayor is committed to addressing and is reflected in strategic plans and initiatives for the city. However the council’s own citizen service points have been reduced drastically to one central location, and within the context of universal credit, other public sector cuts, housing and immigration issues all advice agencies are experiencing ever increasing demand. We hope by coming together to raise awareness amongst the people of Bristol we can gather support to work towards a sustainable future to best serve Bristol and reduce disadvantage for its citizens.
If you would like to support the Legal Walk then please visit http://www.swlst.org.uk/bristol-legal-walk.html