University of Law targets family law problems

Students from the University of Law (UoL) are being enlisted to provide a free family law email advice service to people in the North West.

The new Family Email Advice Line (FEAL), led by the UoL in Chester and the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), will give members of the local community help free-of-charge on all aspects of family law, including family breakdown, child custody and child contact.

Family law practitioners have warned that cuts to legal aid will mean that each year 200,000 people with family law problems will be unable to access legal advice and support.

Supporting that view, Heather Eadsforth, UoL 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.”

Clients are first referred to FEAL by Cheshire West CAB and their cases are allocated to student volunteers from UoL, who are studying family law as part of their legal practice course and are supervised by qualified solicitors.

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.”

Last week, Charter Chambers, which this year took the decision to stop offering pupillages, has stated that the current legal aid cuts will combine with the introduction of best value tendering to “destroy the whole notion of pupillage” (3 May 2013).