Toynbee Hall celebrates 125 years of the Free Legal Advice Centre (FLAC) and launches Christmas appeal to sustain critical service
Toynbee Hall proudly celebrates the remarkable milestone of 125 years of its Free Legal Advice Centre (FLAC), an institution that has been at the forefront of providing access to justice since its inception as ‘the Poor Man’s Lawyer’ in 1898.
As the longest continuously running free legal advice service anywhere in the world, FLAC has offered vital legal support to people across London who would otherwise be unable to afford it for 125 years. What began as a single individual solicitor giving legal advice gratis on employment, housing and immigration, became an institution which has helped thousands of Londoners with their legal issues.
To commemorate 125 years, Toynbee Hall held an event on Thursday 14th December to thank staff, volunteers, supporters and partners past and present. We were joined by friends and supporters to mark the occasion and thank them for their contribution. 2023 Christmas Appeal is aimed at ensuring the continued operation of FLAC for the foreseeable future.
Free legal advice services, such as FLAC, remain as crucial today as they were 125 years ago. The landscape of legal aid has changed, leaving many in our community grappling with employment, family, housing, and debt issues. With only 1 in 4 people currently eligible for legal aid, Toynbee Hall’s free legal advice service is a lifeline to those in need of legal support.
The demand for free legal and debt advice is soaring, with the number of people accessing advice services in the UK increasing by 800,000 since 2021, and 30% higher demand in London alone. The pandemic and the escalating cost of living have exacerbated insecurities in East End communities. Tower Hamlets, where Toynbee Hall is situated, faces housing challenges, with high costs, limited affordable housing, and a majority of residents in rented accommodation exposed to high rents, rogue landlords, and forced evictions. Despite at least one working adult in their homes, 56% of children in the area grow up in poverty. Toynbee Hall’s advice services act as a lifeline to the community, supporting Londoners to access £23,000,000 they were not aware they were entitled to, just last year.
The success of FLAC throughout its history is attributed to the dedication of those who generously volunteer their time and expertise. In the past year alone, volunteers assisted 510 individuals with housing, employment, immigration, consumer, and family legal advice. Facing new legal challenges arising from the cost-of-living crisis, 33% of those who sought help from FLAC did so due to housing issues.
This Christmas, Toynbee Hall are raising support to ensure the continuation of FLAC and other vital advice and support services at Toynbee Hall. Any contributions will make a meaningful impact, helping the organisation tackle social injustices and provide essential assistance to those who need it the most.