Birmingham Community Law Centre celebrated the end of its first year in business with an open day.
Coventry Law Centre established the new law centre service for Birmingham towards the end of 2013 in the wake of the closure of Birmingham’s only remaining law centre.
The new centre is based in the Bangladesh Centre in Sparkbrook and its open house event was jointly hosted by Professor Harinder Bahra, chair of Coventry Law Centre and Tony Huq MBE, president of the Bangladesh Centre.
Professor Bahra said: ‘It was inconceivable that a city the size of Birmingham could lose its law centre - denying some of its most vulnerable citizens access to advice and justice - so we are very pleased to be able to celebrate 12 months of this vital new service.’
Shadow Attorney General and Labour Lords spokesman on justice matters, Lord Willy Bach, who is patron of Coventry Law Centre, attended the event.
He said “With the Government making such stringent cuts to legal aid, law centres across the UK face the very real danger of closure.
“These are not fat cat lawyers, they are people dedicated to providing access to justice for the poorest and most vulnerable in our communities.”
Law centres are not-for-profit legal practices providing free legal advice and representation to vulnerable and disadvantaged people who cannot afford a lawyer.
Members of the Law Centres Network (LCN), they are solicitor-led organisations that use the law to fight social exclusion in communities.
Local MP for Sparkbrook and Small Heath, Roger Godsiff, and Sparkbrook Councillor, Victoria Quinn also attended, along with Lord Phil Hunt of Kings Heath.
Mr Godsiff said: “The cuts to legal aid have made it much more difficult for my most vulnerable constituents to access justice.
“It is outrageous that justice is becoming a commodity that is available only to the rich in the UK. This will end up costing our society much more in the long term.
“I am very pleased to be able to refer constituents in need of legal advice to Birmingham Community Law Centre when they cannot afford to pay the considerable costs of engaging a lawyer.
“I congratulate the centre on its one-year anniversary, and I hope that it will be here for many more years as, sadly, its services are sorely needed.’
Councillor Victoria Quinn (Lab, Sparkbrook) added: “The people of Sparkbrook live in one of the most deprived wards in Birmingham. This service is helping to meet the needs of this community as well as being able to provide specialist legal advice services across the city.”
Representatives of some of the 15 local and national charitable trusts whose funding helped launch the law centre were also at the event.
In the past 12 months the new centre has helped 568 people, representing individuals at 15 tribunal hearings and three Judicial Review applications.