What are the aims of the fund?
We recognise that the impacts of COVID-19 are dramatic, widespread and being felt differently by people and organisations. As a group of organisations with a focus on legal needs and legal tools for change, we have a special interest in the social welfare legal advice sector. Within the nationwide network of services providing information and advice, we recognise particular pressures on those advice organisations operating at specialist level, including in relation to legal aid work, and the importance of this part of the sector being able to play its vital role now and in the future.
The Community Justice Fund is, therefore, focused on the needs of specialist social welfare legal advice organisations. We aim to help these organisations be effective and sustainable in the face of responding to COVID-19. We will provide flexible support so that organisations can respond to these challenges in ways that they feel best meets their needs but for which they do not currently have the funds. This could be about ‘keeping the doors open’, making the necessary shifts to home working, maintaining services, adapting services to reach people in new ways and at greater scale, supporting the wellbeing of staff, or a combination of these and other responses. We will also seek to capture lessons about the pressures organisations are under and how they are responding in order to inform future programmes and work with other funders and government.
What funding is available?
We will make grants in two waves.
Wave one is open now and will provide flexible grants to organisations that meet our eligibility criteria and priorities set out below. We understand that organisations have been responding quickly to the situation, so grants can be used towards the costs of your work from 1 April 2020.
Wave two will, subject to fundraising, open in autumn this year and provide flexible grants in support of our aims, responding to ongoing needs and building on the promising work arising out of wave one.
Grant size: The size of grant awarded will depend on a number of factors including the size of your organisation and the cost and scale of the support needed. We anticipate making grants in the range £25,000 - £75,000, but may be able to make larger grants in certain circumstances.
Demand is likely to outstrip the funds we have available, but we are actively fundraising. It may be that we cannot fully fund your organisation immediately, but we will review applications received if further funds become available.
Time frame: We envisage wave one running for six months. Applications will be considered on a weekly basis while funds are available. Decisions will be received within ten days of submitting an application.
Please note that if an existing funder has given you flexibility to vary the activities or purpose of a current grant to respond to current needs, you should use this flexibility first rather than request new funding from the Community Justice Fund.
Who can apply and how will applications be assessed and prioritised?
To be eligible for funding, an organisation must be:
- registered with the Charity Commission and working in the UK;
- able to demonstrate a track record of delivering legal advice in one or more of the following areas of law: asylum, community care, debt, disability, discrimination, education, employment, housing, immigration, mental health, public and administrative law and welfare benefits;
- able to demonstrate a track record in delivering advice at specialist level including carrying out end-to-end casework for clients, carrying out representation in a court or tribunal and/or holding legal aid contracts
We are not able to support generalist advice agencies, private sector legal aid practices or individuals.
For organisations that meet these eligibility criteria, applications will be assessed competitively and prioritised against the following areas and funds awarded accordingly:
- will put a flexible grant to good use in addressing the aims of the fund;
- plays a leadership or coordinating role in a particular area of law, or in supporting a beneficiary group with particular needs, such as victims of trafficking or disabled people;
- plays a leadership or coordinating role in a particular area of the UK, especially where specialist advice services are already scarce;
- makes strategic use of law so as to maximise the impact of day-to-day casework;
- works collaboratively as part of a wider network of organisations helping to meet legal needs;
- uses its influence in local and national policy circles;
- will capture and share insights and lessons that will help inform future work.
Applications will be assessed by representatives of the funders contributing to the Community Justice Fund and grants will be awarded through the Access to Justice Foundation. Law Centre applications will be assessed through Law Centres Network process.
How does this fund relate to other sources of COVID-19 support?
We are working closely with colleagues running the London Community Response Fund. If you are a London-based organisation, we would encourage you to apply to both funds. Your application will be shared and assessed by the most appropriate fund(s) to maximise the chances of funding.
Funding has already been awarded directly and separately to relevant sector umbrella bodies including AdviceUK, Law Centres Network and Legal Aid Practitioners Group to help them provide support to members. The information and lessons coming out of that work have fed into the development of the Community Justice Fund and will continue to do so.
We recognise that we will not be able to meet all the needs that organisations have and so will continue to prioritise work to harness other existing sources of support and to increase resources available.
In order to make the process quick and straightforward for applicants, the collaborating funders will be sharing due diligence. There is more information on this in the application form.
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