HIV legal advice centre closes after its funding is slashed

(Elizabeth Davidson ) A London law centre offering free legal advice to people with HIV and Aids has had to close after its health authority funding was halved.

Two of the four solicitors at the Immunity Legal Centre (ILC) at King’s Cross and more than £100,000 in funds have been transferred to the Terrence Higgins Trust legal services group at Gray’s Inn Road after London health authorities halved funding to both bodies in order to give priority to combination therapy drugs.

Former ILC management committee chair Christine Kings said ILC and Terrence Higgins staff took a strategic decision to merge the centres in order to make best use of remaining funds.

Kings said she was sad to see the end of the centre but stressed it was the best decision. “The ILC could have limped on for another two years but without the same quality of service,” she said.

She praised staff who she said had been “absolutely brilliant” in the way they dealt with the situation after hearing about the cuts last autumn.

All four solicitors could have transferred but former ILC head of legal services Isabel Manley, a former Law Centres Federation vice-chair, begins as solicitor at Hammersmith & Fulham Law Centre next month and solicitor Emma Cohen has accepted a post at City firm Bates Wells & Braithwaite.

Solicitors Tracey-Ann Trotman and Jo Salsbury have joined the Terrence Higgins team of four employed solicitors and 65 volunteers.

Both centres have been operating for 11 years, advising many on incapacity benefit who are not eligible for legal aid. It advised more than 3,000 people last year.

Terrence Higgins Trust legal services group manager Alice Holt said clients preferred to come to them instead of more general advice centres because of concerns over confidentiality and the need to speak to advisers familiar with their illness.