The Law Centres Federation (LCF) is using part of a £500,000 National Lottery windfall to more than double its staff.
LCF director Jay Sharma says the six new policy co-ordinators and development workers will work with local backers and advice centres to encourage communities across the country to set up their own law centres. A communications manager charged with kitting out the existing 52 law centres with networked computers is already on board.
The LCF expansion project comes at a time when local authorities are threatening to effectively close down about 12 law centres by withdrawing funding. Sharma says: "For local authorities to cut off funding, despite the world recognising their value, is completely wrong... The benefit of a law centre greatly outweighs the money that goes into it."
If councils are worried about the quality or management structure of a centre, they should try to turn it around, not close it, he says.
The Legal Action Group has called for the imposition of a statutory duty on authorities to fund advice centres.