First advice centres get franchises

Two London advice agencies are among the first wave of successful franchise applicants.

Hammersmith and Fulham Law Centre and the Mary Ward Legal and Financial Advice Centre have been awarded contracts for nine categories of work.

Sue Willman, law centre worker for Hammersmith and Fulham, says the agency put itself through the quality audit in order to protect its long term interests and the interests of clients. The “hidden agenda” is to restrict the outlets which provide legal aid, the centre claims.

Willman adds that Hammersmith and Fulham took part in the exercise in order to have some influence on the development of the franchise scheme.

“When it came to putting systems in place, in some senses we were in a better position than private practice firms because we are used to being accountable to local authorities and funding bodies,” she says.

Hammersmith and Fulham has been awarded a franchise for housing, immigration and employment work. The Mary Ward centre has won contracts for debt and employment.