Brent Community Law Centre closes on eve of 50th anniversary despite still being financially solvent
- Credit: Archant
Brent’s only law centre offering residents free legal help with casework and representation has closed.
Brent Community Law Centre, in the High Road, closed in January and the building has been sold to Brent Council.
Partly funded by Brent Council, for many years most of the law centre's income was earned through legal aid, which has been cut as part of government austerity measures. Nimrod Ben-Cnaan, head of policy at the Law Centres Network, said: 'With these financial challenges and other considerations in mind, the law centre's trustees have decided that closing the service at this time was the best way forward, when it is still solvent and an orderly closure could be maintained to protect clients.'
He said Brent had a few local legal aid providers and a 'handful of local charities providing advice,' but not all of it involving legal casework and representation.
The centre was founded in 1971 and from 2016 to 2019 it was contracted to provide services by the Citizen's Advice Bureau which redirected council grants.
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Health activist Sarah Cox described the loss as 'tragic', adding: 'Over the years the Law Centre has helped so many tenants with housing problems, workers fight unfair dismissal and other injustices.
'These services are needed now more than ever. Local authority services are under extreme pressure, Universal Credit is causing massive problems especially for people with disabilities, but for anyone relying on benefits, Brent has a housing crisis possibly more serious than any other borough and the government's proposed immigration policy could lead to a minefield of problems while those of the Windrush generation and the unjust deportations have not been solved.'
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Cllr Ketan Sheth said: 'Very disappointing news that the Brent Community Law Centre has closed.
'It was much used and appreciated lifeline for Brent residents over the past decades and this is truly sad news.'
A council spokesperson said they had not yet decided what to do with the building but housing was a possibility, adding: 'We have been working with BCLC to identify alternative ways for it to deliver services to Brent residents and will continue to support them in whatever way we can.'