The government knows pro bono is not a substitute for a properly functioning legal aid system, the new attorney general has told an event to mark the start of Pro Bono Week.
Victoria Prentis MP spoke at an event discussing the cost of living crisis shortly after attendees heard that Citizens Advice is helping two people every minute with crisis support such as food bank referrals and fuel vouchers.
Citizens Advice development manager James Sandbach said Citizens Advice has supported more people this year than 2019 and 2020 combined.
In 2021-22, 40 million people visited Citizens Advice’s website, 183,000 people were helped in person, nearly two million used Citizens Advice’s phone service, and 800,000 people were helped by email or webchat.
The biggest advice issue was consumer and energy, followed by benefits, debt, money and financial capability, housing and employment.
Prentis, a barrister and former member of the House of Commons justice select committee, told the event that the ‘sobering’ statistics ‘serve to remind us all why pro bono work is so important’.
She added: ‘We know in government that pro bono is there to complement, but is not a substitute for, a properly functioning legal aid system. But what is blindingly obvious from James Sandbach’s presentation is there are people who do find it difficult to advocate for themselves and it is important we are there to provide a safety net for those people. We recognise the value of pro bono work. It contributes to access to justice and helps make a fairer society for all of us.’
Prentis said she and the solicitor-general were committed to championing pro bono work and thanked lawyers for their voluntary work.
Visit the Pro Bono Week 2022 website for more details on this week’s events.
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