January 13, 2020
Last year also saw TLEF funding 13 new trainee lawyer posts at leading social justice organisations across the UK.
The Legal Education Foundation's 2019 annual review (published today) shows that the charity made 80 grants to the social justice legal sector last year, worth over £6m.
The total amount invested by TLEF since its launch in 2014 is now £26.5m. Over the same period, its innovative Justice First Fellowship scheme has created 60 trainee solicitor and barrister posts at law centres, legal charities and legal aid firms. A further 21 fellows are already in post or due to start their legal training in the next few weeks.
Other key TLEF initiatives last year include publication of its 'Digital Justice' report, written by director of research Dr Natalie Byrom, which provides a blueprint for ensuring the government's move to online courts delivers access to justice for all court users (p23).
The foundation's policy and public affairs work, led by Swee Leng Harris, focused on upholding rule of law principles in two key areas: preparations for Brexit; and the use of algorithms in government decision making (p21).
In his introduction to the 2019 annual review, TLEF chief executive Matthew Smerdon says:"We believe law should be readily available at the times and in the places where people need it. The sector remains significantly under-resourced and also faces a barrage of other challenges, ranging from increasing social needs, reform of the justice system on an unprecedented scale, and the legal uncertainty brought about by Brexit."
January 2020 also marks the launch of TLEF's new five-year strategy, which was developed in light of the foundation's experience at the heart of the social justice sector over the last seven years. The strategy will be delivered through three programmes: stronger sector; fairer systems; smarter justice.
Matthew Smerdon says:"Social justice legal organisations face a task of such scale and complexity that significant and sustained investment is needed to help them play their roles. Our new five-year strategy focuses sharply on justice and fairness, and we want to fund work where the impact will be lasting and widespread."
January 13, 2020
New funding strategy focuses on strengthening social justice sector and bolstering rule of law at a time of rapid change.
Today sees the launch of TLEF's first funding round of the new decade. Funds totalling around £2m are on offer, and grants will be awarded to successful applicants in June 2020. The deadline for a short, first-stage application is 27 February.
There will be a second grants round, offering a similar level of funding later in the year.
Funding applications will be assessed in line with the Foundation's new grants strategy, developed following seven years' of operating at the heart of the legal education and social justice sector, during which time it has awarded a total of £26.5m. (read about our 2019 Annual Review)
TLEF chief executive Matthew Smerdon says: 'Legal education is pivotal to ensuring law plays its role effectively: it is how people can learn about and access legal remedies, and how organisations improve the way they identify and resolve legal needs.'
The new funding strategy recognises that this sector has faced significant challenges over the last decade, through a combination of reduced resources, spiralling demand, and constant changes. Matthew says: 'Social justice legal organisations face a task of such scale and complexity that significant and sustained investment is needed to help them play their roles. Our new five-year strategy focuses sharply on justice and fairness, and we want to fund work where the impact will be lasting and widespread.'
TLEF's new strategy will be delivered through three programmes: stronger sector; fairer systems; smarter justice.
This strand will include grants for increasing the skills and expertise of existing social justice sector staff, including lawyers, case workers and managers; plus, the creation of new, flexible and accessible paths into a legal career. We want to support organisations to undertake policy and influencing work on the barriers to sustainable legal careers in this sector.
Grants under this strand are intended to help people understand the law by promoting transparency and accountability in both law-making and official decision-making. The programme will focus on two key areas: constitutional and legal implications of Brexit; and, government use of digital processes, mainly in relation to welfare benefits and immigration applications.
This programme reflects TLEF's belief that the way legal systems and services are designed and delivered should be based on firm evidence of what works. This strand includes supporting grantees to adopt a more evidence-based approach to their work; and the development and launch of a Justice Lab, as a centre of excellence and knowledge for legal research. TLEF is not currently inviting grant applications under its smarter justice programme but will be directly commissioning work and inviting organisations to bid.
Full details of TLEF's programmes are available on our Funding Programmes page.
Alongside the new funding strategy, TLEF is also streamlining its application and reporting processes, in response to feedback from grantees. Director of grants Rachael Takens-Milne says: 'We are very aware that many organisations are feeling at full stretch and we do not want to add to that pressure unnecessarily. With that in mind, we have looked at our processes and simplified them where we can.'
‘We want to award longer grants that focus on the difference that organisations want to make, instead of shorter term grants that emphasise outputs.'
All grantees will have a named grants manager at TLEF, who will be their main point of contact, and the foundation aims to foster open and frank communication with organisations. Rachael says: 'We understand that things don't always go according to plan, and we want to make it clear that we are happy to be flexible.'
She adds: 'Full details of the new grants programmes are set out on TLEF's website, but if organisations still have queries about whether we are likely to fund a particular project, we encourage them to contact us before making an application.