Georgia Nickson (left), Pro Bono Associate at Herbert Smith Freehills, and Matt Dronfield (right), Director of Advice Services at Toynbee Hall, celebrate the launch of the new partnership. Image courtesy of Toynbee Hall.
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Toynbee Hall announces the expansion of its Free Legal Advice Centre through a partnership with a City law firm 

Toynbee Hall will offer four additional in-person appointments each week amid the housing crisis and cuts to legal aid. 

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), a City law firm, will provide Toynbee Hall with funding and volunteers, allowing Toynbee’s Free Legal Advice Centre to expand its housing clinic. Toynbee Hall’s housing clinic provides crucial support to private rental and social tenants facing housing issues.

HSF’s provision of funding and pro bono legal experts means Toynbee Hall can offer four additional in-person appointments each week. 

Recent high-profile cases in Tower Hamlets demonstrate the importance of free housing law advice. In November 2023, the landlords of a dangerously overcrowded flat in Shadwell pleaded guilty to nine charges following the death of Mizanur Rahman, 41, in a fire. 

The Free Legal Advice Centre offers people the opportunity to speak to a legal expert face-to-face for free. Experts give legal advice there and then during an appointment. Users also receive a follow-up letter to confirm and expand on the advice they have been given. 

The housing clinic offers advice to those facing section 21 evictions, disputes over the return of a deposit and a range of other issues, such as overcrowding. Anyone can access this service, not just those from East London. However, Toynbee prioritises low-income applicants. 

There is significant demand for free legal housing advice in the East End. In 2023, Toynbee Hall helped 13,000 people, the majority of whom were from East London, access legal and financial support. A third of these cases were related to housing problems. 

At the same time, legal aid funding has dropped by 35% since 2013. Only 1 in 4 people are now eligible for free legal support from the Government. Toynbee Hall and HSF hope that this new partnership will help more people access justice. 

Matt Dronfield, Director of Advice Services at Toynbee Hall, said, ‘Toynbee Hall has a storied history of fighting for justice and providing indispensable support to those in need. This initiative will focus on aiding individuals with private or social housing issues, a need that is more pressing than ever.’

Georgia Nickson, Pro Bono Associate at HSF, said, ‘We are delighted to be collaborating with Toynbee Hall to provide much-needed free housing law advice.’

‘As London’s housing crisis shows no signs of abating, we are committed to providing impactful pro bono and to facilitate access to justice, in order to provide our local community with the legal support they deserve.’

Toynbee Hall’s Free Legal Advice Centre celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2023. Founded in 1898, it is the longest continuously running free legal advice service in the world. The need for free legal advice is as pressing now as it was 125 years ago. The number of people accessing advice services in London has risen by 30% since 2021.

To access the Free Legal Advice Centre at Toynbee Hall, you can either fill in a form at the Advice Centre on 28 Commercial St or complete it online at www.toynbeehall.org.uk/free-advice/housing. The housing clinic takes place on Wednesday evenings. 

If you enjoyed this article, you might enjoy Bandele ‘Tex’ Ajetunmobi’s joyful archive of working-class East End communities.

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