Concerns over future of Law Centre in Derry

Sinn Fein Foyle MLA Karen Mullan.
Sinn Fein Foyle MLA Karen Mullan.

The Law Centre has said current consultation following a decision to sell its Derry office will have “no impact” on service provision, following concerns raised by Sinn Féin Foyle MLA Karen Mullan.

Ms. Mullan said that it was understood the Clarendon Street office was to close and the service moved to its Belfast office.

The Law Centre has said it has, like other community organisations, seen “significant cuts in funding” and is selling its current Derry premises to protect the provision of its services.

Ms Mullan said: “The Law Centre has been in Derry City for 40 years. It deals with a wide range of specific issues such as social clauses, employment and complex emigration cases. They also provide local training for advice workers which is badly needed as communities face the onslaught of the Tory cuts agenda and Brexit in the times ahead.

“We do not want to see the loss of this service in Derry, whilst we understand that most of the work is done via phone lines it’s crucial that we have a facility in the city to deal with complex cases and we need to be imaginative around all this.

“I have met with the director and have submitted a letter to the Board to raise all these issues,” she added.

A spokesperson for the Law Centre responded: “The Law Centre plays a valuable role in promoting access to justice and providing specialist legal support to advice-giving organisations in the areas of community care, employment, mental health and social security law through advice, casework, training, information, publications and policy work.

“The Law Centre, like many organisations in the community and voluntary sector, has seen significant cuts to its funding in recent years. In order to ensure continued provision of the vital service the centre provides in meeting unmet legal need, the decision was taken to sell the capital asset owned by the Law Centre, which is the premises in Clarendon Street in the city.

“There is currently an internal consultation with staff in the Derry office, and the outcome of this process will determine the future structure of the service going forward. It would be inappropriate to comment further until the process concludes.

“However, the outcome of this consultation will have no impact on current service provision, which is largely telephony-based and those who need our specialist legal support can continue to access the service by calling 02890 24440. The Law Centre is committed to ensuring that its direct experience of providing legal advice, representation and policy analysis in support of the entire advice sector and to the public continues to make a positive difference in a rapidly evolving legal and policy landscape.”