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Gloucestershire Business News

Charity steps in to provide Gloucestershire with new Social Care Legal Advice Hub

A charity providing free legal advice and access to justice for people with social care needs, have launched their remote community care legal advice hub in Gloucestershire.

Access Social Care provides expert legal advice to disabled, elderly people and individuals experiencing mental ill health to ensure their social care needs are met and they are able to live fulfilled and meaningful lives.

In recent years, there has been inadequate investment in the legal aid system nationwide. A recent Law Society report concluded that most of England "is a community care legal aid desert".

Many residents of Gloucestershire on lower incomes struggle to access the legal support they need for issues relating to social care, particularly in Gloucester, Stroud and Cinderford. In Gloucestershire, there are currently no community care legal aid lawyers at all.

Access Social Care said it will work collaboratively with officers and elected representatives from Gloucestershire County Council whilst holding them to account to ensure that the residents of Gloucestershire have their legal aid needs met, helping the council navigate the challenges of low investment, the COVID-19 pandemic and demography changes.

The charity will take a data driven approach by capturing patterns of unlawful behaviour and using this to influence system change.

Kari Gerstheimer, chief executive of Access Social Care said: "We are pleased to be stepping in to provide this much needed support for Gloucestershire with the launch of our new social care advice hub. 

"By linking our expertise to local organisations in Gloucestershire, we want to reach many organisations as possible, particularly those working with underrepresented groups, to ensure local people are provided with the advice and support they deserve."

The Gloucestershire hub model will employ technology to enable remote legal teams to provide legal advice alongside a locally based coordinator working on the ground.

In March 2021, Access Social Care will launch their Nesta prize winning legal chatbot. This chatbot is being developed with the assistance of Gloucestershire residents to make the service relevant and accessible for local people. It will answer legal questions and help scale their service efficiently to reach more people.

Other local organisations are invited to join the hub so that their beneficiaries can access specialist social care advice swiftly. Disability charity Inclusion Gloucestershire and children's charity Allsorts Gloucestershire have already joined.

Access Social Care work with law firm partners, including Fieldfisher, Orrick, Baker Mackenzie, Slaughter and May, Shearman and Sterling and expert barristers in the field of social care to allow individuals to receive free expert legal advice.

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