The Community Legal Service
(CLS) was established in April 2000, following the Access to Justice Act 1999
. This highlighted the fact that many people were being prevented from gaining access to legal services. The CLS was created to bring together organisations which offer legal services and to improve accessibility.
Prior to the CLS, there had been a range of organisations who had offered free and low cost legal advice under the legal aid scheme. There was however, little awareness of this, or consideration of how these groups could work together.
Legal aid is still available and is means tested, based on your income and personal circumstances.
To learn more about legal aid, GOV.UK
offers information, advice and contacts.
The CLS has established a clear set of guidelines which providers of legal services should adhere to. These are known as the “Quality Mark” and outline how these services should be delivered. Organisations which display the CLS logo must do the following:
- Deliver legal services at one of three levels of help, information, advice and specialist help
- Work to the appropriate Quality Mark standards for each level of help identified above
- Deliver help in one or more of the 14 areas of civil law covered by the CLS
Levels of help
Information - Organisations which offer legal information must be able to understand what customers require and clearly direct them to the relevant information about their legal entitlements.
Advice – Those offering legal advice must be able to diagnose and help the public with all areas of civil law
. This work must be undertaken by advisors who can apply up-to-date legal knowledge and information and have the ability to negotiate or advocate on behalf of clients.
Specialist help – Specialist help is offered by those who are qualified to represent clients in court. These specialists are able to advise, negotiate or take on other case work, in the same way as general advisors and case workers.