Social change, community action and accessible legal advice, 1960-1980

Event Details

  • Event date: 17/05/2021 – 17/05/2021
  • Venue: Online

Mon, 17 May 2021

18:00 – 19:30 BST

In this talk, Kate Bradley will consider the ways in which advice services (legal and other types) were used as a means of enabling marginalised individuals and communities to navigate the welfare state and to assert themselves against local authorities, retailers and landlords in the period 1960 to 1990. Following decades of campaigning for better access to the civil law for people on low incomes, the Legal Aid and Advice Act 1949 introduced a state-funded scheme in which lawyers would be reimbursed for this work. However, the 1949 scheme was never fully implemented, and so ‘Poor Man’s Lawyer’ groups continued to try to meet people’s needs through a combination of volunteer lawyer labour and short-term funding from local authorities. In the 1960s, there was significant innovation in terms of people’s advice needs could be met. Following experiments in the United States, neighbourhood law centres were one means of trying to tackle the problems faced by working-class communities in the inner cities, which included a shortage of solicitors with suitable specialisms in reasonable travelling distance. The law centres made creative use of the Urban Aid Scheme to sustain their activities in the 1970s. They were also accompanied by radical developments in thinking about how and where to provide advice to people, with telephones in particular being used to collapse problems of time and space for advice-seekers. Through looking at these issues in terms of how advice could be provided to people, we can explore the ways in which the welfare state and welfare provision were experienced ‘on the ground’, and the importance of having access to good, reliable and affordable advice on one’s rights within that.

This talk is based on Kate Bradley’s recent book Lawyers for the Poor: Legal advice, voluntary action and citizenship in England, 1890–1990. More information can be found here: https://manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk/9781526136053/.

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