Trials of the Community Legal Service have proved successful. An independent evaluation of the Pioneer Partnerships launched at the beginning of 1999 found that bringing together funders and providers of legal advice does provide better access to services for those who need help, but are unsure where to turn.The new service, which involves a fundamental change in the way legal advice and services are organised, will be rolled out nationally on 3 April. It is designed to end the fragmented and unplanned services that have grown up over the years. Organisations that make up the current service include local authorities, the Legal Aid Board, Citizens Advice Bureaux, Age Concern and housing rights and legal advice centres. The Pioneer Partnerships succeeded in bringing all the players together in the locality and in developing their own strategies within the broad national framework.
The experience of the Pioneers will be passed on to all area Partnerships in the form of guidelines. The initial task of the new Partnerships is to find out what services are available in the area and then build a collaborative network. A major challenge will be to get across the message that the service is not just about advising on issues that may result in court action. In many cases subject specialists who are not lawyers will be able to advise on the best solutions.