In praise of: Coventry
Due to its use as the place to which you metaphorically send someone you want to ostracise and criticism of its city centre’s architecture, Coventry has had a poor press. The Warwickshire city has been in the news lately as it seeks to become the 2021 City of Culture, but it has much else to be proud of, not least its outstanding advice sector.
While other local councils have wavered in their support for advice services, Coventry City Council has remained largely steadfast. The council understands the value of face-to-face independent advice and the contribution it makes in helping those disadvantaged by poverty and longterm illness. It funds a well-regarded Independent Advice Service, with 10 drop-in centres across the city’s most deprived neighbourhoods, and a Citizens Advice Bureau that deals with over 26,000 problems a year.
Perhaps the jewel in the crown of Coventry’s advice services is its Law Centre, which is the largest in England and recently expanded to include Birmingham Community Law Centre under the Central England Law Centre banner. The centre provides advice and representation in most areas of civil law and has a national reputation for its innovative offerings such as Safeplace, its service for people suffering domestic violence. It raises a substantial amount of cash for such projects from charitable trusts, but this is underpinned by a core grant from the city council, which has remained through changes of political leadership.
Maybe it’s time to show some recognition to cities that advance access to justice as well as to those that promote culture?