Civil legal aid for families living in poverty or near poverty has often been an overlooked partner in philanthropic efforts to improve the bedrock economic, social and health conditions for low -income people and communities. It’s the indispensable underpinning for much of the work funders already support, a complementary strategy that can increase the impact of a funder’s efforts. But it doesn’t get a lot of attention.
Providing more civil legal aid is not just a matter of addressing problems that low-income people encounter; it’s also a matter of ensuring basic access to justice for them. Some foundations have embraced legal aid, and several are highlighted in these pages. But, overall, private philanthropy has barely gotten its feet wet on this issue – and it should take a deeper plunge.
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By incorporating this powerful tool into existing priority areas, grantmakers can help tackle barriers to equal justice and enhance their own programs.
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