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Acts of Assistance: Navigating the Interstices of the British State with the Help of Non-profit Legal Advisers

Alice Forbess and Deborah James

Keywords: ADVICE; ETHNOGRAPHY OF POLICY; LEGAL AID; RELATIONAL APPROACH TO THE STATE; RELATIONAL MODALITIES; SOCIAL WELFARE; VOLUNTARY SECTOR

Abstract

This article explores everyday interactions with the British welfare state at a moment when it is attempting to shift and transform its funding regimes. Based on a study of two London legal services providers, it draws attention to a set of actors poised between local state officers and citizens: the advisers who carry out the work of translation, helping people to actualize their rights and, at the same time, forcing disparate state agencies to work together. Advice and government services providers are increasingly part of the same system, yet advisers' work runs counter to the state's aims when formal legal process is used to challenge unfair legislation. The article reveals that ever more complex, vague, and idiosyncratic interconnections between state, business, and the third sector are emerging in the field of public services.

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