The Equity Release Council (ERC) has broadened its industry representation by appointing the first legal member to serve on its main board.

Claire Barker, managing director at Equilaw and director at Thomas Legal Group, has taken the post of co-opted board member for 2020/21, following a selection process among the ERC’s legal membership.

Barker has 20 years of experience in the legal sector, including over a decade as the owner and managing director of Equilaw.

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She has also served on the ERC’s standards board since it was established in 2012.

Barker will form part of a 16-strong board of directors made up of members from leading product providers, financial advisers and funders, and the ERC’s executive team.

Wider representation on the board mirrors the continuing growth of the ERC’s membership; in 2020 so far, provider (+8%), adviser (+26%), solicitor (+10%), and associate (+16%) member firms have all grown in number.

David Burrowes, chairman of the Equity Release Council added: “The expansion of our Board to include dedicated legal representation for the first time will help support our work to ensure the best possible outcomes for consumers.

“Claire’s appointment underlines the fundamental importance of independent legal advice to anyone considering equity release.

“She will add crucial expertise, diversity and a wealth of knowledge to help inform and guide our work.

“The council is committed to leading the way in setting the bar for standards in later life lending as well as helping to navigate effectively though the challenges presented by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”

Barker said: “I am delighted to join the main board of the Equity Release Council as the first legal representative, with a particular focus on safeguarding consumers’ best interests.

“The council carries out extremely important work to continually improve standards in the later life lending sector.

“For the past eight years, I have sat on the council’s standards board, embedding best practice while ensuring industry stakeholders better understand the reasons behind the key rules and guidance.

“I look forward to utilising my experience to continue to foster the safe use of equity release.”