We have a number of projects at Legal Advice Centre at Bethnal green. They help provide advice to different people for different purposes.
This project aims to define a new model of advice and advocacy for ourusers with complex health and social needs. Some of our users repeatedly call upon services such as ours for help on a wide range of matters. Through this project we provide front-loaded support to targeted individuals over a number of months, in order to help resolve problems which contribute to them reaching crisis point on a regular basis.
This project is based around volunteer law students and pro bono minded lawyers. Through the project the Legal Advice Centre helps find solicitors to work on disability appeal casework and advocacy at benefit Tribunal appeals. Legal Advice Centre now take on more disability benefit appeals than any other NGO in England & Wales.
The overall aim of this project is to promote and protect the rights of disabled people in the workplace. The work is focused on early intervention in order to prevent an employed disabled person from becoming unemployed and subject to potentially a life on state benefits.
In February 2016, the Legal Advice Centre Family Law Clinic went ‘live’. It is weekly clinic with a focus on domestic violence. The clinic is a collaboration between ourselves and six international law firms.Typical casework includes helping DV victims obtain non-molestation orders. As part of an extension to our Family Law Clinic we have also recently established a duty desk at East London Family Court, in partnership with Greenwich University.
This clinic was set up in order to help with the growing housing crisis in London. It is a weekly morning clinic to reflect the working patterns of the three USA law firms who are providing volunteers lawyers to staff the clinic. As part of an extension to our Thursday morning housing clinic, we now undertake ‘hate-crime’ casework to a specialist level, which largely involves seeking orders under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
In recent years, there has been the development by GPs and other clinical staff of what is commonly now known as Social Prescribing, whereby patients can be referred to non-clinical sources of support within the community. Whilst this work is of real benefit there is now a growing need to provide community-based medical practitioners with more potent tools to help combat systemic discrimination of the unwell within our society. Eighteen months ago, we established a legal clinic providing free specialist employment law advice in a health setting. Initial results are very encouraging.
We secured funding from the Legal Education Foundation in order to establish a Skype advice clinic in Falmouth. This is part of a wider initiative to provide access to advice to the many ‘advice deserts’ in the UK. The bulk of the advice is provided directly by our own lawyers. In addition to our work in Cornwall, we are developing projects around webcam based services. We are seeking to develop webcam platforms, which, in part, will help pro bono minded lawyers and law students to remotely take part in access to justice projects.
Bow Foodbank is a multi-faith project. Food is collected by a number of churches, mosques and temples throughout Bow. The foodbank is open every Monday morning. We provide direct legal support to its users. One of our solicitors attends the foodbank every Monday. Their role is to provide help on matters such as accessing state benefits and emergency housing. This partnership between ourselves and Bow Foodbank is now entering its second year.
Since 2012, we have developed work around legal expenses insurance (LEI) in order to help fund tribunal and court work. Quite often our users do not know that they have such cover. At first contact, we have changed our protocols to establish whether users can take advantage of any insurance and financial products which contain LEI.
Through engagement with corporate law firms it is clear that their knowledge of pro bono, and political and social context to such work varies. In response to this we are able to offer consultancy support to corporate law firms to assist their engagement with pro bono. This support may also be appreciated by firms who have fairly established Corporate Social Responsibility/Pro Bono programmes, but who require support at any given time to help establish a project or to undertake a particular piece of work.