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Faces of Law - Taz

It’s imperative that people who come to the Law Centre feel welcome to come and seek advice from us.

The chance to be part of an organisation that can have positive impact on society and the local community means a lot to me,

We see a lot of people who are alone and isolated. One of them reminded me of my grandmother and I was frustrated at how her family had abandoned her to fend for herself and she was left to manage a life by herself when she had never been alone.

I also see many women who have married and come to this country and whose partner has either left them or have passed away and they are left alone and feeling abandoned.

When I see us empowering people and I watch them find the courage to take on the challenges they face, it makes me proud.

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Faces of Law - Kat

Working at the Law Centre is challenging. There are days when everything is coming at you and you feel that you need to split into multiple people to get everything done. Cake helps me keep going!

 And, when I can help a client solve a problem and secure a positive outcome. There is nothing like that feeling!

Equality is very important. People should be able to access their rights and seek justice no matter what their background.

Many of our clients are particularly vulnerable: we have lots of cases where pregnant workers on low incomes are dismissed just for being pregnant. Without places like the Law Centre it’s hard for people like this to get face to face advice and support to pursue their case.

A recent client was disabled and was dismissed for requesting reasonable adjustments. We took the matter to an Employment Tribunal and she was awarded over £8,000 for injury to feelings. The client was very low and her self-esteem had been badly affected; but the success in the case helped her to move forward positively and she came back a few weeks later to tell me she had a new job.

I’d like to see a properly funded social welfare law service, where access to fundamental rights are not prohibited by whether a case is ‘within scope’ of a diminished legal aid system. I’d also like to see a system where lawyers have rights to cake!

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Faces of Law - Michael

Cuts to services, welfare reform and loss of legal aid have left those who are poor, vulnerable or destitute with fewer options to fight their way out of crisis.  Added to this is the current hostile environment for immigrants, denying them access to the most basic of public services, plunging more and more people into destitution.

What little is left of legal aid includes our community care contract which allows us to challenge poor quality decision making from both central and local government that denies or restricts access to accommodation, financial support or basic public services to asylum seekers and families or vulnerable adults with no recourse to public funds.

My worst day sees me meeting a family of 5 expected by their local authority to live on £50 per week, spending days without gas or electricity and having to make difficult choices over how many meals to miss.  Better days include challenging that local authority to get them to increase the level of support.  However, there’s still work to be done: that local authority only increased the financial support to £120.  I couldn’t bring up 4 children on my own on that amount of money.

A good day saw that family get their papers from the Home Office and they’ll soon have access to mainstream services.

I’m proud to work for the Law Centre and to play a part in helping people find their way out of crisis.  And I’m proud to be able find ways in which our clients can question authority and hold decision makers to account.

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Faces of Law - Mariam

We’re in the midst of a housing crisis. Demand for social housing far outstrips supply and there are countless households in unstable or unsuitable accommodation, waiting in the hope of a move. The economic climate, benefit changes and zero hour contracts all contribute to the financial hardship that so often leaves households at risk of eviction.

You could say that all housing cases have the same underlying argument, that the household deserves a home. Having seen the impact of homelessness, it’s not an argument that I struggle to believe in.

We are incredibly busy and a lot of work needs to be done at short notice, but the worst part of our job is telling clients that there isn’t anything else that we can do. Luckily, this is relatively rare, and the relationship between the Law Centre and other advice agencies and charities in the local area means that we can nearly always give some assistance.

Unless you’re able to prevent an eviction entirely, there’s nothing better than receiving a call from a previously homeless client confirming that they’ve a new home. When that happens, it doesn’t matter how much had to be done to get there, it’s worth it.

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“I have two roles. I am the volunteer coordinator and I also manage the tribunals project. I volunteered here as a social work student and the appeal was getting to work directly with clients, as you don’t get to work with clients on a lot of placements. Coming back, I like the supervision aspect of my role, especially of other social work students as I have been through the same process so can offer some insight of the journey. I also enjoy helping volunteers manage their casework, university work and personal life, and find a way to balance this. Lots of volunteers and students may struggle to see how their university work relates to their casework and I can help them see how the skills they are developing here can be useful and transferable to other roles. With tribunal representation, a lot of clients have spent months being denied benefits and are really anxious, it’s great to see the weight drop off them when someone says they can help. Some volunteers representing clients at tribunals are still studying or straight out of university and they can be anxious about attending tribunals at first. It can be difficult establishing trust and getting them to open up about this and other issues, but the trick is to share a bit of your own story. If I am asking you to share a lot about your story, the least I can do is tell you a little bit about me.”