Made at UCL


Transforming lives and communities with legal aid

The most vulnerable members of our community are often the ones most in need of legal advice, yet they struggle to get help. UCL’s unique advice clinic is changing that and transforming lives and communities.

Transforming lives and communities with legal aid

The London Borough of Newham is the third most deprived local authority in England. Vulnerable members of the community here often face a multitude of social welfare and legal issues that can cascade into other areas of life and ultimately cause physical and mental health issues. Yet at a time when government services are at their most stretched, many people don’t know where to go for advice and legal services.

UCL’s approach to this problem is exemplified by the UCL Integrated Legal Advice Clinic (iLAC), run by a team of lawyers and advisers at the Centre for Access to Justice, and overseen by Rachel Knowles, Head of Legal Practice.

At the iLAC, lawyers and UCL law students provide free advice and help to those facing homelessness, dealing with poor quality housing or navigating the welfare benefits system.

Since its formation in January 2016, the clinic has assisted over 300 clients (mostly with an income of £10,000 or less) with a range of issues. Successful outcomes achieved include a 43-year-old client who was saved from eviction and had several benefits reinstated, ensuring he could pay off rent arrears. Meanwhile, a young single mother was helped to move from accommodation that was in a state of serious disrepair, and causing her child health problems, to more suitable housing.

Crucial to the success of iLAC is its unique structure and approach. Previously it was co-located with a GPs surgery and continues to run pop-up clinics at health centres – allowing teams to intervene where the cause of the medical problem was due to a wider societal issue. This is based on research spearheaded by Professor Dame Hazel Genn into how people’s legal problems can cascade into other areas of their life.

The integrated clinic hopes to demonstrate the benefits of providing a more holistic service to vulnerable people so that it can be rolled out more widely.