UCL awarded legal aid contract for its advice clinic in East London
15 November 2018
The Integrated Legal Advice Clinic at UCL is in the unique position of being able to offer legal aid advice at their recently launched clinic in East London.
The civil legal aid contract awarded by the Legal Aid Agency will enable the clinic, run by the Centre for Access to Justice (UCL Laws), to offer a full range of pro bono and legal aid services to vulnerable communities.
“At a time where legal aid services are at crisis point, we are extremely proud of the pro bono services we offer, and we are pleased to now also be able to offer legal aid services to clients. This means we can provide a full service to the local community – from early advice to representation at Court,” said Rachel Knowles, the Centre’s Head of Legal Practice, a solicitor and teaching fellow.
The UCL clinic provides its clients with access to a broad range of support on matters including housing, community care, welfare benefits and education law. This is especially important in view of changes to legal aid in 2013, which restricted many areas from funding.
The service, unique among universities, is led by the Centre for Access to Justice’s team of qualified lawyers and advisers, with UCL Laws students working under their supervision.
Students benefit from an educational experience where the theoretical lessons learnt while studying can be applied in a practical context.
“We have always been committed to exposing students to the operation of law in the real world and to experiential learning. Now, more than ever, it is important that we continue to inspire the next generation of lawyers to pursue careers in the public interest, said Jacqui Kinghan, Head of Teaching and Learning at the Centre for Access to Justice.
The clinic was set up in a temporary space in 2016 to provide free legal advice and assistance on social welfare issues. They now have a permanent, dedicated and purposefully designed clinic and community space in Stratford, close to the new UCL East development. In 2017, the Centre took on 130 cases from 111 clients, and 23 undergraduate and postgraduate students undertook placements.
The Centre is committed to tackling social problems head on and working closely with other community bodies and health organisations. In 2016, the clinic ran alongside a GP service in Stratford, to help address the direct interaction between unresolved legal problems and health issues.
Going forward the clinic has aspirations to specialise in offering legal support to people with early onset dementia, and their carers. Drawing on research by UCL Dementia Research Centre, they will offer advice and support on issues such as care needs, power of attorney and benefits entitlements.
The clinic is the culmination of decades of research by UCL Laws and led by Professor Dame Hazel Genn, which highlights the importance of early intervention and advice. This research underpins both their approach to teaching, as well as how they provide services and engage with the community.
“UCL has always recognised the value and importance of the Centre for Access to Justice. At a time when many legal aid services have been cut, we are in a fortunate position thanks to support from UCL and our donors to be able to offer a much needed legal aid service to vulnerable communities,” said Professor Dame Hazel Genn, the Centre’s Executive Director.