Sustainable Development Goals


Access to justice supports health and wellbeing

Through its pro-bono legal services for local communities, the UCL Centre for Access to Justice is improving legal support for local communities around the UCL’s new campus in east London.

SDG Case study G16.3 Access

7 October 2020

Legal problems and ill-health often coincide. Without intervention, problems can escalate with deteriorating health leading to financial difficulties, worsening living conditions and further stress and anxiety.  

“Often the people who need legal help most are unsure of their rights and can ill-afford the advice they need” explains Rachel Knowles (UCL Laws), the Centre’s Head of Legal Practice and a practising solicitor. 

The Centre for Access to Justice, established in 2013 by UCL Laws, focuses on raising awareness of access to justice issues through high-quality teaching and research, as well as providing students with a range of pro-bono opportunities to experience access to justice issues in practice.  

In 2016, the centre set up the UCL integrated legal advice clinic, which provides free and legally aided advice to the local community.

The clinic was founded with seed funding from the UCL Grand Challenge of Justice & Equality. It is located in Stratford, East London, close to UCL East, the university’s new campus located on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. 

“We complement our research and teaching with providing free and legally aided advice and representation to our local communities via a legal advice clinic and other voluntary placements for students with local charities and advice services,” Rachel adds.  

“Through our Integrated Legal Advice Clinic and with supervision from qualified lawyers, our law students provide free legal advice on a range of social welfare issues to our neighbours in the local community.” 

In the seven years since the clinic was established, almost 200 UCL Law students have supported more than 500 people with legal advice and casework. 

Among the people the Clinic has helped are a woman struggling to obtain a disabled parking permit, to support her son with autism; and a local resident who was left without accommodation and had to appeal to the courts to access housing benefit. 

The pro-bono schemes create a virtuous circle, as Shiva Riahi (UCL Laws), Head of Projects for the Centre, explains: “Residents and patients access quality legal advice, students gain valuable ‘real world’ insight and understanding of the wider social and political context in which these needs arise.  

“This helps us develop a holistic approach to resolving the legal problems our clients face and at the same time support better health and wellbeing.”