Why do young people need the service that the Legal Team provide?
Research shows that 84% of young people eligible for Legal Aid are left to resolve their problems without any help from a professional adviser or lawyer. But young people don’t often know what to do when they’ve been treated unfairly or if authorities don’t take their rights seriously. This lack of knowledge around their rights can make them vulnerable to injustice.
One of the principles underpinning the British legal system is the rule of law: the idea that everyone is equal in the eyes of the law and that therefore should have equal access to protection under the law despite financial position or status. However, the lack of funding, austerity, and financial cuts to Legal Aid can place the young people who use our services at a greater disadvantage, as they often don’t have the financial means to pay for legal advice.
What is the role of the Legal Team within Centrepoint?
The Legal Team make it possible for young people in services to attain justice through legal support. They’ve helped young people feel empowered by providing information about their rights, as well as access to free and impartial legal advice. This in turn gives them the confidence and autonomy to be in control of their own affairs and to understand their rights.
What is the Connect Clinic?
The varying legal problems that can affect young people are no longer ‘covered’ by Legal Aid. So in order to meet the legal advice requirements of young people, Centrepoint’s Legal Team need to collaborate with a number of different law firms, and that is exactly what they are able to do.
The Connect Clinic is a legal clinic where qualified solicitors and partners of Centrepoint offer their time and expertise to young people. Their time is invested on a pro-bono basis and has a real impact on the lives of the people we work with – I have been lucky enough to see first-hand the contribution they make in supporting young people. There is a lot of work involved and their dedication and commitment is inspiring to see.
What other projects have you worked on?
I was fortunate enough to establish a project to help EU Citizens get immigration support. Brexit has meant EU Citizens have had to apply to the EU Settlement scheme. Without this, they would lose their right to live, work and claim benefit in the UK, as well as use public services like the NHS for free. I helped equip local authorities with information on the scheme through webinars.
What did you like about your secondment?
I had the opportunity to do something I feel passionate about, whilst supporting vulnerable young people to get access to justice. One of my many strengths whilst in the role was that I had the ability to build a rapport with young people. I felt that, had this service not been available to them, they would not have pursued their rights to equity and justice. Therefore, it’s vital that the clinic exists.
I worked as part of an excellent team. Harmit, our head of legal, is passionate about access to justice for all young people; she established the legal clinics after seeing the need for this provision within an organisation like ours. And Nina, our Connect Legal Advice Clinic Coordinator, is the backbone of the clinics and if it were not for her, the legal clinics and supporting young people on their legal issues would not be possible. If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t have so many young people able to move onto independence.