Date published: April 22, 2016
Law students to help disadvantaged communities with free legal aid
Law students are set to lend a hand to local citizens unable to afford legal aid as part of a new project.
The CLOCK (Community Legal Outreach Collaboration) scheme run by the University looks to tackle problems caused by legal aid cuts which have left many local people unable to afford representation.
Legal aid has been reduced consistently since 2008 and the most recent reforms in 2013 have removed legal aid in civil cases in large areas of the law. In early 2013 18% of cases in the Family Court saw parties with no legal representation. By the end of the year this had increased to 42%.
Access to Legal Aid has become so restricted that local studies in the Greater Manchester region have discovered that now about 70% of cases in Civil Court involve people who represent themselves because they cannot afford legal representation. These people often have no legal knowledge and find themselves confused by what is happening to them.
This is where our specially trained Law students who make up Clock come in. These Salford Business School students will be on hand to guide people through the legal process and help them to understand the legal issues and how they may impact upon them.
A range of students have been trained and will begin helping vulnerable people deal with their legal issues from next week. The initial activity of the students will focus upon Benefits Appeals tribunals, where there is a substantial local need. This service is being operated in co-operation with the Citizens Advice Bureau, before CLOCK in Salford delve into a broader range of law and services in the coming months.
Students will be using the skills developed within the University to provide a real service to the local community and to have a real world impact. The scheme has the support of the local judiciary, the Salford Citizen’s Advice Bureau and Salford City Council.
Third year Law student Kirsty Mayle will be one of the first to take part in the CLOCK scheme. She said: “It can be very daunting for someone if they don’t understand the legal system. If we can provide them with support and advise them on the process, then hopefully we can make things smoother for them. It should also help make me more employable as well.”
And Lorna Benson, also in the third year, said: “Growing up in the Salford area I can relate to the issues that these people are going through, which hopefully will give them more confidence to speak openly with me. We want to help people gain a better understanding of our legal system and for them to be able navigate their way through it.”
At the launch of the CLOCK project, Head of Law at The University of Salford, Dr Shane Sullivan, said: “This is a great project for Salford to be involved in. It gives our students experience of dealing with real legal situations, and it also provides a vital service to the community and the most vulnerable members of it. This will provide real world skills for our students.
“In the first phase Law students will be trained to act as Community Companions based upon the Mackenzie friend principle which facilitates a range of assistance to Litigants in Person.”
During the subsequent phase of CLOCK the Community Companions will be trained to provide full legal advice and representation in a range of legal areas.
Professor David Spicer, Dean of the Salford Business School, said: “The CLOCK initiative is an excellent example of the practice based learning that is carried out at the University of Salford.”
And Vice Chancellor of the University of Salford, Professor Helen Marshall said: “this initiative is indicative of the policy of the University to engage with and to benefit the local community and to play a leading role in the region.”
Ian Stewart, the Elected Executive Mayor of Salford said: “The need for these initiatives to serve the people of the region is very substantial and it speaks volumes that the University of Salford and its students are playing such an important role in the community. It is fitting that local students such as Lorna Benson are playing a leading role in this way.”