The Liverpool Law Clinic at the University of Liverpool is a legal practice with six lawyers that provides pro bono legal services in a variety of areas, including in child arrangements, social care, education and immigration.
One of the newest projects see students help parents of children with Special Educational Needs and/or social care problems in a unique project taking place at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool.
In recognition that many carers with disabled children have frequent hospital appointments we decided to take the legal advice to parents, rather than asking the parents to come to us. Our appointments, therefore, normally take place at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.
Following the appointment, together with approximately four other students from the team and under the supervision of their lecturer, the students research the law and draft a letter of advice to send to the client. We describe this letter as a “road map”, so that the clients we see in the Clinic can get the most benefit from our one-off advice service model. The students learn a new area of law entirely in this problem-based learning model and must be able to explain it to their clients in clear, straightforward terms. The motivation of having a real client and being able to see how the law can “make a difference” means that the level of commitment to the project is excellent.
At first we anticipated that we would see a mix of clients with issues around support packages from local authorities and issues with education, but overwhelmingly our clients are coming to us with education cases. We see many types of problem – from school exclusions to difficulty obtaining a statutory plan for a child with SEN.
The Clinic is not competitive with our colleagues in local firms; we seek to reach clients who are not in scope or otherwise eligible for legal aid and who cannot pay privately for services. We work alongside our colleagues in practice to complement the work in the Legal Aid sector.
We would be grateful if clients with unfunded cases in our work areas could be signposted to our service or referred directly to us. We will signpost or refer appropriate clients to colleagues in local firms, particularly for judicial review cases.
Our observation is that most people just do not know whether they are entitled to free legal advice. Where we see clients with social care issues for which Legal Aid is available, and we consider that further advice is needed, we provide initial advice and refer cases to an appropriate firm. Whilst Legal Aid is available for certain SEN cases, it is limited and there are no Legal Aid providers in Merseyside. In fact, currently there are only two providers in the whole country.
We are, therefore, the only source of free legal advice in the area for SEN issues. As our primary purpose is to educate our students what we can do is limited. We see clients in term time only and we can provide advice to a limited number of people who need it, though we are always looking for ways to expand our service.
If you are able to support any of these projects through volunteering your time, please let us know. We will be happy to discuss Clinic volunteering opportunities with you, and we would be grateful for any offer. To refer clients or discuss volunteering, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org. Clients may be signposted to: www.liverpool.ac.uk/law/liverpool-law-clinic/ .
The Clinic will operate the following projects in 2018-2019:
1. The community care project provides advice to parents of unwell children about their entitlement to benefits and support. This service is usually accessed through in-person contact at Alder Hey Hospital. You may also refer to the Clinic as above. Advice is given in the following areas:
• Support from the Local Authority including assessments, short breaks services, holiday play schemes, care at home, aids and adaptations, financial help with travel costs to schools, direct payments
• Welfare Benefits general advice about entitlement to benefits related to a child’s disability, including disability living allowance, carers allowance and blue badges
• Education Provision
2. The Liverpool Law Clinic Helpdesk provides free and confidential legal advice and support at the First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointments (FHDRA) in child arrangements cases. The project offers services at the Liverpool Family Court on Thursdays in term-time (most weeks between October and May). We can see clients on the day of their FHDRA on a first come first served basis, or clients can arrange an appointment in advance through the Clinic.
3. The Clinic will be running several projects in international protection and immigration law. We will give advice on fresh asylum claims, refugee family reunion, statelessness claims, registration/naturalisation, extension of stay and EEA free movement advice. Please contact the Clinic or signpost clients to our webpage as above.
Please do not hesitate to contact us about a client or to find out more about our services. We look forward to working in partnership with the Liverpool legal community to increase access to justice.