Category Archives: News

Head of Legal Practice – Recruitment

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The Law Centre is delighted to be seeking to appoint to a new post, the Head of Legal Practice.  The post holder will be an experienced practitioner, and will play a key role in developing our work over the coming period.  This is an exciting opportunity to join our team.  Full details are available here – the deadline for the receipt of completed applications is  Wednesday 8th November 2017  at 5pm.

ILC Covering Letter October 2017 HOLP

Islington Law Centre HOLP Advert October 2017

ILC Job Description Co Director Head of Legal Practice FINAL

ILC Person Specification Co Director HOLP October 2017

Information for Applicants October 2017 – HOLP

ILC Application Form October 2017 HOLP

Trustees

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The Law Centre is seeking to add to its Board of Directors/Charity Trustees. Ideally we want 3 new members with experience in finance, Legal Aid, and Human Resources, or a combination of skills.   In particular we are seeking people with Not for Profit Board/Trustee experience of Governance of a mid-size organisation with a complex funding base and a large staff team.

If this interests you and you have time to give we would love to hear from you. If you would like more information on the commitment required please contact the Centre Director, Ruth Hayes, ruthh@islingtonlaw.org.uk in the first instance. If you prefer we can send you and Information Pack and Application Form in advance.

Opportunities to join us!

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Islington Law Centre is delighted that our Migrant and Refugee Children’s Legal Unit (MiCLU) has been chosen as a host agency for the Justice First Fellowship programme.  This means that we are able to offer a training contract within the team, with the opportunity to qualify as a solicitor, and to specialise in work with children and young people.  This post is funded by the Legal Education Foundation and by BBC Children in Need.

MiCLU is a specialist policy and legal hub committed to promoting and protecting the rights of refugee and migrant children and young people. We achieve this using a unique combination of direct legal representation, strategic litigation, policy and influencing work, advocacy and legal education.

The programme aims to develop a new cohort of social welfare lawyers who have a strong commitment to access to justice, and the successful candidate will have the opportunity to work on their own project, as well as on our well established programme of activities.

Further details and the online application are available via the Legal Education Foundation website, here:-  Applications are through the Justice First Fellowship: https://jff.thelegaleducationfoundation.org/how-to-apply/application-form/. The deadline for applications is 18 September 2017.

Justice First Fellowship – opportunity to take up a training contract at Islington Law Centre

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Islington Law Centre is delighted to have been chosen as a host agency for the Justice First Fellowship programme.  This means that we are able to offer a training contract at ILC, with the opportunity to work alongside our highly experienced legal teams, and to make a real difference to the local community.

This post is funded by the Legal Education Foundation and by City Bridge Trust.

The programme aims to develop a new cohort of social welfare lawyers who have a strong commitment to access to justice, and the successful candidate will have the opportunity to work on their own project, as well as on our well established programme of activities.

Further details and the online application are available via the Legal Education Foundation website, here:-  https://jff.thelegaleducationfoundation.org/how-to-apply/

Residence Test Thrown Out by Supreme Court

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Last week the Supreme Court, in a unanimous judgment, found against the Ministry of Justice (‘MoJ’) preventing them from introducing the ‘residence test’ scheme this summer.  This is an incredible win for legal aid and social justice and we at ILC could not be more proud of the Public Law Project (‘PLP’)!

What is the ‘residence test’?

In 2013 the MoJ issued a consultation paper, Transforming Legal Aid, proposing that applicants for civil legal aid be

  • lawfully resident in the UK, Crown Dependencies or British Overseas Territories at the time the application is made; and
  • lawfully residing in the UK, Crown Dependencies or British Overseas Territories for 12 months.

The MoJ provided exceptions to this test for armed forces personnel, asylum seekers.

The justification for this test was a concern over individuals with little or no connection to the UK who are able to benefit from the civil legal aid scheme without having contributed themselves (e.g. those who have not had to pay taxes in the UK).

Timeline

2013: Consultation paper by MoJ released.

2014: PLP challenges the proposal in the High Court who rule against the MoJ stating that the justice secretary did not have the powers to introduce the regulation through secondary legislation and that the test was excessively discriminatory.

2015: The Court of Appeal overturns the previous decision stating that the ruling placed an unjustifiable restraint on the government’s ability to control the legal aid budget and that the discrimination based on residence was not a characteristic ‘specially protected’ by law, such as sex or race.

2016: After the first day of a scheduled two-day hearing, the Supreme Court unanimously finds against the MoJ after just a few minutes of deliberation.

What does this mean?

At the outset, the MoJ will not be able to roll out the scheme this summer as intended.  Following the judgment, a MoJ spokesperson said: ‘We are of course very disappointed with this decision. We will now wait for the full written judgment to consider.’

This is a very important decision for the future of legal aid in the UK and could not have been possible without the hard work of PLP, Bindmans LLP, and barristers of Blackstone Chambers and Doughty Street Chambers.

#WhyWeWalk

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The 12th  annual London Legal Walk will be taking place this year on 16 May. It is a 10km walk through London and hosted by the London Legal Support Trust.  Last year over £700,000 was raised!  A phenomenal accomplishment.

The Trust has been a long time supporter of the Islington Law Centre and ILC have participated in the London Legal Walk for many years.  As the walk approaches and (we hope) donations are flooding in, we thought it would be a great time to talk about #WhyWeWalk:

We walk:

  • for asylum seekers wanting to be reunited with their families
  • for the single mum who was unfairly dismissed at her job leaving her unable to provide for her family
  • for the job seeker unreasonably sanctioned
  • for the newly landed immigrant who has been taken advantage of by a telecommunication company due to their lack of understanding of English
  • for the man whose relationship breakdown has thrown him into depression, cost him his job and is now in severe debt with no one to support him
  • for the disabled tenant who has been living with damp and mould for 2 years

We walk for those who wouldn’t have a voice if it weren’t for Law Centres.

Update (26/04/16): if you would like to donate to the Islington Law Centre’s Legal Walk team, please visit our justgiving page here – all donations are greatly appreciated!

Simplifying the Law

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The Law Society Gazette has recently reported that the Legal Services Board (LSB) is advising the legal sector to take a note from others to remove barriers for consumers confronted with legal problems.

The law has traditionally been difficult to navigate due to unnecessarily complex wording.  LSB have found that as a result, many individuals who have a consumer law issue do not seek the appropriate advice to resolve them.  Parallels were drawn to the finance, healthcare and utilities sectors which have taken great strides in improving the accessibility of their services to consumers.

In particular, three non-financial barriers to legal access were identified: inaccessible language, lack of trust and failure to serve the specific needs of vulnerable customers.

This report is particularly relevant to the Islington Law Centre where we specifically cater our services to individuals who have various barriers to legal advice (both financial and non-financial).  Our client group can be largely classified as vulnerable and our caseworkers and solicitors work tirelessly to ensure that their voices are heard.

Our Evening Advice Clinic provides free consumer law advice to individuals in the Islington area with the help of our pro bono partners.

If you think you may have a consumer law issue, please do get in contact for an appointment either via telephone, 020 7288 7633 (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm); or by email, eveningadvice@islingtonlaw.org.uk.

Another Win for ILC!

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Congratulations are in order to the Debt & Consumer and Housing Units of ILC!

Both units have worked together closely in resolving a dispute regarding a housing association’s mishandling of billing tenants for the use of the district heating system.  It was a hard earned fight, but we received word from the Housing Ombudsmen Service last week that they have decided in favour of our clients.

Background

A group of tenants approached ILC early last year after receiving utility bills backdated 2 years (some bills were as high as £1,000!).  The reason for these arrears was due to the fact that ‘gas for heating and hot water’ was listed in the tenants’ service charges and as such, the tenants believed they were paying for this service as part of their rent.  The housing association attempted to back pedal and removed the ‘gas for heating and hot water’ aspect from the service charge; however, remained in their position that tenants were responsible for the past 2 years’ worth of utilities charges.

As social housing tenants, the majority of our clients are unemployed and/or in receipt of low income and not in a position to pay such a large amount out of pocket.  Their landlord is of course fully aware of these circumstances, but has paid no mind to such factors and continued to ask for payment.

A unique aspect of this case is the utilisation of a district heating scheme by the housing association.  District heating is a relatively new initiative and rather than draw energy from the city’s pipelines, these systems generate their own energy for a predetermined set of properties.  Such a network can be incredibly beneficial in terms of reducing the carbon footprint and costs for end users.

Unfortunately, the economic benefit of this system was lost on our tenants as the housing association failed to fully understand the scheme and bill their tenants properly.  This matter is further exasperated by the fact that district heating systems are not yet regulated by a governing authority.

After numerous attempts of settling this matter with the housing association itself, ILC lodged an application to the Housing Ombudsmen on behalf of 20+ tenants.

We are pleased to report that after a lengthy waiting period, the Housing Ombudsmen have decided in favour of our clients and have instructed the housing association to write off the backdated payment amounts.

Although a final outcome in this matter is still pending, the decision by the Ombudsmen is incredibly encouraging and we will continue to fight for the rights of our clients.

Advising Islington Together Conference 2015

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AIT LogoIMG_4842On Tuesday 6th October 2015 the Islington Advice Alliance hosted their second Advising Islington Together Conference at Islington Town Hall.  It was a massive success and we heard from amazing speakers on issues affecting the Islington borough – particularly residents of the borough who are low income and vulnerable.
Members of Legal Action Group, England Illegal Money Lending Team, Voluntary Action Islington, Islington Council and CPAG all gave wonderful speeches, each providing insight from the unique perspective of their organisations.  The Islington Law Centre’s Centre Director, Ruth Hayes, also spoke and gave an insightful talk about legal issues concerning the borough, legal aid and overall challenges of access to justice.

IMG_4854There were also workshops run by Islington Law Centre, Islington CAB and London Capital Credit Union providing
information to individuals on welform updates, debt issues, family law updates, immigration, employment rights, and education matters.

The conference served as the launch event for the report “It’s no fun being on benefits: A study into experiences of Welfare Reform in Islington” developed by Every Voice and Islington Community Network, supported by Advising Islington Together.  (Watch this space for more on this!)

The feedback from the attendees was overwhelmingly positive with everyone expanding their knowledge and discovering new perspectives.

The Islington Advice Alliance thanks all those who attended, spoke and conducted workshops.  With so many changes to legal aid and welfare benefits, it is important for agencies and the public to keep up to date on these issues and understand how they effect residents and conferences such as these are great ways to do so.

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The Islington Advice Alliance is formed of Islington People’s Rights Islington Citizen’s Advice Bureau and Islington Law Centre.
For more information please see: Islington Advice Alliance 2015

Legal Aid Expansion in Ontario, Canada

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It has been no secret that the state of legal aid in the United Kingdom is in jeopardy and has been since the introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.  The scope of legal aid decreased dramatically and there remained only a few areas of law individuals could access free legal help.

With legal aid’s current state and an uncertain future at home, it is a breath of fresh air when we hear news of legal aid expanding in parts of the world!  At the beginning of June, Legal Aid Ontario (‘LAO’) announced plans to expand its services to low-income residents – the most significant expansion in almost 25 years.

LAO plans to address the growing needs of vulnerable groups over-represented in courts, including First Nations, victims of domestic violence and individuals suffering from mental illness.  They plan on introducing new services, including coverage for first-time offenders in criminal cases and assistance in complex family matters.

The Ontario government has been a keen supporter of LAO, committing $154 million CAD (approximately £79.1 million) over the next 4 years to this expansion.  They further demonstrated their support of legal aid last year when they increased the qualifying income threshold making legal aid more accessible.

It is incredibly encouraging to see our neighbours across the pond championing legal aid and addressing the needs of normally silent groups.  We can only hope that our new government takes a cue from our Commonwealth partners.

For more information, please see Legal Aid Ontario.

For general enquiries or to make an appointment: Call 020 7288 7630