#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.

Welfare Benefit Unit Volunteering Opportunity

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The Welfare Benefits Unit is currently recruiting for volunteers!

As a volunteer with Islington Law Centre Welfare Benefits Unit, you will work alongside caseworkers providing support in all aspects of their work: including dealing with correspondence, preparing appeal bundles, recording statistical information, case file management and policy work. You will be given the opportunity to shadow caseworkers at client interviews and Tribunal hearings, and be involved in various community events.

You will play a key role in our weekly form filling clinic, assisting clients to complete welfare benefits application forms. Training, close supervision & support will be provided for this role. We are particularly interested in volunteers available to assist with this on a Wednesday.

We hope volunteering at the Law Centre will provide an interesting and valuable experience within a friendly and supported environment.

Travel expenses and lunch will be paid.

If you would like to join the WB volunteering team please complete a volunteer application form and send it to Barbara King.

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.

Welfare Benefits Team Looking for Volunteers!

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Our Welfare Benefits Team is currently recruiting for new volunteers!

As a volunteer paralegal with Islington Law Centre’s Welfare Benefits Team, you will support caseworkers in all aspects of their work: including dealing with correspondence, preparing appeal bundles, recording statistical information, case file management and policy work.  Training, close supervision & support will be provided.

You will be given the opportunity to shadow caseworkers at client interviews and Tribunal hearings, and be involved in various community events.

You will play a key role in our weekly form filling clinic, assisting clients to complete complex welfare benefit application forms.

We hope volunteering at the Law Centre will provide an interesting and valuable experience within a friendly and supported environment.

Travel expenses and lunch will be paid.

Requirements: we ask that you be available to volunteer for at least two days per week and must be available on Wednesday’s.

If you are interested in applying for this position please complete the following application and email it to Barbara King (barbarak@islingtonlaw.org.uk),

The deadline to apply is 6 January 2016.

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.

alliance_3logos_col

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

Old Street Area Housing Office is Moving!

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As of 26 October 2015, the Old Street Area Housing Office will be moving to 245 St. John St, London, EC1V 4NB (also home to the Finsbury Library).

That means from the end of October, outreach sessions via our Independent Advice Project (IAP) will be effected.  If you are scheduled to have a welfare benefits appointment or a housing appointment through IAP at the Old Street Area Housing Office on or after 26 October 2015, remember to check your route!

Please see this flyer for more information: Old Street Area Housing Move.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call our Reception & Referral Team at 020 7288 7630 during normal operating hours.

ILC Spotlight: Shola Joseph

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Who knew we had so many budding authors at the Law Centre!

In this ILC Spotlight, we look at Shola Joseph, a caseworker in our Debt Unit and has helped countless individuals manage their finances whether through assisting in debt relief orders and bankruptcy applications giving clients a fresh start, successfully challenging unjust debts, or setting up payment plans with creditors to help clients manage.

In April, Shola released her debut novel, End of My Rainbow, a story about Tolani, a Nigerian girl removed from her beloved grandmother’s care and placed in her Auntie’s abusive hands.  She must learn to overcome challenges through love, faith, and perseverance.  It is an inspirational tale that is truly moving and emotional.

EOMR

If you would like to learn more about Shola’s book, please click here.

Disclaimer: none of the views or opinions presented in End of My Rainbow are made by or endorsed by the Islington Law Centre – all views and opinions are the author’s own.

ILC Debt Win – Limitation Act

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ILC’s Debt Unit secured a win for one of its clients who was being pestered by a creditor for a credit card bill she (nor the creditor) had acted on since 2007.  Our client had been dealing with some personal issues and has been managing depression and severe anxiety.  She received a judgment against her for over £1,000 for this debt and came to the Law Centre in October 2014 for assistance.

The Debt Unit applied to have the judgment set aside and entered in a defence via the Limitation Act 1980.  The Limitation Act imposes time limits on claimants to enter in a claim against another party, and for our client, the creditor had 6 years to make a claim against her for this money.  The creditor’s solicitors attempted to circumvent the Limitation Act by presenting screenshots as evidence that our client had paid towards the debt in 2010 (and therefore, the time limit of 6 years would run from 2010).  We submitted evidence of our client’s bank statements and drafted a strong defence that the claim should be struck.

Our client was apprehensive about attending court and was anxious for the hearing.  Thankfully because of the hard work our Debt Unit put towards the defence, the creditor dropped the claim recognising that they are barred from pursuing our client in court for this debt.  This was a wonderful result for our client and helped to ease her stress and anxiety!

Limitation Act 1980

Many creditors will attempt to pursue individuals for old debts.  If you have not made a payment towards a debt in over 6 years, and the creditor has not corresponded with you regarding the debt in 6 years, they may be ‘statute barred‘ from pursuing you in court.

However, you must note that the debt does not simply go away.  Rather, a debt being statute barred means that certain types of actions (including court proceedings) are not available to the creditor anymore.  They may continue to write to you and demand payment, but a court judgment cannot be made against you for this amount.

For more information, please see the National Debtline’s Fact Sheet.

Temple Legal Centre Offering Free Family Advice

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At the Islington Law Centre we receive numerous inquiries regarding family law matters.  Unfortunately due to legal aid cuts, we are unable to provide advice in family law disputes.

Fortunately, Temple Legal Centre offers free initial 30 minute consultation appointments for family law issues to low-income individuals living in London.

If you would like an appointment with TLC, please telephone or email them briefly stating the issue(s), whether you have any court hearing dates booked and an outline of your current income/savings.  An appointment can then be made with an advisor at one of TLC’s legal surgeries running Mondays 6pm to 8pm.

Where: 10 Kings Bench Walk, Temple, London, EC4Y 7EB
(TLC is located near the Tudor Street entrance to the Temple – it is a short walk from Blackfriars, Temple and City Thameslink stations).

Email: tlc@10kbw.co.uk | Telephone: 07887 776 099

 

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