Community Advice Champions
In partnership with innovative East London charity, Community Links, Law for Life has designed a “highly effective” Public Legal Education programme, and trained 22 local volunteers as Community Advice Champions to provide early intervention help.
These volunteers came from a number of different agencies providing help to people in Newham, including South East Asian Women’s Shelter, UK Congolese community (Corecog), Roma Group, and Our Space.
The scheme has recently been externally evaluated and the training has been found to be “highly effective” in supporting volunteers to identify legal issues in everyday problems, and to enable them to help someone else in their community deal with a legal problem.
Community Links provide legal and debt advice to over 5,000 people in crisis each year. As well as dealing with immediate need, their approach aims to equip clients with the skills to prevent problems recurring and connect them to employment support services. This new project will help them extend support to a wider audience and, crucially, ensure support is offered earlier. Working with other advice providers in Newham and with the support of the Big Lottery’s Advice Services Transition Fund, our network of Community Advice Champions will increase to 50 next year.
“I enrolled for the programme at Community Links and I learned a lot including; the difference between criminal and civil cases, consumer law, consumer rights, housing law and housing rights. The training was excellent and gave me the exact information and materials to help me support clients at Community Links and the hubs around the Newham borough.”
Isaac Sadik Kaunda, Community Advice Champion and Psychosocial Studies student at the University of East London
So far the main legal issues the project has dealt with are Welfare Benefits (43%) Housing (25%) and Debt (18%), and a small number of immigration and employment issues have also been resolved.
Community Links have estimated that the clients they worked with on benefits issues were between them missing out on up to £2,000 per week to which they were entitled. However this innovative programme and the associated volunteer training has given Community Advice Champions the knowledge and confidence to spot problems early on and to help people access the right support to deal with those problems whist they are still manageable.
Published: 1 July 2014