The University of Hertfordshire has teamed up with legal charity Citizens Advice to launch a pro bono advice clinic staffed by law students.
Running for an initial six-month period, the project will see students at Hertfordshire’s law school provide advice, casework and advocacy support to members of the public wishing to appeal the refusal of welfare benefits to the first-tier tribunal.
The student volunteers, who will remotely under the supervision of experienced welfare benefit specialists, will interview clients by phone or video conferencing, complete appeal forms, prepare cases for appeal and, where appropriate, undertake advocacy at hearings.
The university says the pilot, which is funded by the Community Justice Fund and the National Lottery, will enable Citizens Advice Stevenage to “expand their existing service and help many more people who would otherwise struggle to get access to justice”.
Diana Kirsch, associate dean for enterprise at Hertfordshire Law School, said: “We are delighted to be working with Citizens’ Advice Stevenage on this project. The project will provide a much-needed service as there is huge unmet demand for welfare benefits advice since legal aid was cut for this area of work.
Kirsch continued: “The project will also provide our law students with a fantastic opportunity to put their legal knowledge into practice and gain new skills including interviewing clients and advocacy at the tribunal.”
This isn’t the first time law students have stepped in to offer free legal support to members of the public.
Earlier this month Legal Cheek reported that a trio of London university law clinics — Westminster, Greenwich and London South Bank — had teamed up with local law centres and community groups to launch a free legal support hub for victims of the Windrush scandal.