Host Organisation: Avon and Bristol Law Centre

Jess Haley

My commitment to social justice initially stemmed from a paralegal role that I held with the Centre for Criminal Appeals, a non-profit criminal law practice that offers advice and assistance to wrongfully convicted prisoners. I subsequently completed a short-term volunteer position with legal charity Reprieve, and studied both the Graduate Diploma in Law and the Legal Practice Course LLM with the University of Law, having previously completed a History and Politics undergraduate degree at the University of Nottingham.

Alongside full time legal study, I trained and acted as a gateway assessor at my local Citizens Advice Bureau, volunteered with the Personal Support Unit, and contributed in a collaborative project between the University of Law and Refugee Support Devon to improve client access to exceptional case funding. I additionally acted as a freelance paralegal, further assisting in post-conviction criminal appeal work.

Upon graduating, I relocated to Bristol and worked as a paralegal in Irwin Mitchell’s Public Law and Human Rights department, assisting in actions against the police, inquest and Court of Protection cases. I am a current volunteer with St Mungo’s, and commenced by training contract with Avon and Bristol Law Centre in January 2019.

Project

My Justice First Fellowship project aims to ensure effective application of the enhanced duties afforded on local authorities following the implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act (“the Act”) to prevent and relieve homelessness.

Educative drop-in clinics tailored to the non-priority visible homeless will be held to disseminate information regarding the relevant protective duties within the Act, the means by which such duties become engaged through a homelessness application, and the subsequent process that should follow. Follow-up advice sessions will be held with those service users who subsequently wish to tap into relevant protective duties, with tailored advice given regarding the contents and procedure relating to their specific homelessness application.

A period of review will follow in which I will assess the number of homelessness applications made and the result of each in order to assess general correlations and identify both any localised difficulties and overarching pitfalls within the Act. I will then ensure that I effectively react to any identified results by conducting challenges by way of judicial review if necessary, whilst simultaneously continuing knowledge-sharing with service users.

It is hoped that the project will ensure long-term sustainable change, namely increased access to protective duties, reduced homelessness (which is notably prevalent in Bristol), and policy change if required. I aim to open up communication, make legislative duties a talking point, and ensure that those to whom they apply are benefitting as much as possible.

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