Host Organisation: Southwark Law Centre

Rachel Lovell

Rachel is a Trainee Solicitor with Southwark Law Centre and will undertake seats in Housing, Welfare Benefits, and Public Law.

Rachel studied Law at the University of Cambridge. Since university Rachel has pursued a career in social justice law. Her first role was as an Administrator for a Shelter London Housing Advice Centre, before working for nine years as a Legal Adviser for a South London advice charity. In this role Rachel provided advice and casework to individuals in housing, welfare benefits, debt and other areas of social welfare law, managed and trained cohorts of trainee advisers, delivered training, worked with local advice partnerships, and provided court advocacy as a duty adviser as part of the Housing Possession Duty Advice Scheme.

Prior to commencing the Justice First Fellowship in January 2020 Rachel worked as a Housing Caseworker for Southwark Law Centre for two years, acting for tenants in housing possession cases and conducting homelessness reviews under a housing Legal Aid contract, and continuing to provide court advocacy as a duty adviser. During this time Rachel completed part-time Legal Practice Course studies with BPP.

Rachel is a member of Young Legal aid Lawyers, the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, and the Legal Sector Workers United union.

Project – Welfare Rights in Housing Possession

Rachel’s project will investigate the impact of providing welfare rights advice and casework as part of Legal Help and Legal Aid funded housing casework. The project will focus on the provision of welfare benefits casework alongside defending housing possession proceedings and evaluating the impact of this on the level of successful defences to evictions, and the effectiveness over the longer term in preventing the recurrence of eviction proceedings or likelihood of future eviction.

Rachel’s project arises from her experiences over the past 11 years providing advice spanning multiple areas of social welfare law and working at court as a duty adviser, and from her time at the Law Centre conducting Legal Aid housing litigation and seeing the need for holistic legal advice to resolve the underlying causes of rent arrears. Following the 2013 LASPO reforms Welfare Rights advice was taken out of scope for the vast majority of cases, meaning clients frequently obtain no help at all with their welfare benefits issues before they end up in eviction proceedings, and once those proceedings commence if they manage to obtain housing Legal Aid assistance their solicitor is not funded to help them to actually resolve the problems that caused the arrears. The project also ties in with the LASPO Post-Implementation Review and will address two of the Legal Support Action Plan “early legal support” pilots, firstly evaluating the impact of “legal support hubs” co-locating legal support services for people with multiple, linked, or difficult to diagnose legal problems, particularly around social welfare, and secondly the pilot of face-to-face legal advice in a specific areas of social welfare law.

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