Host Organisation: Legal Advice Centre (University House)

Rupshana Uddin

I joined the Legal Advice Centre (University House) as a trainee solicitor and a Justice First Fellow in January 2020. I graduated with a First-class honours in LLB Law and achieved a Distinction in the Legal Practice course.

During my studies, I had the opportunity to volunteer at Citizens Advice as part of my course. I was given the opportunity to advice and assist residents regarding a variety of social welfare issues including debt, housing, welfare benefits, consumer issue and more. This side of the law intrigued me, and I continued to volunteer after the end of my course.

Upon leaving university, I worked for a Local Authority assessing housing benefit, council tax support and discretionary housing payments. I was able to assist some of the most vulnerable residents within society and successfully applied myself in growing a new team focusing on income maximisation within the borough.

I have been committed to Social Welfare law throughout my career. The Legal Advice Centre provides equal opportunity to exercise legal rights, regardless of means and without discrimination for residents. I am delighted to be given the opportunity to train at the Legal Advice Centre. I am also excited as to my future as a Justice First Fellow.

Project – Migrant Special Support Project

The aim of the Migrant Special Support Project is to define a new model of advice and advocacy provision for our users whose first language is not English and who have limited use of it. We are aware that this user group repeatedly calls upon our service seeking help on a wide range of issues. These users tend to have minimal language skills, have problems integrating into society and are unaware of their legal rights and where to seek help. The traditional advice model is not appropriate for these users. The Migrant Special Support Project will offer a tailored service to this group. The migrant special support caseworker will make regular contact with these users and offer ongoing structured support via regular meetings. The support offered will include legal advice and casework, an income maximization assessment, assistance with personal money and debt management, soft training on improving life skills and referral to other services such as local colleges and ESOL. In addition, users who have become dis-engaged form traditional support services will be offered supported referrals back to day centres, alcohol and/or drug management programmes and other specialist support bodies.

The users referred above repeatedly call upon our services seeking assistance on a wide range of issues. Frequently this group are socially isolated and call upon our service once their problems have spiralled out of control. For example, whose first language is not English will receive and not complete forms for housing and council tax benefit renewals. This will lead to these benefits being stopped. This will lead to rent and council tax arrears. This may lead to possession proceedings for their accommodation and a liability order for unpaid council tax resulting in a visit from bailiffs. This type of user tends to access our service at this point and the caseworker is left to deal with a number of very urgent matters and a very distressed client. The Migrant Special Support Project aims to reduce this negative cycle via targeted interventions. In the example given above, the forms will have been completed with the assistance of the caseworker when they arrive. This type of support will solve the need to contact our service at the last minute. The Migrant Special Support Project will assist this group with legal problems, debt management and income maximization and act as referring organization to other beneficial services such as ESOL, mental health day centres, women’s groups and other similar services where appropriate. The benefit for this user group will be that they do not stumble from one crisis to another and are helped to obtain a degree of control and development to their lives as a result of receiving regular structured support from the Migrant Special Support Project.

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