Fellow: Racheal Busingye

Tower Hamlets Law Centre

Tower Hamlets is London’s most deprived borough, with the highest rate of pensioner poverty in England and the highest rate of child poverty in Great Britain. Nationally, the proportion of households in the social rented sector is the fourth highest and that in the private rented sector is the fifth highest. There are nearly 19,000 households are on the council’s housing waiting list. Tower Hamlets also has one of the most diverse populations in the country, home to many communities including the largest Bangladeshi community in the country.

Tower Hamlets Law Centre gives a voice to the people behind these statistics; people who are often in crisis, vulnerable, marginalised by society and experiencing discrimination. Demonised by the popular press and others, our clients need specialist legal advice and representation to give them access to justice that would otherwise be denied to them. By helping them to assert their legal rights, we not only defend their dignity and human rights, but promote their proper place as members of a fully functioning, genuinely inclusive society.

  • There are stark contrasts between the grinding poverty of some parts of the borough and the riches on its doorstep in Canary Wharf and the City of London. We represent the many victims of benefit cuts, too often characterised as ‘scroungers’ but leading lives of desperate poverty.
  • Tower Hamlets is still the traditional gateway to the UK of immigrant communities fleeing persecution or simply seeking a better life – Huguenots, Chinese, Jews, Bengalis, Somalis and more. Yet our clients – migrants generally, and refugees and asylum seekers in particular – are facing intolerance and persecution to an extent not seen in the last 70 years.
  • Against a backdrop of the relentless growth of new luxury housing developments in the borough, we represent people whose landlords force them to live in properties in such appalling disrepair that their health is in peril. And we act for homeless people, marginalised by society to the point of invisibility, often working together with other local charities.

Tower Hamlets Law Centre has served the borough for more than 40 years. We’ve survived funding cuts of 70%, chiefly to legal aid, and we’re now focusing on extending and improving our services to help more vulnerable people in London’s East End.

Our Services

We meet the needs and address the disadvantage of over 1300 clients per year. They include women fleeing domestic violence, people who are in housing crisis, people with no income or recourse to public funds, those with complex benefit challenges, disabled children and adults.

We have recently renewed legal aid contracts in housing and immigration. We also provide advice on welfare benefits, housing and immigration under a contract with London Borough of Tower Hamlets; and welfare benefits, housing, employment and immigration advice through regular pro bono evening advice sessions. We pursue cases all the way from initial enquiry to representation in the higher courts, if necessary.

We work with trainee solicitors from major law firms who volunteer at our evening advice clinics or work on secondment at the law centre. In addition to our casework, we support other advice-giving organisations in Tower Hamlets by providing them with training and second-tier advice, equipping them to offer a better service to their clients.

For further information, visit our website.

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