We help vulnerable, marginalised young people and destitute children and families by providing free specialist legal advice in homelessness and community care law focusing on those with disabilities, care leavers and carers in a youth friendly environment using a holistic approach, improving young people's life chances and preventing crises.
Our main activity is providing free specialist legal advice, representation and advocacy with holistic support, to obtain due Social Welfare entitlement under Community Care and Housing Law, particularly challenging Local Authorities (LA) and we are developing our Debt and Money Advice Service. We have a Legal Aid Agency contract in Community Care and Housing Law.
We receive funding from Chances and Battersea Power Station Foundation for our Opening Gates: Homelessness Advice Project where we give fundamental homelessness advice, the work that is no longer in scope under Legal Help, to people over the phone or face to face. We advise people of their homelessness rights, such as the legal definition of being eligible for housing assistance, homeless, in priority need and that they can apply to any LA in England and Wales.
Our Resource Centre has volunteers funded by Wandsworth Council giving young people information about organisations in the area and helps them contact and make appointments with them. Our youth advice network website holds the information on local young people's services and fact sheets drafted by volunteers, and people can send an email, call or text for callbacks if they require further assistance. They are then helped with signposting/referring to services by a volunteer advisor all from our volunteer programme funded by Wandsworth Council. Or they can receive advice from a solicitor/caseworker. These connection / signpostings to local specialists, foster inter-organisational cooperation and improves access to local services.
We also provide 2nd tier advice and training to local voluntary organisations in homelessness and community care law. Last year we ran three training sessions with 50 people attending in total including parents. Our goal is to inform as many people as possible about their rights in housing and community care to prevent rights being eroded and empowering people to assist their service users and or deal with their issues themselves. At the least they will know when their rights are being impinged and where they can get help if they need it.
We are presently running a project with a Strategic Legal Fund grant looking into the practice of local authorities bypassing s17 Children Act duties towards families with no recourse to public funds by discrediting the parents making the application. We are building a database that will be available to all those working with NRPF families in conjunction with Project 17 who are looking into LAs bad practices. We believe 50+ support organisations and solicitors will access the database and 100s of families with children people will benefit over a year across the country.
PRINCIPAL AREAS OF LEGAL WORK
Community Care - Youth Legal represents clients from the local community who have issues with regard to community care provision. Any issues relating to social services and their service provision to the disabled, elderly and minors.
Housing - Youth Legal provides assistance for people facing homelessness and tenants facing possession proceedings/eviction.
Debt and Money Advice - watch this space
Welfare Benefits - Youth Legal gives basic, non-specialist advice on welfare benefits issues relating to disability, employment support allowance, housing benefit and rights of residence in relation to our Housing and Community Care cases. If specialist advice is required, we will refer out.
We will achieve our aims by working together with Young People to continue to develop the services that are specific to their needs and in partnership with young people's and other voluntary services already available in the area.
Along with the specialist legal advice service at Ashburton Youth Club run by Regenerate, we have outreach surgeries in the offices of Youth service providers in the area to enable us to reach as many young people as possible.
We are working in partnership with Lifetimes, the Council for Voluntary services in Wandsworth. They provide training, advice, information, networking and opportunities for participation and involvement in local policy to all voluntary and community organisations in the borough.
We are involved with the Wandsworth Advice forum. It’s aim is for the advice sector to work collaboratively throughout the borough. We will continue to work closely with Family Action's Mental Health Support Team and Young Carer's projects.
We have regular contact with WOWMums, work closely with Merton and Wandsworth Asylum Welcome, Migrant Children's project and Asylum Welcome Young Adult's Group meeting,
We will continue to carry out training for local voluntary organisations on the legal rights of Young Carers, Care Leavers, and Disabled Young People on community care issues including training on the new Children & Families and Care Acts, and Homelessness.