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Fulham Legal Advice Centre Helping those in need in the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham and the surrounding area to get access to justice © Fulham Legal Advice Centre Limited All rights reserved. Published March 2008 Who we are and what we do…
Contents Introduction2 Key services3 Other services5 Our team6 Facts and figures7 Using our service8 © Fulham Legal Advice Centre Limited All rights reserved. Published March 2008 Client feedback ‘I received an excellent service and I am very grateful for that’ ‘God bless all those working at Fulham Legal Advice Centre’ ‘I was extremely satisfied with the service provided. Everyone was extremely helpful! Keep up the good work is all I have to say to your team’ ‘The quality of legal advice was first rate. Your solicitors and staff are very “on the ball”’ ‘You are doing an excellent job’ Introduction FLAC was founded by a lawyer and a BBC researcher in 1971 and started providing advice in 1972 from 510 Fulham Road, London SW6 (about 200 metres from our current location). To this day, our legal advice is provided by fully qualified lawyers who all volunteer their time. We have a permanent staff, including a welfare benefits adviser and a tribunal representative. Through these staff, we are able to represent a number of people at employment tribunals, disability benefit tribunals and social security appeal hearings. Because our other advisers are volunteers, we are not able to represent our clients in court, but we assist them with drafting the necessary documentation and give them knowledge of procedure to enable them to run their own cases. FLAC provides three legal advice sessions a week. These are free to users. As the sessions are staffed by volunteers (who generally have full-time jobs as lawyers), the sessions start at 6.30pm – this has the advantage that the sessions are more accessible to those in full-time employment. In our experience, many people on an average wage can have very real legal problems but could not justify paying to have a private solicitor to advise them. Our benefits advice work is given during the day by appointment with the client. We also provide some employment law advice in the day time. We believe we provide a valuable service to our local community, evidenced by the number of people who return to seek advice on a range of issues affecting them. Clients are referred to us by a range of other local advisory agencies as well as doctors, the police, the council and their friends who have had a good experience of our service in the past. Some thoughts from our volunteers We asked some of our volunteers why they choose to help FLAC: ‘FLAC provides a way for me to make use of my skills to benefit less fortunate members of my local community and it is very satisfying when you see positive changes in clients’ lives following your advice.’ ‘I have advised at FLAC in excess of 30 years and it is readily apparent during this period the public’s access to justice has been substantially reduced. Legal Aid or legal assistance via a solicitor is either no longer available for the majority or has been diminished, resulting in many cases FLAC being the last port of call. Please give your support.’ ‘I have been giving advice for over 20 years. With the gradual decline in publicly funded advice, FLAC now represents the last chance for the most vulnerable people to get the legal advice, help and guidance they so badly need. I shudder to think what would happen to those people if FLAC was not here to help them.’
Employment Employment law is increasingly complex and legal aid is not available for representation. We assist our clients to assert their rights where they have been discriminated against for a variety of reasons. We are also able to assist where a dismissal may not be discriminatory but is, nonetheless, unfair. As well as the financial benefits for our clients, there is often a great deal of trauma associated with losing a job and our advice can help people to come to terms with this. In addition to our volunteer lawyers, we have a full-time specialist lawyer who is able to represent a number of our clients in Employment Tribunals. This has been particularly helpful for more complex cases and appeals, where we have had considerable success. © Fulham Legal Advice Centre Limited All rights reserved. Published March 2008 Case study Mr G was being paid less than £1.50 per hour and was sacked for requesting a written contract of employment. Through FLAC, Mr G was able to get compensation for the difference between his wages and the Minimum Wage, as well as compensation for unfair dismissal. He is now in new employment with a proper contract and a fair wage. Welfare benefits Our work in this area involves advising the neediest members of society. Where benefits are denied completely, our clients can be left destitute. Equally, a denial of disability benefits can leave clients unable to care properly for their medical conditions. Clients in this area can be additionally disadvantaged by mental health issues or not speaking English as a first language which can leave them with difficulty in communicating their case properly to the benefit authorities who determine their eligibility for benefits. By having specialist staff working in this area, we are able to progress cases with the relevant authorities more quickly and, in certain cases, we are also able to attend hearings with clients to advocate on their behalf. Key services Employment Welfare benefits Housing Money / debt
Housing We advise large numbers of people living in social housing who face a range of issues, some of which affect their physical and/or mental health. These include lack of repairs, unsuitable accommodation for the disabled, nuisance neighbours, overcrowding and rent arrears. We help our clients communicate with their landlord (council or housing association) to try to reach a consensual settlement or solution. Where this is not possible within a reasonable timescale, we will assist our clients to take court action in order that they can have somewhere suitable to live. We also help to prevent repossession of our clients’ homes and/or eviction. In these cases, financial compensation can be less important to clients than having a home where they can feel happy and safe. © Fulham Legal Advice Centre Limited All rights reserved. Published March 2008 Key services Employment Welfare benefits Housing Money / debt Case study Ms N was forced to give up running her own business when she became seriously ill and unable to work. After a forced sale of stock and equipment, she was left with significant debts which she could not pay with her benefit entitlements. Her illness was made worse by the stress of constant demands from her creditors which were impossible for her to meet. We advised her on the process and implications of bankruptcy. She is now debt-free. Money / debt The increasing levels of personal borrowing in the UK and the difficulties of accessing credit following recent market turmoil have been well publicised. A change in circumstances, such as relationship breakdown or loss of job through ill health or redundancy, can lead to people suddenly being unable to keep up the repayments on their debts. Many people try to ignore their problems or compound their difficulties by using very high interest borrowing. We establish the true extent of our clients’ debts and discuss with them how best to sort out their problems. This includes bankruptcy (particularly for clients in rented accommodation) and reaching a negotiated settlement which provides for a fair and manageable payment to all their creditors. These settlements allow clients to repay as much money as is realistically possible to their creditors.
© Fulham Legal Advice Centre Limited All rights reserved. Published March 2008 Other services Consumer / contract Crime / road traffic Family Insurance Landlord and tenant Personal injury Wills and probate Case studies Mr & Mrs A made a claim to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority following the murder of their son. Their application was refused. We liaised with the police involved in the murder trial, who thought the family were ‘highly deserving’ and wrote to the CICA. The CICA reviewed the case and agreed to put it before a new panel. Ms E bought a bed from a well-known retailer which was infested with bed bugs. The retailer refused a refund, but with our help Ms E got all of her money back. General legal advice We provide people in need with access to a qualified lawyer to discuss almost any problem they may be facing in their life. The only exception is immigration, where we refer clients to other specialist agencies. Consumer / Contract: We are able to provide practical advice on disputes over faulty goods, poor workmanship and other consumer claims. The intervention of an advice agency can help to get commercial organisations to pay proper attention to disputes, rather than leaving them to a process that may not address our client’s real issue. Crime / road traffic: Our crime work is limited and mainly consists of advising people regarding motoring offences and parking/congestion charge infringements. Included in this area is helping the victims of crime to seek compensation for their injuries from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. Family: Advice is given to anyone affected by difficulties in a partnership, including separation and divorce. We can also refer clients to other agencies to assist them in finding a holistic solution to the issues they are facing. Insurance: Clients are understandably upset if, following a loss, they are told they are not, in fact, covered by their insurance. We help people to obtain realistic settlements from their insurers where there is a valid claim. Landlord and tenant: Tenants can face many problems with private sector landlords, ranging from difficulties in getting deposits back at the end of a lease, through a failure to mend the boiler, up to illegal threats of eviction. We advise and assist people to help them get fair treatment. Personal injury: When people are injured in accidents, whether on the road, at work, or elsewhere, we are able to help them get compensation for their suffering and financial loss. Wills and probate: We are able to assist the bereaved in dealing with the affairs of their deceased relatives, whether or not there is a will. We can also help people to draw up their own will.
Volunteers FLAC has a team of approximately 30 advisers and interviewers. The interviewers gather initial details of the issues facing clients and ensure they are properly informed of how FLAC works. Our advisers have all qualified as solicitors or barristers. All members of the management committee volunteer their time for free. Most are active legal advisers at FLAC. We estimate that the time given by our volunteer advisers in helping clients would cost around £300,000 a year if paid for at local solicitors’ rates. © Fulham Legal Advice Centre Limited All rights reserved. Published March 2008 Our team FLAC is lucky to have a dedicated team of staff and volunteers, many of whom have provided years of service to the community. Staff Pam Donohue, Manager Jordana Adams Shelley Joseph Jo Donohue Management Committee Garrett Byrne, Chair Guy Enright, Treasurer Gavin Davies, Secretary Caroline Bates Charlotte Bradley Nicholas Chronias Fesshaye Fettuwi David Irving Adam Ohringer Katherine Pinney Angela Sadler Murray Shanks Paul Sinclair Steven Thompson Case studies Mr B came to us following the death of his wife as he was unsure of the value of her estate and confused by the procedure to access it. To date, we have helped Mr B secure over £7,000 and investigate his potential entitlements as a widower. Mr D is severely disabled, with the use of only one limb. Despite displaying his disabled badge, he received a parking ticket in the supermarket car park for staying more than 2 hours. We got the charge waived and an agreement that Mr D could park for longer in future so he has enough time to do his own shopping. Garrett Byrne Pam Donohue Guy Enright
© Fulham Legal Advice Centre Limited All rights reserved. Published March 2008 Facts and figures FLAC has two principal funders – the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham and the Legal Services Commission. Dr Edwards & Bishop King’s Fulham Charity have supported FLAC with an annual running costs grant for many years. As well as these funders, we are increasingly reliant on the generosity of other donors, including clients, charitable foundations and others to ensure we have enough money each year. Where does the money go? SUMMARY EXPENSE BUDGET 2008/9 £’000 Salaries80 Rent14 Print, post, phone12 Books / subscriptions8 Insurance & Professional fees6 Other10 Total130 Who do we help? During 2006, our client base was made up as follows: 51% female / 49% male; 14% disabled; 31% aged over 50; 30% unemployed; Our clients spoke 33 first languages. Source: Client-completed monitoring forms Based on prior years’ income, we are forecasting a shortfall of at least £5,000 to be met by fund raising activity. The Legal Services Commission has recently changed the way in which they fund us and many other advice agencies. This may well increase our need to raise money from other sources. We are committed to raising the funding needed to run FLAC. The service is highly valued by the local community. The local council gave us a glowing report as part of their recent funding review. We will do everything we can to keep this excellent service going for our community.
Using our service Where are we? We are at 679A Fulham Road, London SW6 5PZ, between Fulham Broadway and Kelvedon Road. We are temporarily next door at 681 Fulham Road while repair work is carried out at 679A. Fulham Broadway and Parsons Green (both District line) are the closest tube stations. Bus routes: 11, 14, 28, 211, 295, 391, 414 and 424 all stop within 10 minutes walk. When are we open? Legal advice: Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6.30pm. You need to call on the day you want advice between 3pm and 5pm to check an adviser will be available. We will aim to see you at a set time, but you may need to wait for an adviser to become available. Please remember that our legal advisers are volunteers – they try to attend regularly but may not always be available. Welfare benefits: Advice is by appointment. Please call at these times to make an appointment: Monday to Thursday 10am to 12pm and 3pm to 5pm; Friday 10am to 12pm. Accessibility FLAC is wheelchair accessible (note: not toilet facilities). We can arrange interpreters with advance notice. Help us to help you Please bring all relevant paperwork with you when you come to see us. Feedback We are committed to providing a high-quality, confidential service, accessible to all members of the local community who need it. We welcome suggestions to help us improve our service or your experience of it. You can complete a comment form, or speak to the centre manager. If you need to make a complaint, please speak or write to the centre manager in the first instance. Designed at no cost to FLAC. © Fulham Legal Advice Centre Limited All rights reserved. Published March 2008 Fulham Legal Advice Centre 679A Fulham Road London SW6 5PZ T F E Fulham Road North End Road Parsons Green La Parsons Green Shottendane Road Fulham Broadway Kelvedon Road FLAC
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