Students in Salford have begun offering free legal advice for Benefit Appeals claimants, in an attempt to curtail the effect of legal aid cuts and the end of the Mackenzie friend principle.
Law students at the University of Salford are offering legal assistance through the Community Legal Outreach Collaboration, known as the CLOCK initiative, for which training began in February.
The CLOCK initiative will be specialising in Welfare Benefit appeals due to the perceived high level of demand in Salford, but there are plans to expand the project’s remit in time.
Head of Law at The University of Salford, Dr Shane Sullivan, said: “This is a great project for Salford to be involved in.
“It gives our students experience of dealing with real legal situations, and it also provides a vital service to the community and the most vulnerable members of it”.
Legal aid cuts in recent years have meant that up to 70% of Civil Court cases in Greater Manchester involved people who could not afford representation.
Previously, the McKenzie friend principle meant people who were not legal professionals could provide advice, but this led to unscrupulous charges by practitioners.
The Judicial Executive Board published proposals to ban the practice earlier this year.
Third year Law student Kirsty Mayle said: “It can be very daunting for someone if they don’t understand the legal system.
“If we can provide them with support and advise them on the process, then hopefully we can make things smoother for them”.
The focus of the CLOCK initiative will be on Benefit Appeals, with cuts from the Department for Work and Pensions having severe consequences for people across the country.