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NEW! Volunteering Opportunities with the Strategic Public Law Clinic and the Immigration and Asylum Clinic at the Central England Law Centre

Warwick Law in the Community (LinC) is pleased to collaborate with the Central England Law Centre (CELC) to offer students some exciting volunteering opportunities with the Strategic Public Law Clinic (SPLC) as well as the Immigration and Asylum Clinic (I&A).

Students are welcome to join our MS Teams information session on Monday 4th October between 4-5pm to learn more about LinC and this year’s opportunities with the team at CELC.

If you have any other questions about the opportunities, please email WarwickLinC@warwick.ac.uk

Eligibility

Opportunities with the Strategic Public Law Clinic are open to all Warwick law students. Volunteering with the Immigration and Asylum clinic is open to Warwick law students except first year undergraduates.

Precious volunteers for the SPLC or I&A are not able to apply again for the same opportunity. However, students who participated for SPLC previously can apply for I&A and similarly, those who took part in the I&A clinic can apply for the SPLC opportunity.

What’s involved?

Students are expected to commit 3-5 hours per week during term time. Volunteering with the SPLC and I&A will run during terms 1 and 2. Both opportunities will be fully remote, though we may offer this in-person when the opportunity arises. Students volunteering with the SPLC will be required to attend regular, small, and large team meetings. Meeting times will be determined by group availability.

How to apply

Students should submit their CV along with a cover letter (no more than 300 words) in one document to WarwickLinC@warwick.ac.uk  

For students interested in both opportunities, separate applications should be submitted.

A preference for one can be expressed when submitting the application. Note that those applying for both the SPLC and I&A will not be accepted for both opportunities. If students have a preference for a specific SPLC project, this can be expressed, though there is no guarantee of this.

The deadline for applications is Thursday 7th October 2021 by 5pm.

Applicants shortlisted will be notified and an invitation for interview will be sent on:

  •  Friday 8th October for the Strategic Public Law Clinic
  •  Monday 11th October for Immigration and Asylum Clinic

Group Interviews will take place on:

  • Tuesday 12th October with Dr Tara Mulqueen and Karen Ashton, Head of Public Law and Human Rights CELC, for the Strategic Public Law Clinic
  • Wednesday 13th October with Rob Bircumshaw for the Immigration and Asylum Clinic
  • Please note group interviews will take place online.

Successful applicants will be required to attend an induction on:

  • Thursday 14th October at 11:00-12:30 for Strategic Public Law Clinic
  • Friday 15th October at 3 - 5 pm for Immigration and Asylum Clinic
Immigration and Asylum Clinic

Students will be working with the Asylum and Immigration team at Central England Law Centre. The team has solicitors working in Birmingham and Coventry and this role will be with the Coventry team.

Primarily we will be working remotely, although this will be reviewed after Christmas. Students will be working to help client’s obtain legal aid through our Exceptional Case Funding (ECF) clinic, so they can be assisted with their immigration applications/appeals. Students will receive training in some aspects of immigration law, particularly around making human rights applications and will certainly improve their interviewing and drafting skills as well as knowledge of legal aid.

We will also be asking students to undertake diverse and ad hoc research tasks for ongoing cases, and we intend for all of you to be working on in at least one appeal matter, with the expectation that you will be able to attend the First-tier Tribunal or the Upper Tribunal of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber, together with one of our solicitor’s or counsel. You may even be asked to draft a skeleton argument!

It is important that students are fully committed to the placement as it enables us to provide more legal advice to more people. Students should certainly have an interest in social welfare law and perhaps be thinking of an alternative legal career!

Strategic Public Law Clinic

The SPLC are undertaking two new projects that students can get involved with, these include:

The Local Housing Awareness and its impact on homeless families

Local housing authorities (like Coventry and Birmingham City Councils) owe a number of duties to homeless people. However, if a family is found to be what is called ’intentionally homeless’, a local authority’s duty is limited to providing temporary accommodation to allow the family an opportunity to find their own accommodation. Often, the family is dependent on private sector renting. But this can be made very difficult by the Local Housing Allowance (LHA). The LHA is a statutory limit on the amount of rent which will be paid by means-tested benefits (Universal credit or Housing Benefit) if you rent from a private landlord. For families with children, the amount allowed will depend on the size of accommodation the scheme says you need. This will depend on the size of your family and the sex of your children which determines whether they are able to share a room. If a family is unable to put a roof over the heads of their children, they risk their children being taken into care. The extent of the Council duties (as both a housing and a social services authority) to continue to provide temporary accommodation arguably depends, in part, on how difficult it is to find alternative accommodation.  

The aim of this SPLC project is to assist caseworkers in the Law Centre in individual cases where decisions have been made to withdraw temporary accommodation and also to consider whether the work undertaken might be used to influence more systemic change. It is anticipated that students will have the opportunity to participate in:  

  • researching and collating evidence of the extent of the difficulty that homeless families in receipt of means-tested benefits have in securing suitable accommodation in the private sector, and the availability and effectiveness of any Council schemes designed to help;  
  • producing a draft template that can be used by Law Centre caseworkers as the basis of a witness statement which can be quickly updated for the purpose of (often urgent) judicial review cases which challenge decisions to terminate temporary accommodation;  
  • providing a briefing note for those in the Law Centre working with homeless families on the available Council schemes that may assist and how they work; and 
  • considering how the work might be used to effect meaningful effective change to local policy and practice in the Council’s performance of their statutory responsibilities for the benefit of all families who might otherwise be impacted.  

The students participating in this project are likely to have the opportunity to: 

  1. learn about the relevant legislative social welfare schemes; 
  2. learn about the nature and form of evidence in judicial review cases; 
  3. develop and implement a plan for investigating evidence base for the relevant issue i.e. the availability of private sector accommodation for families in receipt of means-tested benefits and the availability of assistance schemes; 
  4. through the witness statement template development gain some experience in drafting witness statements for judicial review cases; 
  5. consider alternative ways of using statutory responsibilities and evidence to achieve systemic change by influencing policy and practice.  
Rights in peril - reinstating rights to social care post Covid-19 

The Coronavirus Act 2020 removed a swathe of key rights of those in need of adult social care. The Care Act 2014 created an absolute obligation on local social services authorities to meet the statutory eligible needs of adults with disabilities. This right was transformed by the pandemic legislation into acts to be performed unless and until the authority decided it would ‘adopt easements’. The idea was that easements would allow local authorities to limit their obligations so that they would be better able to deal with the pandemic pressures.  

Four of the eight authorities across England which decided to adopt (what were called) ‘level 3’ easements (and therefore restrict the rights of disabled adults) were in the West Midlands. There were a number of legal challenges to the decisions and none of the authorities retained their level 3 easements for very long. However, anecdotally, it appears that a number of local authorities used lower-level easements and even, in effect, operated the higher levels informally with resulting unmet need.  

The relevant provisions of the Coronavirus Act were withdrawn in July 2021, but have social care rights been fully reinstated two years on from the introduction of this unprecedented emergency legislation? 

The SPLC project will undertake investigations to identify patterns of impact on key rights and the extent to which those may not yet have been reversed and may need tackling strategically, for example though public legal education campaigns, advice and litigation casework, data collection and policy influencing. This cannot be ascertained by simply analysing issues that arise for clients who approach the Law Centre. Those who have been affected may well not know that they have relevant legal rights and may not seek specialist legal advice. We want to try and get a better sense of the extent and nature of the impacts through a survey of those organisations who provide various types of care and support to meet assessed needs under the Care Act. We can ask them about the extent to which they continued to provide their service, the availability of substitute services, and the extent to which and when they were able to return to normal. Over the summer, a student intern produced a directory of providers in the 4 local authority areas with which we are concerned as a basis for this piece of work. We are also interested in finding out what steps local authorities are taking to reinstate ‘normal service’.  

This SPLC work will form part of a broader project (‘Rights in Peril’) currently being undertaken by the Law Centre’s Health and Social Care Team and funded by the Barings Foundation.  

The students participating in this project are likely to have the opportunity to: 

  1. learn about the key duties from the Care Act and how the provision of the Coronavirus Act operated; 
  2. consider what impact the pandemic and the Coronavirus Act is likely to have had on those key rights to try and ensure that our investigative tools explore the right issues;  
  3. develop surveys appropriate to the main types of care providers such as day centres, residential respite etc.; 
  4. learn about rights under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and draft appropriate FOIA questions to local authorities about Covid recovery plans. 

The results of these investigations will fall to analysed in the Spring Term. The material will be used to develop strategies for tackling any issues identified with a view to producing a report to the Rights in Peril team which can be used by them to inform their work to reinstate rights.