Over 14,000 volunteers aiming to raise £1 million from London Legal Walk
South West London Law Centres starters
More than 14,000 volunteers, legal advisors and lawyers have taken to the streets of London, the paths of Hyde Park and the banks of the Thames, walking or “wheeling” a distance of 10 kilometers in the name of access to justice.
The event is called the London Legal Walk, and the aim this year is to raise one million pounds to support local law centres and advice clinics. All funds raised support FREE legal advice charities in London and the South East.
South West London Law Centres finishers
By sponsoring those taking part, you will be supporting legal advice charities such as South West London Law Centres. SWLLC is Wandsworth's local law centre and the largest in the UK, providing a wide-ranging service directly helping over 8,000 people at very difficult moments in their lives. SWLLC dates back to 1974, having been established in Tooting and now covering six London boroughs: Wandsworth (where the office is now on Falcon Road in Battersea), Merton, Croydon, Sutton, Kingston and Richmond.
Read on to find out about the work which SWLLC does as well as donate go to
Patrick Marples, CEO of SWLLC, explained: “Our legal advisors respond to 60,000 online and phone calls for help and over 1 million people access our online information, half of these accessing our pro bono clinic supported by our partner law firms. We are a charitable community-based legal practice working to relieve poverty, suffering and distress for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable members of our communities.”
SWLLC’s advisors have won numerous awards for their work and are very successful in securing positive outcomes for their clients. This often leads to significant savings for the local authorities in South West London, for example by keeping people in their homes and resolving their financial difficulties. Last year SWLLC won 37 out of 38 benefit appeals and recovered £539,000 in wrongly withheld benefits for some of the poorest families in our community. (This was a small pilot programme for which SWLLC is now seeking funding to provide as a wider service. A little-known fact outside the world of legal aid law is that over 70% of social security appeals are successful, pointing to a flawed system where incorrect decisions are routinely made by the Department of Work and Pensions, often pushing claimants to the brink of destitution and homelessness.) SWLLC duty housing solicitors saw 1,469 people and prevented 1175 evictions in 2018, taking on cases where the tenant had not previously had any advice. The number of homelessness cases prevented each year by SWLLC advisors runs into thousands across south west London, and we saw nearly 1000 new clients to help resolve debt issues.
One of the clients who was helped by SWLLC this year was a mother who, with her young child, was facing street homelessness. The client’s husband had abandoned the family, but the housing benefit office stopped her housing benefits, arguing that he must still be cohabiting with her because his name was still on certain bills and documents. Such misunderstandings can be extremely complex to clear up, as detailed evidence and legal argument can be required – meanwhile arrears quickly build up. The client was facing eviction proceedings when SWLLC’s housing advice team was contacted: they helped this client clear the arrears and keep the family home.
Cllr Claire Gilbert
SWLLC also now hopes to extend its services further into Surrey with the support of the local legal profession and the London Legal Support Trust (LLST). Wandsworth Councillor Claire Gilbert, who is a Trustee at SWLLC, explained: “There will be a significant additional need for free legal advice in the Kingston area when Wandsworth loses its County Court, currently in Putney on Upper Richmond Road. The Courthouse building is to be sold, and staff there have received notice. Cases currently heard there, such as eviction proceedings, will be reallocated to Kingston and Clerkenwell. This closure is very unfortunate for local residents as well as local businesses. Court closures have been happening across the country and this has an impact upon justice, with costs rising for those who have to attend court, and often less local reporting of cases and outcomes.”
The financial environment within which SWLLC provides its service has changed significantly since 2013 when cuts Legal Aid removed whole areas of law from being eligible for funds and effectively ended access to justice for many people. SWLLC says the restrictions around getting any payment for advising in the remaining areas covered by Legal Aid are difficult and cumbersome, and this las led to around a quarter of law centres being forced to close down since 2010.
SWLLC is committed to filling the gap left by these cuts through offering advice for free via other funding sources. Its Trustees try to bring in independent funding via charitable trusts, grants and donations. The free advice surgeries – over 16 per week now - provided £2.2million worth of advice last year in areas such as employment, crime, civil litigation and family law.
Cllr Gilbert said: "Please do click on the link and make a donation to SWLLC – it will certainly be money well spent! £10 covers expenses for one of our many dedicated volunteers, £20 pays for half an hour of free legal advice at one of our clinics, or £50 will help us expand our welfare benefits project to help those in crisis. Thank you very much!"
Anyone interested in volunteering at the centre, for example law students and those interested in social justice, but also IT, communications and office administration, please contact Patrick.Marples@swllc.org
June 21, 2019