Our legal outreach service is only delivered directly on-site in drug treatment centres, homeless projects, and sex work services, known as “host” centres. We currently deliver 17 services - 12 in London boroughs (Brent, Camden, Croydon, Ealing, Islington, Lambeth, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest), and 5 ‘virtual’ services delivered in Hull, Stockton, Lincoln, Rotherham, Maidenhead and Wokingham.
The aim of the service is to reduce clients’ health and income inequalities, and improve their general wellbeing, through the resolution of their legal problems. It is our experience that when a client’s legal problems are being addressed they are more able to engage with the treatment services and address the issues related to their alcohol/drug use.
The benefit of having the legal service delivered within a 'host' service is that service users don’t have to travel anywhere new, which we know can be a problem for many with physical or mental health conditions. They benefit from having an on-site legal service dedicated solely to assist them, and in an environment they are familiar with. We also know that many service users can find it difficult to get help from external agencies due to the stigma around their drug and alcohol use, which risks legal issues continuing unresolved. In contrast, our legal team participate in service user forums and are trained to understand the difficulties that substance use/dependency, trauma and treatment can have on service users lives.
Areas of legal advice and representation covered
HOUSING/ACCOMMODATION - Homeless (including street homeless) - Eviction notice & possession proceedings – Disrepair – Harassment - Tenancy advice - Transfer etc.
DEBT* - Court Fines - Rent arrears - Loans - Hire Purchase - Catalogue Shopping - Credit & Store Card - Mobile phone contracts – TV & Internet - Gas, Electricity & Water - Council Tax etc.
WELFARE BENEFITS - Universal Credit - Personal Independence Payment (PIP) - Child Benefit and Tax Credits - Council tax reduction - Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) - Housing Benefit - Jobseeker’s Allowance - Pension Credit - Working Tax Credits - Sanctions, deductions and over-payments etc. and FREE representation in ALL Social Security Tribunals.
In addition to the above areas, we are also developing our new immigration and community care services which will only be available to our host services and will commence operation in April 2024 or thereabouts and have been developed to specifically help those with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF).
The new immigration service (registered (N202331711) with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) will provide legal advice and support to those service users whose immigration status is threatened, coming to an end, or who are without immigration status in the UK at all. Our legal team can assist with a wide variety of immigration issues such as, for example:
- Applications for entry clearance, leave to enter, or leave to remain in the UK.
- Applications to lift NRPF restrictions on a person's existing leave.
- Some applications for European Union (EU) nationals applying to remain in the UK under EUSS.
The new community care service is designed to assist both young people (18 -25 years old) and adults. For young people the service can help with:
- prevention of homelessness - obtaining accommodation - accessing support from children’s social services and leaving care team - obtaining statutory support – immigration assistance (who do not yet have status in the UK).
The resolution of the legal issues is of course the main direct outcome, but there are also indirect benefits too, including self-reported wellbeing from the resolution of legal issues, the increased stability of accommodation, maximised income, and associated health benefits leading to improvements in wellbeing.
The significance of this service is highlighted in the ‘Legal Surgeries Evaluation Report 2012’. This report outlines the importance of working closely with the treatment centres, which allows clients easy access to Release’s specialist knowledge and encourages them to have stronger ties with their drug project. Clients often report past negative experiences of accessing legal advice where they have felt stigmatised because of their drug use, whereas Release’s non-judgemental approach allows them to feel comfortable discussing sensitive issues with the adviser. The evaluation also shows how these legal outreach programmes can have a positive effect on individuals, their families and the community. The surgeries are extremely popular, with clients and treatment centre staff regularly advocating for the continuation of the service. We also carried an impact assessment of the service called 'Community Investment for Supportive Change' which was commissioned by Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Public Health. The report demonstrated that for £1 invested in the service the overall social return value was £11.
The legal outreach services at Release are delivered by qualified solicitors and paralegals, working closely with the drugs team at the organisation, the team are experts in legal issues faced by those who use alcohol/drugs problematically.
We are keen to expand the legal outreach provision both across London and to other areas of the country to help as many people as possible.
If you are interested in Release providing a legal outreach service in your area/centre or for more onformation, please contact:
- Stephen Cutter, Head of Legal Services, on 020 7324 2991
- Keith Edwards, Finance & Operations on 020 7324 2979
*Release is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (618823) to provide debt advice & help.
We hold the Advice Quality Standard, which provides you with assurance that we have met certain criteria that demonstrates a commitment to quality.