Our legal outreach service currently operates in 12 drug treatment, homeless and women centres across eight London boroughs, seeing over 800 clients a year. The Camden and Tower Hamlets serivces each accept referrals from 4 inter borough services.
Areas of legal advice and representation covered
People who use drugs problematically and engaging with the treatment centre can access a legal adviser for advice and assistance on a variety of issues, including:
- Welfare benefits (including representation at tribunals)
- Complaints against the police
- Criminal injuries compensation claims
The benefits of the programme
The aim of the programme 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 drug use.
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 services at Release are provided 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 drugs problematically.
We are keen to expand the legal surgery provision both across London and to other areas of the country. If you are interested in Release providing a legal surgery in your area please contact Kirstie Douse, Head of Legal Services, on 020 7324 2982 for more information.
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.