Justice First Fellowship Announcement

Justice First Fellowship Announcement

Press Release: Applications open for seven social welfare training contracts through Justice First Fellowship Scheme

The Legal Education Foundation (TLEF) today announced that applications will open on Monday 3rd August for seven new training contracts in social welfare law. This is the second year that this innovative programme has been running.

The positions will be available with host organisations in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland and are aimed at graduates who have passed the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or their Irish and Scottish equivalents.

The applicants, who undertake a two-year term as Fellows for the duration of their training contracts, will also receive guidance on various areas including media relations and their project impact. Grants to host organisations average £75,000 to cover the two-year costs of salary, supervision, and training courses.

The aim of the programme is to train a new generation of lawyers and potential future leaders of the advice sector working with vulnerable people in the areas of housing, welfare benefits, disability, immigration, domestic abuse and child welfare. In their first year, for example, some Fellows have already been giving advice about local authority duties owed to children in need, advising parents who are respondents in proceedings involving children in care and helping women victims of domestic violence.

TLEF Chief Executive Matthew Smerdon, said:

“With steep cuts to legal aid and many other areas of public spending, the need for social welfare lawyers has never been greater.
“When we established the Scheme in partnership with the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Unbound Philanthropy last year, our hope was that we could help find and develop the next generation of passionate social justice advocates.

“The sponsors and host organisations are strengthening their support for the Fellowships. Together we can create wonderful opportunities for fulfilling careers that help the most vulnerable people in our communities.”

The host organisations, who are all registered with the Regulatory Authorities to supervise trainees, are:

  • Avon & Bristol Law Centre, which focuses on social welfare law issues for people living in Bristol and the South West.
  • Ben Hoare Bell LLP, a well-established legal aid firm based in North East England that deals with a whole range of social welfare law issues.
  • Child Poverty Action Group, a national charity working to end poverty among children, young people and families in the UK.
  • Greenwich Housing Rights, an independent charity working for housing rights, primarily in the Royal Borough of Greenwich.
  • Law Centre (Northern Ireland), a not-for-profit agency working to promote social justice through providing specialist legal services to advice-giving organisations and disadvantaged people in Northern Ireland.
  • Legal Services Agency, a law centre and charity providing skilled legal advice, assistance and representation to vulnerable people in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Greenock.
  • Shelter, the national charity that helps large numbers of people every year struggling with bad quality housing or homelessness.

Amber Rowsell, a Fellow who has been training at Coram Children’s Legal Centre in Colchester, Essex, said:

“The Fellowship has enabled me to dedicate my time to gain practical experience of social welfare law at this early stage in my career. The support I receive from my supervisors is focused and descriptive, which enhances my skills on a daily basis, allowing me to advise vulnerable clients to the highest standard.”

Sue Bent, Director of the Central England Law Centre, based in Coventry and Birmingham, said:

“Central England Law Centre is delighted to be one of the first hosts for the Fellowship. Our trainee has been working on developing links with BME women who may find it difficult to report domestic violence. She is developing our ‘Safeplace’ service which aims to give women back some control by making them aware of their rights and the options they may have. We have gained an intelligent and dedicated trainee whose dedication to improving the lives of our clients is evident; but in addition it’s great to be at the forefront of supporting a new movement that will secure the future of social welfare law.”

The first year Fellowships were entirely funded by TLEF, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Unbound Philanthropy. Whilst these foundations are still the main funders the TLEF is delighted that a number of law firms, including Allen & Overy, DAC Beachcroft, Herbert Smith Freehills, Osborne Clarke and TLT, as well as the BPP University have also contributed.

Mark Mansell, partner at Allen & Overy, added: “At a time when we are seeing the access to justice landscape changing, Allen & Overy is proud to support the next generation of social welfare lawyers through this unique fellowship programme from TLEF.”

During the training contract, the Fellows will be required to establish a project that will advance the advice sector and access to justice in some way. The seven successful applicants will also receive additional support and opportunities to contribute to wider access of the social justice movement.

Competition for the seven fellowships is likely to be strong; applicants must be able to demonstrate a commitment to social welfare law and evidence of good academic attainment.

Applications will be accepted online via the TLEF website from 3 August until midnight on 15 September 2015. The positions will commence in January 2016.

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