The Legal Education Foundation is delighted to announce the appointment of Paddy Sloan as our new Chair. Paddy brings a wealth of experience working in grant-making, community development and human rights. Here she speaks about her background and what she aims to achieve as Chair.
“I am delighted to have been appointed as the new Chair of The Legal Education Foundation.
I got to know the Foundation very soon after its establishment in 2013 and have since seen it grow into an organisation with an excellent reputation for encouraging work to use the law as a positive vehicle for social change and to secure individual rights.
My own career has been in the fields of human rights, grant making and community development. I currently lead the BBC Children in Need A Million and Me programme dedicated to supporting children and young people with their emotional wellbeing. Previously I was Director of BBC Children in Need in Northern Ireland which is where I first got to know TLEF. Back then, I worked with CEO Matthew Smerdon to develop the idea of a specialist cluster of children’s lawyers within the Justice First Fellowship. That work has gone on to create over twenty new lawyers in the field and support closer collaboration among specialist children’s law organisations across the UK. So much effort goes into direct service delivery to children which is of course time critical and necessary, but we can find it difficult to look further upstream and see where the legal framework offers opportunity to create positive change at scale.
Before BBC Children in Need, I spent eight years steeped in human rights and constitutional issues as the first CEO of Northern Ireland’s Human Rights Commission. There I supported the initial consultation and early drafting of a Bill of Rights, promoting the basic concept that rights are there to protect everyone, it is not a transactional arrangement. Finding a message that is relevant to those who need protection most and enabling change in their lives as a result, is challenging but potentially powerful. It is a privilege to be joining the TLEF team with their expertise and commitment to using independent funding to promote fairer systems and to inform and strengthen the protections available in law.
Back in the 1980s, having witnessed the difference access to legal advice made to people’s lives through the powerful network of welfare rights advice centres that then operated across Northern Ireland, I undertook a new course at Queen’s University, a Certificate in Social and Welfare Law. I loved it – great experience, great learning and evidence of positive impact. Going to court was once described to me as the last stage in a long line of disappointments. This work and a subsequent Masters in Human Rights law, opened a positive rather than punitive pathway through the justice system.
My predecessor, and Chair of the Foundation since its inception, Guy Beringer CBE QC (hon) leaves an impressive legacy. Among his many achievements with TLEF, the Justice First Fellowships stand out as a beacon of practical and powerful use of the law for social good. With over 120 Fellows funded, there is a new generation of social justice lawyers offering support across the UK as part of an active network where learning and evidence can be shared.
I believe that the Foundation has a strong and important role to play in the robust implementation of social justice across these islands. As Chair, I am keen to continue to develop our workstreams, supporting and guiding these where I can and retaining the Foundation’s reputation for evidence-based research and its independent, expert voice in the sector. Matthew and his team have great skills and commitment and I look forward to working with them, our Governors and our grant partners in this next and important phase of the Foundation’s development.”
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