On Friday the 7th January 2022 I sent my first update of 2022 to the Social Justice Network.The network now has over 350 members and consists of people who have contacted us for advice and/or joined as a supporter. In the first week of a new year I received lots of messages from groups declaring their ‘new years resolutions’ or reflections on the year that was. It is amazing that the network that has only existed for a few months has so many members and I hope in the year ahead we can heal together. Fighting for social justice can be exhausting and triggering especially when you are living through the injustice you are trying to overturn. I solute everyone who has joined the network to offer each other solidarity.
In the first week of this year I have been speaking reguarly to Isabel a coordinator of StreetLaw who will be delivering 12 workshops with us this year. Isabel has been wonderful at arranging these and I encourage any community group who would like to offer their members free legal education workshops to get in touch with her. You can also join us and our free workshops found in the link below. The topics were selected by network members and it has been exicting to finalise these this so we can get lots of people to come together and attend the workshops and possible actions. See the full list of workshops here: 12 WORKSHOPS ANNOUCED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH STREETLAW — South West London Law Centres – Helping local people access justice (swllc.org).
I also joined the Richmond and Wandsworth Rough Sleeper Recovery Task Group.
Members of the task group discussed the high numbers of people leaving prison that results in rough sleeping.
55% in prisoners released from Wandsworth Prison in the last year did not have accommodation fixed for their first night in the community.
Something else that was identified by Richmond and Wandsworth frontline services was the high levels of EEA nationals who were forced to rough sleep. In a week where SWEP was announced due to freezing temperatures across south west London those who are not eligible for support are sleeping rough and at risk.
A report was released last week into the findings of an unannounced inspections of HMP Wandsworth Prison. One of the findings was that following unification of the Probation Service, the housing provider no longer supported prisoners on remand. This resulted in the large number of remand prisoners not being able to access support, for example to secure tenancies or deal with rent arrears. Legal advice is critical here in the prevention of homelessness. This should be available to anyone who has been detained. I hope that this will become a key and collective area of focus for our task this task group.
On the 20th of January 2022 a consultation closes that focus’s on the Housing Possession Duty Advice Scheme. The Housing Possession Court Duty Schemes (‘HPCDS’” or ‘Scheme’) offer “on-the-day” emergency face to face advice and advocacy to anyone facing possession proceedings. This free vital service is hopefully going to be expanded
with a focus on holistic advice. We know that to keep people in their homes legal advice is crucial. There also needs to be a fairer welfare system where people are not forced into arrears as a result of punitive welfare messures such as the benefit caps. Housing costs also need stop rising to ensure the affordability of our homes.
8/10 people remain in their home as a result of intervention from South West London Law Centres – so we know housing legal advice works.
Determined to start the year in hope I looked to bell hooks and Desmond Tutu for inspiration. Below is this years first email update that was sent to our Social Justice Network.
In December 2021 author and activist (+) bell hooks and theologian, bishop and human rights activist Desmond Tutu left us and a legacy of love and hope.
We start this year hopeful with…
SOCIAL JUSTICE FILM FESTIVAL
This will build alliances, support, and discussions.
We are developing the idea of a social justice film festival. What do you think about this? What social justice films must be shown?
Would you share your amazing existing skills or learn new ones in things like marketing, projecting films, public speaking,or anything you would like to contribute.
WORLD DAY OF SOCIAL JUSTICE
For many of us, every day is a day to fight for social justice.
Each year since 2009 the 20th of February has marked a World Day
of Social Justice globally. How should we mark this day?
AND THE GREAT LEGAL BAKE
We will be baking. This will help us raise donations for our crisis fund, engage peoplein the work of the law centre who might need us but don’t know we exist
and share baked goods with the community. Do you like to bake? Could you help by baking something or in another way?(doesn’t have to be cake)
In the last months of 2021 members of this network….
Walked the London Legal Walk and raised £100s for our neighbours in crisis.
This crisis fund now stands at over £3000 as we continue to build on it.
You helped us tell Croydon Council that their plans to reform their council tax support
council tax support scheme were wrong.
You shared your stories of social housing disrepair so we could convince
the parliamentary select committee the existing Housing Ombudsman and the Regulator
for Social Housing wasn’t protecting tenants.
We also start the year with a series of workshops based on what this network
has told us they need. These will be Wednesday lunch time 12noon workshops
in hope that shift workers, carers, parents and 9-5ers across south west London
and beyond can attend. You can see the full list and how to register for these
Join the network, get involved, contact me, Rhi at firstname.lastname@example.org